Series Review: Brothers Sinister by Courtney Milan

Series Review: Brothers Sinister by Courtney MilanThe Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #0.5
Published by Author on April 21, 2012
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 101
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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three-half-stars

She will not give up…

Three months ago, governess Serena Barton was let go from her position. Unable to find new work, she’s demanding compensation from the man who got her sacked: a petty, selfish, swinish duke. But it’s not the duke she fears. It’s his merciless man of business—the man known as the Wolf of Clermont. The formidable former pugilist has a black reputation for handling all the duke’s dirty business, and when the duke turns her case over to him, she doesn’t stand a chance. But she can’t stop trying—not with her entire future at stake.

He cannot give in…

Hugo Marshall is a man of ruthless ambition—a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner’s son to the right hand man of a duke. When his employer orders him to get rid of the pestering governess by fair means or foul, it’s just another day at the office. Unfortunately, fair means don’t work on Serena, and as he comes to know her, he discovers that he can’t bear to use foul ones. But everything he has worked for depends upon seeing her gone. He’ll have to choose between the life that he needs, and the woman he is coming to love…

In my historical romance obsession of the past year, Courtney Milan’s books have come highly recommended. Brothers Sinister was recommended to me a lot, so I decided to start there. The Governess Affair would have been better in long format, but it sets up the series well.

Basically every time I read a good novella, my main thought is how much better it would have been expanded into a full length novel. The Governess Affair isn’t as shippy as it could be because of the brief format. Hugh and Serena do have major ship potential, but they really only get bantering when they’re writing letters to each other. As such, I only mildly shipped them as a couple.

However, I appreciated the uniqueness of Hugh and Serena as a couple. Neither of them is wealthy. Hugh’s a fixer for a jerk of a duke in an effort to make his fortune. Serena’s pregnant by said duke; I also like that Milan actually deals with the rape aspect, rather than just including it for dramatic back story. Another perk is that The Governess Affair has one of the best sex scenes I’ve read.

The epilogue of the novella makes it clear that this was all to set up the children of the Duke, so the focus was always on what came next. It’s a good novella and it did get me really excited for the romances of the brothers, so it accomplished its goal.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Brothers Sinister by Courtney MilanThe Duchess War by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #1
Published by Author on December 18, 2012
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 270
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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five-stars

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 her 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…

OH. MY. GOD. After The Governess Affair didn’t completely blow my socks off, I was so unprepared for everything The Duchess War did to my heart. I have a new favorite romance novel.

The Duchess War took a bit of time to get to obsessive flailing level (until the train trip), but once there I remained in a constant state of emotion. This book actually has a pretty good plot even, and I spent a lot of time on tenterhooks, worried for my precious ship.

The thing about The Duchess War is that Courtney Milan has clearly read a lot of romance novels, and she sat down and wrote one that purposely turned away from the worst tropes. For example, both hero and heroine have dark pasts because of shitty parents, but they react in realistic ways without becoming cruel people or terrified of love. When they find out about each other’s dark pasts, they’re sympathetic and care more for the other person because they came through that, rather than storming off about not having been told sooner. It’s BRILLIANT.

Robert and Minnie are a ship of dreams. One reason I love historical romance specifically is that I mind less if they instalove, since couples didn’t really have an opportunity to get to know one another. Robert and Minnie manage that, and they’re so clearly compatible and of shared interests. (They even both love masturbation!) Also, Robert’s not the typical Duke character. He’s not a rake (View Spoiler »), he blushes constantly, and he can be a complete and total goof. Minerva’s not considered beautiful by basically anyone, but he’s got it so bad for her mind and omg they’re perfect.

What makes The Duchess War a five star romance novel is that the plot doesn’t hinge on lies. Robert and Minnie have disagreements and make mistakes, but THEN THEY TALK IT OUT. You know, like MATURE ADULTS. It’s amazing how rare it is to find this in romance. There is no doubt they’ll make their marriage work, because they will work through their problems. I <3 them endlessly.

