Malin’s #CBR5 Review #148: The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

Sebastian Malheur has been scandalising polite society for years with his scientific lectures on the passing on of genetic traits, to the point where riots are now likely to break out when he presents any new findings. The truth, however, is that the discoveries he presents as his own, are actually those of his best friend, Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury. Violet is as proper and respectable as Sebastian is scandalous and reviled. But now Sebastian refuses to be Violet’s decoy any longer.

Violet’s marriage was not a happy one, and she sought refuge in her scientific discoveries. The daughter of a woman who wrote the ultimate guide to proper ladies’ behaviour, Violet is all that is respectable, decorous and decent. Yet Violet and her sister learned early, after their father committed suicide, that there were unwritten shadow rules as well as the written official rules, and most of them amounted to a lady doing anything in her power to keep scandal from her family’s door, using any method at her disposal. If the truth were to come out, that the shocking discoveries that Sebastian has been presenting, were actually all the work of a woman, the scandal would be immense and instantaneous. More on my blog.

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Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #55: Proof by Seduction by Courtney Milan

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I went to the library the other day to return some things and wandered about the aisles; some ten minutes later I realized I’d stacked a half dozen books up (despite there still being two waiting for me on my nightstand). No matter, four of them were romances and I’ve read three of them in as many days. First off is Courtney Milan’s Proof by Seduction. Funnily enough it’s one of two romances I checked out with Seduction in the title. It IS quite a word, isn’t it?

Proof by Seduction is the tale of Jenny Keeble, aka Madame Esmerelda, a lower-class fortune teller with no legitimate extra-sensory powers. One of her most frequent clients, Ned Carhart, is a delightful but sensitive and damaged young man with serious need of supportive friendship and guidance. He gets this from Jenny, but not from his domineering cousin Gareth Carhart, Lord Blakely. Gareth is your typical man of stone; emotion isn’t something he values. Science and reason are Gareth’s forte, so when he hears about Ned’s frequenting of a fortune teller he decides he must prove the woman a fraud and a cheat so that his cousin will finally see the truth about the woman in whom he has such faith.

It’s not a surprise here that as soon as he meets Mme E, Gareth is incredibly drawn to her, though he struggles to reconcile this with his burning desire to crush her and publicly refute all her skills. Out of thin air, she predicts that Blakely will meet the woman he will marry at an exact time at a ball the next evening. What follows are a series of challenges Jenny sets forth, both in order to buy time and to see if Gareth will rise to the occasion.  Over the time of the book Gareth and Jenny find themselves more and more drawn to each other, and what’s left is for both of them to conquer their internal prejudices about love and relationships.

I enjoyed this book and the main characters separately. Together, they’re great as well, but sometimes it is hard to distance myself, a modern feminist woman, from what would have been normal behavior between the sexes during this time period, so I often found myself saying “Jenny, screw this, leave this asshole.” (If I failed to mention that, the book takes place in the 1800s in England.) Jenny is likeable, adventurous, and sees more in people than even she realizes. She often pinpoints what other characters are struggling with and calls them to account for it. Gareth’s lack of humanity, to her, isn’t a foregone conclusion. She recognizes what must have made him the way he is and encourages him (through her challenges) to make strides to change that. Gareth is a little more one-dimensional than Jenny; he basically is a man who suppressed the emotional, empathetic side of himself as a defense mechanism and bullies his way around the rest of life in order to escape emotional entanglements. He stubbornly clings to feelings of superiority throughout the novel, which makes him a little less appealing than our heroine here. Overall, theirs is a humorous and enjoyable courtship, and in the end, the heroine stands up for her wants and needs and everyone is happy, which is what we all want out of a paperback romance, isn’t it?

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #85: Unraveled by Courtney Milan

I haven’t ever really read romance, or been too interested in the genre (I was totally judging the books by their covers), but I realized that some of the descriptions of all the novels Malin was reviewing sounded like a lot of fun. Especially this one. I also thought Mrs. Julien’s description of this one sounded interesting. Instead of just trying to pick a romance novel out on my own, I asked Malin for her recommendation for a first time reader of romance, and this is the one she came back with.

Full Review.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #92: The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan

Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the second full novel in the series of The Brothers Sinister. While the book works as a stand alone, it probably works even better if you’ve at least read The Governess Affair (a novella about the hero’s parents).

Jane Fairfield is loud, and rude and dresses atrociously. She is also an heiress with one hundred thousand pounds, desperately trying to scare off any and all who might offer for her. She is also the product of her mother’s affair, and her younger sister’s uncle (and legal guardian) won’t let her forget it for a second. He wants her married off as soon as possible, but Jane can’t leave her sister, who has an unspecified medical condition (probably a mild form of epilepsy) which means said uncle keeps inviting a long line of unscrupulous medical “experts” to try all manner of horrors in the name of science, trying to cure her. She needs to scare away men, not befriend them.

Oliver Marshall is the illegitimate son of the former Duke of Clairmont, and half-brother of the current one (the hero in The Duchess War). He wants to go into politics, representing the common people and due to his background has to do absolutely everything right. He needs powerful allies, and can’t set a foot wrong. While he seethes inside to have to curry favour from the same spoiled nobles who tormented him at Eton and Cambridge, he doesn’t have a choice if he wants to win his seat in the House of Commons. Befriending the biggest social disgrace of Cambridge society certainly is not going to do his future career any good.

Read why I couldn’t rate this book higher – on my blog.

Sophia’s #CBR5 Review #41: Unraveled by Courtney Milan

UnraveledI feel the need to apologize for what I’m about to write. Everyone seems to love Courtney Milan. I swear I’m not that picky but she just doesn’t do anything for me. I decided Milan wasn’t for me when I read Unclaimed a while ago, but everyone’s consistently positive reviews made me think I should give her another try. That and the vague promise of opera sex piqued my interest. So, I optimistically picked up Unraveled (2011).

