Format read: e-book
Series: Brothers Sinister, #1
Release Date: 8 December 2012
Publisher: Courtney Milan
Length: 270 pages
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Author’s Site, Kobo, Smashwords
Sometimes love is an accident.
This time, it’s a strategy.
Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly–so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don’t get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.
But that is precisely what she gets.
Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he’s up to, he realizes there is more to than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he’s determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match…
When reading a sequel to a beloved book, there’s no small degree of trepidation that creeps into the back of my mind–the only thing the new book can do to avoid breaking a reader’s heart is to be as good as if not better than its predecessor. Fortunately for the Brothers Sinister series, this second installment (the first novel-length entry) absolutely meets the wonderful standard put up by the book that came before it, The Governess Affair (check out my review of it here). Duchess… manages to draw on many of the strengths of Governess… while still establishing itself as a uniquely entertaining historical romance.
The story as a whole is so complicated that it’s difficult to synposize it and capture the essence and tone, in any case. The book description above is admittedly rather vague, but it’s for good reason, as the mystery it references is what fuels much of the drama and intrigue for a majority of the story. Milan knows how to establish those rock-and-hard-place conflicts that really make a reader *feel* the characters, understand their anxieties and hopes–it’s quickly becoming her hallmark, methinks.
The hero and heroine are so well matched! Robert Blaisdell was a bit over the top with his charisma, which matched perfectly to Minnie’s understated strength and inner fire. I’m actually not quite sure which of the two protagonists I liked more.
The namesake of the series, the “Brothers Sinister”–characters Robert Blaisdell, Oliver Marshall, and Sebastian Malheur–positively shine when all together. Easy banter, extreme wit, and enough sexy charm to make you want to savor their shared time on the page. Their first appearance was actually in the first entry to the series, The Governess Affair. They were children, but it was apparent even then that these characters would be special as a team.
In fact, this book presents a really varied web of interesting relationships. Particularly the familial ones, which bear such complexity it would take up much more time to explore than can be accommodated as a side story or even a single novel. This series already seems to be not just about the central romance–the supporting characters’ relationships to the protagonists are just as (if not more) critical to understanding things than anything else. It’s about kith and kin, yo.
Last act of the book at first felt like a bit of a jumble of…stuff. Climax after climax without seeming pause. But then, as I’d earlier mentioned, this book is about more than just the romance. And after getting acclimated to it, it did come to feel more understandable, even if it did represent a shift in tone and focus from the rest of the book. Most of the book is a seamless flow, and it could be seen as exciting that the author is just as adept at throwing a narrative curveball that keeps the trope fresh and yet still delivers those things we all want to see in a historical romance.
This book in comparison to its predecessor? Tough to say. This book does The Governess Affair justice, but it does so by building on the emotional impact made in the debut story. Though this book is technically the first novel-length installment to the series, you should really read The Governess Affair–I promise it will pay off.
And just as book. #.5 did for #1, you can see the foundations being set down for the next installment, the rest of the series. More than many other historical romance series, even, this one really makes the supporting cast central, not just cameos or devices to help move the story along.
. . .
Verdict: Milan is just so great at creating characters that are witty and well-matched. She crafts such profound heartbreak and mixes it expertly with such playfulness, intelligent humor, and enjoyable absurdity. If you like battles of wits when it comes to your historical romance protagonists, as well as high drama and tension, then the Brothers Sinister series needs to be next on your To Read list.
I give The Duchess War 4.5 stars!
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