The other reason The Duchess War is fucking perfection (yes the sex scenes are great, though not in a typical way) is because the WHOLE cast is lovable. The book has the humor and full cast awesomeness typical of Julia Quinn. Any scene with Robert’s friends is almost as amazing as Robert/Minnie scenes. I wasn’t sure about Lydia or his mother, but Milan made me care about everyone.

If you’re into historical romance and haven’t read this, um, what are you doing still here? GO READ AND THEN COME BACK AND YELL WITH ME.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


Series Review: Brothers Sinister by Courtney MilanA Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #1.5
Published by Author on December 18, 2012
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 121
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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two-stars

Miss Lydia Charingford is always cheerful, and never more so than at Christmas time. But no matter how hard she smiles, she can't forget the youthful mistake that could have ruined her reputation. Even though the worst of her indiscretion was kept secret, one other person knows the truth of those dark days: the sarcastic Doctor Jonas Grantham. She wants nothing to do with him...or the butterflies that take flight in her stomach every time he looks her way.

Jonas Grantham has a secret, too: He's been in love with Lydia for more than a year. This winter, he's determined to conquer her dislike and win her for his own. It all starts with a wager and a kiss...

A Kiss for Midwinter is a novella (38,000 words) in the Brothers Sinister series. It follows The Duchess War. Each book stands on its own, but those who prefer to read in order might want to read that book first.

*sighs* A Kiss for Midwinter was a struggle. It’s that present you get with shiny paper and you’re so excited and then you open it and it’s a value pack of ugly socks.

The thing is that I think A Kiss for Midwinter could have worked. The dialogue is fine, but the POVs just didn’t really work for me, particularly Jonas’. As far as I can tell, he’s meant to perhaps have Asberger’s or something, because he doesn’t have typical responses or ways of thinking, but he comes off more as lacking in empathy. You know, like a psychopath. And psychopaths are often doctors, so that’s totally possible. Jonas veers weirdly from making awkward jokes to being so literal that he doesn’t understand normal people to being clinical and creepy af. I liked him in The Duchess War, and I think if I’d had just his dialogue to go by without ever being in his head, I’d have liked him. Unfortunately, I didn’t.

Lydia’s POV works better, though I still didn’t understand some of her motivations. Like, she figures out that she’s into Jonas and that he’s into her, and she panics and tries to push him away because…reasons? Ostensibly because the man who used her in the past made her fear actual feelings, but it’s done in a clunky way that just really didn’t feel authentic. It felt like forced tropiness.

I do appreciate the frank discussions of sexuality, basically never heard of in romance, but I wish I’d been into the actual sexy times between these two. I’m really not sure how this one went so wrong when The Duchess War was such perfection.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Brothers Sinister by Courtney MilanThe Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #2
Published by Author on July 15, 2013
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 280
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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four-stars

Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing—and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision.

And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.

Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances—and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.

The Heiress Effect starts off super strongly, even better than The Duchess War but ultimately didn’t sustain that high level. Milan still impressed me here on the whole, but this is my least favorite of the four actual novels in the series.

We’re introduced to Jane as she works with her dressmaker to make the most hideous dress imaginable. That’s one of the things Jane’s known for, along with her massive 100,000 pound dowry and her unintentional rudeness. What nobody but her sister knows, though, is that Jane’s acting, all to prevent any man from making an offer for her hand despite the dowry. If she gets an offer, Jane can no longer live with her sister and guardian anymore. The relationship between the sisters is sweet, and I love how Milan always manages to actually deal with historical issues, like medicine.

Oliver and Jane have such a great meetcute, as she steamrolls him with awkwardness and offensiveness. It’s also fabulous that Jane’s a fat heroine, and physically she’s completely his type from the start, though her dresses are not his fave. (It’s also cute that Jane really does like her ugly dresses.) I shipped them so much to start, but ultimately that waned a bit. It’s still a ship, but not a SHIP!!!! They don’t become partners or feel like the absolute perfect match for one another the way that Robert and Minnie are. Plus, Oliver spends way too long choosing his political career over her, which isn’t especially shippy and echoes too closely to The Governess Affair. Also, the kissing on horseback was positively ridiculous. They are way too old for that to be anything but deeply uncomfortable. The side ship of Jane’s sister and an Indian law student proved adorable, but also not quite as strong as Milan at peak shippery.

