(or How I Started a Courtney Milan Book and the Next Thing I Know, I Lost a Week)
I think I’ve mentioned this before…I don’t read a lot of historical romance. But thanks to the beauty of book blogging and reading wonderful reviews by bloggers I love, I was tempted into the genre and downloaded a well-priced novella called The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan. I didn’t read it right away and it became a somewhat forgotten purchase on my overloaded Kindle. One night, plagued with insomnia but having just finished a book, I was looking to start something short that I could possibly finish that evening. Swiping through my Kindle I came across The Governess Affair and decided to go for it. And, well, that, my friends, is how I was time-sucked into Milan’s world of the Brothers Sinister. Work, family, and food were somewhat sidelined until I came to, almost a week later, dazed and hungry, two books and two novellas into a series I am now obsessed with.
These books center on three men, best friends — family really — and the women in their lives. Robert, Oliver, and Sebastian meet at Eton, become inseparable and are forever known as the Brothers Sinister. This series is their story.
THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR (The Brothers Sinister #.5)
Let’s start with THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR, the prequel novella in the series. I cried. I CRIED. It’s been a long time since I’ve been moved to tears and let’s just say, it got a little dusty in the room while I read this novella.
Serena is a wronged woman, a victim who refuses to walk quietly away. I loved her strength, her intelligence, and her balls. Hugo Marshall, the Wolf of Clermont, is the Duke of Clermont’s right hand man. He takes care of the business that needs to be taken care of. He’s thrown his lot in with a waste of a man, all with the hopes of reaching a seemingly impossible dream. He’s smart, efficient, and ruthless. But he’s not unprincipled. Serena and Hugo are on opposing sides of a fight and watching these two match wits is beautiful. There is an attraction, a sympathy, a respect for one another. I loved the back and forth, I loved the conflict, I loved the coming together. And Hugo. What a hero. Milan beautifully flashes back to his childhood at moments that hint at the reason for both his deep connection with Serena and the reason why he has to stop her. Heart vs. ambition. Those moments were poignant, well-placed and perfectly paced. Hugo makes a choice that I didn’t think he’d make and my heart broke. It. Broke. This story is beautiful and romantic and smart. And the ending? The ending! I immediately downloaded book one in the series.
THE DUCHESS WAR (The Brothers Sinister #1)
The hero and heroine of this story are Robert, the son of the Duke of Clermont, and Minerva Lane. Both are not what they seem. Robert is the dutiful, wealthy and influential son of a duke, but he has a hidden social agenda that goes against his class and his legacy. Minerva Lane has a more complicated secret, one that sets her open to scrutiny and infamy. These characters are complex. They struggle with their issues. Minerva has a form of agoraphobia and Robert grapples with the knowledge of his father’s villainy, always fearful that he himself is capable of the same. What makes this story great is that the love that exists between the two characters takes a while to really blossom. The trust they eventually give each other is earned but it takes a while to get there which is so much more realistic. They also have these complicated pasts that play into their relationship. Their experiences with their fathers influence their ability to trust themselves and each other. Finally, the sex scene is wonderful. Virginity does not equal great sex out the gate. It’s something that takes time to develop which made their relationship all the more sweeter. THE DUCHESS WAR is another wonderfully complex romance from an author that I’m starting to love.
A KISS FOR MIDWINTER (The Brothers Sinister #1.5)
Another novella in the series, this time focusing on Minerva Lane’s best friend, Lydia Charingford and her relationship with the town doctor, Jonas Grantham. How does Milan create a hero that tells gonnorhea jokes and calls the heroine the eleventh prettiest lady in town and still make him sympathetic and compelling? Milan does that with Jonas. He says the wrong thing at the wrong time mainly because he believes in absolute honesty. And for Lydia, a lady who has been lied to in the most deplorable way, honesty is exactly what she needs. This was a sweet story that tackles issues like hoarding, safe sex, and women’s health. While this might not seem like it could be fun and romantic and sincerely moving, please believe me when I say that it is. And just in time for Christmas!
THE HEIRESS EFFECT (The Brothers Sinister #2)
I loved THE HEIRESS EFFECT. Loved it. I highly recommend you read THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR before reading this one because I think it gives the story more depth. Book two centers on Oliver Marshall, son of Serena, who is politically ambitious and wants to change the world. But he comes from the wrong class; he doesn’t have the bloodline, at least legitimately, to reach that high. Oliver is given the chance of a lifetime to win the considerable influence of a politically powerful man. First he has to humiliate a woman. The woman in question is no ordinary woman. Jane Fairfield is brash in style and in personality. She’s smart and strong in both will and in spirit. She is a formidable opponent who completely takes Oliver unaware. Jane is moneyed but she’s a black sheep. She plays a role to keep suitors away and she plays it well. The scene where these two first meet is priceless. I laughed out loud. This is my favorite pairing in the series for so many reasons. Oliver is a flawed hero. He does something that makes me want to hit him. He struggles with his heart vs. his ambition…sound familiar? Read THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR! Jane is just…so cool. Smart, strong, irreverent. By the end of the story, she has such a handle on who she is and what she wants that there is no compromise or weakness just pure strength. Couple their story with a sweet subplot involving Jane’s sister, and by the end, THE HEIRESS EFFECT became one of my favorite books in the series.
I read all of these books and novellas in a matter of days. So compelling was this world Milan created that I just couldn’t say goodbye. Each book builds on the other, characters make appearances, the bonds between the men are loving, honest, and strong. The women in their lives challenge them and stand as strong figures in their own right, in what is essentially a man’s world. I cannot wait for the next book to come out, THE COUNTESS CONSPIRACY, which will focus on Sebastian, the third brother of the Brothers Sinister and his relationship with the sharp, intelligent, quick witted character we met in the first two books, Violet, the Countess of Cambury.
While I applaud Milan for creating this absorbing world, I have to take her to task for the time she stole from me. I have work to do, mouths to feed, places to be! It really is unfair. These books should come with a warning: Time is of no consequence for all who read this story.
Needless to say, this series is highly recommended. 5 howls!