Click here for the rest of my review.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #32: Unclaimed by Courtney Milan

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Unclaimed by Courtney Milan is the second in her trilogy on the Turner brothers Ash, Smite and Mark. Yes, Smite. They’re all named after Bible verses by their crazy fanatical mother. This particular story is the tale of Mark, the baby of the family, who has recently become famous for his practical guide to chastity for men. The fame and accolades this has generated are something of a surprise and irritation for Mark himself – all he wants is to lead a quiet life and perhaps someday find a woman he can love and marry and start a family with. Fame has also brought him to the attention of many who’d like to see him fail at his chastity, including supreme asshole George Weston (I think that’s his name, I can’t totally remember and I’ve already returned the book to the library). Since he  hears that Mark is thisclose to being nominated for a government position he wants, he decides to hire a woman to seduce Mark, therefore ruining his reputation and costing him any chance at the appointment.

Enter Jessica Farleigh, a beautiful courtesan Weston has used and abused in the past. She proposes that she will seduce Mr. Turner for a tidy sum of 3,000 pounds – enough to leave the life of a courtesan behinds and purchase a cottage in the country, where she can start a new life where no one knows her. What Jessica doesn’t count on is falling in love with Mark and, he with her – can such a woman have true happiness with a man who has vowed chastity?

I enjoyed this book more than I remember liking the first Milan wrote on Ash Turner. Jessica is seriously damaged, and it’s understandable. Every man she’s ever known has treated her like a piece of property or less than human. Her own father, once discovering she’d been ‘ruined,’ threw her out of the house and told neighbors she was dead, leading to the life as a whore she is currently struggling to leave. Her desire to leave the life she hates makes you root for her, and as someone with serious trust issues, she’s somewhat relatable. Mark was a favorite character in the book about Ash and so I enjoyed reading about him. He’s confident, charming, and disarmingly honest to Jessica.

My only negative on this book really is that it’s kind of long. There might be one too many times where Jessica at first thinks she can live the life she wants but then runs away for fear all her hopes will be dashed once again. That isn’t to say it’s not believable; I think anyone in her shoes would react that way. It’s just by the end I was skimming through some of these inner monologues and looking forward for signs that something new was happening. I’ll definitely read the one about Smite, as I hear it’s the best.

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #12: Unveiled by Courtney Milan

I was supposed to start reading the book for my book club’s April meeting. I’m sure I’ll get to it, but I looked at those densely-populated pages of educational nonfiction and I just thought “Well, I could squeeze in a quick romance and still get started on time…” So it’s happened – I’ve succumbed to the addictive qualities of the romance genre. After hearing from some other CB readers after my last post on Julie Anne Long, I decided to give Courtney Milan a try. My library happened to only have a couple of her books in stock, so I chose Unveiled, the first in a trilogy about a group of brothers from Regency-era England. Unraveled (MrsJulien’s recommendation) wasn’t there but now that I’ve gotten into a trilogy I will have to seek that out as well. I can’t leave things unfinished like that, right?

Unveiled is the story of Ash Turner and his quest for revenge against the Duke of Parford and his family, the Dalyrimples. Due to some circumstances of which I won’t go into detail, Ash and his siblings (Mark and Smite (!!!!), despite being a relation to the Duke, were nearly destitute when their sister fell ill. When a young Ash goes to beg the Duke for money to pay a doctor to help, the Duke refuses cold heartedly and turns him out. When his sister dies not long after of her illnesses, Ash vows to make something of himself in the world and for once and for all ruin the man who killed his sister. Many years pass and he’s finally discovered the way in which to do so and moves into the estate, waiting for Parliament to determine if he’ll become the next Duke, or if the legacy will pass to the Dalrymples. It’s there he meets Margaret – the Duke’s daughter in disguise as his nurse. She’s vowed to do whatever it takes to ruin Mr. Turner and report to her brothers everything she can discern from him. What she doesn’t count on is how handsome Ash is, and how kind he can actually be.

I’ve enjoyed reading this book. The writing is fairly high-brow in places, though sometimes the dialogue doesn’t feel authentic to the time. Most of it comes from Ash himself, however, and as he’s completely disinterested in following society’s norms or caving to old-fashioned conventions, it doesn’t feel disingenuous. Our hero is definitely in line with what I’m gathering is a stereotype in romance novels – he’s strong, large, handsome, and steadfastly principled. Our heroine is a mixture of vulnerable and fierce, though often she’s more caring of everyone around her than is really warranted. Her brothers, Richard and Edmund, seem like real assholes and so sometimes I wondered where she drew this loyalty from. Richard at least in the past has shown kindness toward her, but Edmund is pretty much worthless. Her struggle between what she wants for herself and her need to protect those she loves is definitely captivating. The fact that Ash is constantly reminding her that though he’s the cause of all the present troubles for her family, he’s the only one who sees her as a human being and not a piece of property is endearing and surprisingly feminist. Well, to the extent that is possible in 19th century England anyhow. The phrase “You’re mine” does come up, it just doesn’t sound as demeaning coming from him.

My only quibble is that I think in an effort to increase tension, Milan extends the time between Margaret’s realization that she has to choose either her own happiness or that of others – and Ash doing the same – and delivers the resolution a little more slowly. I was impatient to know how it ended (though I had some guesses) so I think Milan’s goal was effective here, I just remember thinking “OK, I get it, this is hard for her. This is hard for him. Let’s move on.” This only happens in the last like 50 pages, tops, so aside from that I don’t really have much negative to say about it. I’ll have to request the other two books from the Turner trilogy soon…