There’s a lot of greatness in The Heiress Effect, but it would have benefited from a bit more banter and a bit less madcap adventure.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Brothers Sinister by Courtney MilanThe Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #3
Published by Author on December 16, 2013
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 309
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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four-half-stars

Sebastian Malheur is the most dangerous sort of rake: an educated one. When he’s not scandalizing ladies in the bedchamber, he’s outraging proper society with his scientific theories. He’s desired, reviled, acclaimed, and despised—and he laughs through it all.

Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury, on the other hand, is entirely respectable, and she’d like to stay that way. But Violet has a secret that is beyond ruinous, one that ties her irrevocably to England’s most infamous scoundrel: Sebastian’s theories aren’t his. They’re hers.

So when Sebastian threatens to dissolve their years-long conspiracy, she’ll do anything to save their partnership...even if it means opening her vulnerable heart to the rake who could destroy it for good.

The darkest of the series, The Countess Conspiracy is a touching romance between two friends who have both been vastly underestimated, even by the people who love them.

I fell in love with Sebastian and Violet in The Duchess War, but there both a bit different than I anticipated. In public, they’re bantery as fuck, but when they’re alone the darkness shines through. They’re both of the sort to mask pain and try to hide the real feelings. This means that they do understand each other in a special way, and they help each other deal with their toxic sibling relationships. View Spoiler » This is the least bantery and outright funny of the books, but it’s solid and emotional.

Aside from that, I fucking love the twist of this book. It’s revealed right at the start, but I’m going to spoiler tag anyway. View Spoiler »

The least showy of the Brothers Sinister books, The Countess Conspiracy still makes a very good showing.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Brothers Sinister by Courtney MilanThe Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #4
Published by Author on July 15, 2014
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 260
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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five-stars

An idealistic suffragette...

Miss Frederica "Free" Marshall has put her heart and soul into her newspaper, known for its outspoken support of women's rights. Naturally, her enemies are intent on destroying her business and silencing her for good. Free refuses to be at the end of her rope...but she needs more rope, and she needs it now.

...a jaded scoundrel...

Edward Clark's aristocratic family abandoned him to die in a war-torn land, so he survived the only way he could: by becoming a rogue and a first-class forger. When the same family that left him for dead vows to ruin Miss Marshall, he offers his help. So what if he has to lie to her? She's only a pawn to use in his revenge.

...and a scandal seven years in the making.

But the irrepressible Miss Marshall soon enchants Edward. By the time he realizes that his cynical heart is hers, it's too late. The only way to thwart her enemies is to reveal his scandalous past...and once the woman he loves realizes how much he's lied to her, he'll lose her forever.

Oh my god, I might maybe love The Suffragette Scandal even more than I love The Duchess War. They are assuredly two of the best historical romances of all time.

Edward Clark falls for Free basically immediately. He’s got a thing for outspoken women who fight for social reform apparently. He loves about her all the ways that she doesn’t fit into society. She inspires him and challenges him at everything. As with Robert and Minnie, he’s massively turned on by her strength and intelligence, and both of them think through arguments. Meanwhile, Free accepts the darker aspects of Edward’s character, and the fact that he’s a scoundrel makes him clever enough to be a match for her.

Though in some senses the darkest of the series, The Suffragette Scandal is also perhaps the funniest of the bunch. The banter remains at a consistently high level. I was in love with this book and this ship from the very first pages. It’s also a great conclusion to the series (if you set the novellas aside), because there are a lot of amazing cameos. Free getting to know Robert is the sweetest, Edward meeting her parents is so fucking cute, and the epilogue made my heart explode. Also, Edward’s Brothers Sinister jokes. I just cannot.

