(Brothers Sinister, #2)
Genre: Historical Romance (Victorian)
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.
I have nothing but praise for Courtney Milan’s books. Her stories are beautifully written, original and thought-provoking, her characters are compelling and her historical research is meticulous.
Jane is such a wonderful heroine with her selfless love for her sister and her overwhelming desire to protect Emily even when it means exposing herself to ridicule. I love her self-awareness. She knows how awful she is but uses it to her advantage. Beneath those garish dresses is a smart, determined woman. Talking of dresses, Ms Milan’s descriptions conjured up the most vivid images. I could just picture Jane in that ghastly creation with the yards of multi-coloured lace. The scene where she politely insults everyone is so funny.
She asked Whitting about his studies, and when he made a wry comment about preferring to concentrate his efforts on the study of liquids, she stared at him.
“How surprising.” Her eyes were very round. “I had not thought you to have the capacity of intellect to read physics!”
Sometimes the façade would slip to reveal a lonely woman with dreams and seeing this vulnerable side made me adore Jane even more.
I love Ms Milan’s analogy between the broken little cactus and Jane…
“Can you save it?” Jane asked.
“It’s a cactus,” the other woman replied absently. “They grow in deserts. They’ve evolved to withstand sun and slicing sandstorms.” She sounded proud. “You can kill a cactus, but it takes a sustained effort—consistent overwatering and the like. This piece of vandalism?” She shrugged. “This is just an act of propagation.”
While still remaining true to herself, I love how Jane reshapes her life, channeling all her money and energies in something very close to her heart.
Oliver isn’t the perfect hero; he has flaws and that, to my mind, makes him far more interesting and all too human. In his determined pursuit of his political ambitions, he has lost sight of who he really is. Once radical and outspoken, along the way he has come to the realisation that the “that the only way forward was to keep quiet until he grew so tall they could no longer shove him down”. Now, although he doesn’t realise it, he has become a prisoner of his own silence and his journey to finding himself again isn’t an easy one; he stumbles and falls along the way but finally…
…with a great effort—with the effort of a man uprooting everything he had made of himself—Oliver put one foot outside into the warm May sunshine.
I knew that Jane and Oliver would reach their HEA but it is the journey they have to take and the obstacles they have to overcome that made the romance so satisfying. Ms Milan has a way of drawing you into the hearts and minds of her characters so that you experience every twist and turn of their journey. It’s one filled with tenderness, passion, heartbreak and humour and I’m sharing some of my favourite moments. They also provide a showcase for Ms Milan’s brilliant writing.
She felt a sense of pure awareness. A frisson. She felt a real live frisson just from looking into his eyes.
“I fear it may be contagious,” he continued. “It is setting all my preternatural urges on edge, whispering that the color must be catching. I feel an uncontrollable urge to run swiftly as far as I can in the other direction, lest my waistcoat fall prey next.”
He couldn’t change her past. He refused to let go of his future. That left only the present: the warmth of her kiss, that sweet taste of something that might have been…and the bitterness of a love that would not be.
It was as if their bodies held a conversation that whispered along every nerve ending. All thought vanished. What remained was pure light, engulfing her.
“I don’t need that quiet wife. I need you. Someone bold. Someone who won’t let me stand back from myself, and who will tell me in no uncertain terms when I’ve erred.”
You are probably asking yourself what on earth is a pink (or should I say fuchsine) waistcoat doing in the middle of my review. Well, all I will tell you is that it relates to my favourite moment in the whole book.
There are other intriguing threads woven throughout the story. There is a sweet secondary romance between Jane’s sister, Emily and a young Indian barrister and we meet Free, Oliver’s youngest sister, a staunch advocate of women’s suffrage (The Suffragette Scandal). If you have read The Governess Affair or The Duchess War, you will remember Oliver’s cousin, Sebastian Malheur, a renowned scientist and his friend Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury. I must confess that Sebastian’s outburst towards the end of the book certainly makes me want to read The Countess Conspiracy.
I had to leave Oliver’s elderly, acrophobic Aunt Freddy until last because her story is so moving. When the secret she has been keeping is revealed, it brought tears to my eyes.
If you are a lover of Epilogues like me, Ms Milan delivers a thoroughly heart-warming one and I loved the reference to the little collection of cactus.
My Verdict: I can only think of one word to describe this book – SUPERB!
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STELLAR STARS
SENSUALTY RATING: WARM
Read August 2015