I love the fuck out of this series and this book and take all my money, Courtney Milan.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

I received this book for free from Purchased in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Series Review: Brothers Sinister by Courtney MilanTalk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #4.5
Published by Author on August 18, 2014
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 109
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Nobody knows who Miss Rose Sweetly is, and she prefers it that way. She's a shy, mathematically-minded shopkeeper's daughter who dreams of the stars. Women like her only ever come to attention through scandal. She'll take obscurity, thank you very much.

All of England knows who Stephen Shaughnessy is. He's an infamous advice columnist and a known rake. When he moves into the house next door to Rose, she discovers that he's also wickedly funny, devilishly flirtatious, and heart-stoppingly handsome. But when he takes an interest in her mathematical work, she realizes that Mr. Shaughnessy isn't just a scandal waiting to happen. He's waiting to happen to her...and if she's not careful, she'll give in to certain ruination.

Novellas may not be Courtney Milan’s forte, if this series’ novellas are anything to go off of. Her novels are amazing, but the novellas have been a bit lacking. There’s a lot that I love about the concept of this one, but it doesn’t really succeed in bringing the ship, which is kinda the point.

I loved Stephen in The Suffragette Scandal, and I’d been hoping he’d be the love interest in the novella. However, he’s gone from being the charming, unpopular, feminist nerd of that book to a notorious rake. One of the things I’ve most loved about Courtney’s heroes is that they don’t tend to be famous rakes, and Stephen just sooooo did not seem like he was destined for rakehood. He’s still not a typical romance hero, because he’s not massively rich and titled, and he’s Irish and catholic, but whyyyyy is he a rake? It’s so not necessary, and it really does not fit this silly, punny love interest.

Another problem here is that Milan skips the part where they actually fall in love. Apparently both were captivated when Rose Sweetly came to stay with her sister several months back. We’re thrown in at the middle, and their feelings are already there. The beauty of romance novels is the arc of the relationship, feeling them catch feelings, but these feelings have already been caught.

I love the concept of this novella. Rose is a maths genius, a computer of astronomical distances. She can multiply gigantic numbers in her head; she’s so talented she’s gotten a role working with an astronomer despite being black. Basically, it’s Hidden Figures only further in the past and fully fictional. It’s fantastic.

In theory, I adore this ship. Stephen’s totally in love with Rose’s nerdiness and brilliance. He’s not nearly as smart as she is, and he basically just wants to listen to her talk about maths, which is a sign you’ve got it really bad. He makes math puns at her, and he genuinely takes an interest. It’s so good in theory. Unfortunately, he’s punny and jokey, and Rose is straightforward and earnest. They almost literally do not speak the same language. They can’t get a really good back and forth going, because she doesn’t always understand his joking, and he has so much trouble being earnest. A bantery person can have great chemistry with a non-bantery person; many comedic duos consist of the funny guy and the straight man. However, Rose isn’t playing straight for humor; she’s generally confused by it. Stephen’s always going to default to joking.

I was actually more invested in Rose’s sister’s childbirth than in the ship, which will tell you how much into it I was. I don’t unship it, but I just don’t feel a damn thing from it. I sure wish I did. There’s good stuff here, but as an actual romance Talk Sweetly to Me flubs it. (Now that I’m done, I hope I can stop singing Talk Sweetly to Me in Jason Derulo style.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

3 responses to “Series Review: Brothers Sinister by Courtney Milan”

  1. AMG says:

    I love the way the language of sex changes for each – it’s hard enough to write good sex AND do this but Milan manages.
    Sebastian & Violet uses science words, Lydia & Dr Jonas use medical words, and Free and Edward punctuation…

    • Christina Franke says:

      Looking back, I can kind of see that, and I know her sex scenes do stay exciting, which is often not true when you’ve read more than one romance by the same author. I’ll have to keep a closer eye out when I reread!

  2. I love your mini reviews of this series. You’ve definitely made me want to read them!

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