Blog Archives

The Heiress Effect (Courtney Milan, The Brothers Sinister #2)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Oh, the highs and lows of reading ambitious works from highly skilled authors. On the one hand, you have an amazing beginning and setup, subplots and side characters that are funny, moving, and multilayered — so much so that you’ll forget (in both a good and bad way) that you’re reading a historical romance. You’ve got the super-strong and independent female protagonist who feels completely believable: she’s an heiress, but not super pretty, and socially, she’s a disaster (on purpose)! There’s also a male protagonist who’s ambitious, thoughtful and almost overly cautious about his five-, ten- and twenty-year life plans. But… there are several times when the subplots and side characters overwhelm the main storyline, and I would say that the main thrust of the romance was perhaps the weakest part of the book. Still, it’s a must because it’s an integral part of the series (which is strong), and further, the good parts are great, though the novel as a whole… is merely pretty good.

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Trial by Desire (Courtney Milan, Carhart #2)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is the first full-length novel of Milan’s that I’m actually unable to recommend. Though there are a lot of good aspects here, there is just too much unevenness… the subplot (helping an abused wife and child escape from a violent, unstable husband) overwhelms the main story. The characters are left without time to fully develop on their own, and we’re left to infer a lot of their romantic journey. The heroine feels very hazily drawn (sometimes she’s a firecracker, sometimes she’s an actress, other times, she seems genuinely unsure and immature). She’s got a cause (helping abused women), but little else to recommend her. Similarly, our hero struggles with demons of his own… and overall, the characters struggle more with their internal conflicts than with each other; their story ultimately feels more annoying than intriguing.

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Proof of Seduction (Courtney Milan, Carhart #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
There’s lots to like about this — thoroughly interesting and believable central characters who have entirely different motivations and back stories. They are multilayered and complex: you’ve got a woman who’s pretending to be a gypsy fortune teller because she was born on the wrong side of the sheets and really has nothing else to do with a ladies’ school finishing education combined with no family name or background. The hero, as an earl who sees his title as an encumberance to his scientific pursuits, is also interesting. However, while this is a strong novel (perhaps more so because it was Milan’s debut effort), there are parts of it that take some patience to get through, and it doesn’t feel as effortless or buoyantly entertainingly as many of her other works. Still better than a lot of historical romances out there… but not my favorite Milan.

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What Happened At Midnight (Courtney Milan)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
What a waste! Though there are potentially interesting characters and plot sequences throughout, this book and its characters just never came together. Everything was resolved far too easily, and there are not just one, but two (maybe three depending on how you count it) plot twists that just feel contrived and artificial. I don’t know if it’s just because this was part of a three novella collection (the other two are by Sherry Thomas and Carolyn Jewel), and Milan was forcing in details to stay within that setting or certain expectations, but really, this is one to avoid… I found myself not caring about either of the main characters by the end, and was relieved when it finally ended.

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A Kiss for Midwinter (Courtney Milan)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I enjoyed this as much as I’ve ever enjoyed a historical romance novella. You’ve got a strong female protagonist with a rough past: she was deceived by a married man, lost a baby, and, (surprisingly) with the support of her family, has fought through it all and come out with a still-happy, almost-by-sheer-force-optimistic viewpoint. As her foil, you’ve got an overly sarcastic, kind of awkward doctor who makes jokes about gonorrhea instead of talking about poetry and roses (because that’s just what he knows about). He’s always been in love with her, and you can really see how they’re both made for each other, and also why they would naturally struggle learning to deal with one another.

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The Lady Always Wins (Courtney Milan)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I will start by saying that it’s possible my rating here is unfair. I don’t usually like novellas, and I thought that this was quite well-written… but because it’s a novella (and a very, very short one at that), I felt almost as though I blinked and it was over. You’ve got an interesting set of childhood friends who have always been in love with one another: Ginny, who refused to marry someone who was destitute, and Simon, whose parents had threatened to disown him if he married her. So… Ginny marries someone else; the story starts seven years later, after Ginny’s husband has passed away and Simon has come back for her.

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The Governess Affair (Courtney Milan, The Brothers Sinister Prequel Novella)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I’m not normally a fan of novellas (especially historical romance novellas). This one is… good. It’s not as good as her longer works, certainly, and the plot isn’t nearly as thoroughly developed… but then it’s not meant to be. It’s a cheaper, shorter version of some excellent Milan works, and serves as a workable introduction to her newest series.

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The Duchess War (Courtney Milan, The Brothers Sinister #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
It pains me to put a 3 star rating on a Courtney Milan novel, as I am really, really a fan of her writing — normally she creates clear, clever, multilayered characters in a richly constructed drama. The characters makes me swoon and cry… sometimes all at once. But… this particular effort, while still very, very readable, doesn’t shine quite as brightly for me as Milan’s other works. While all of the side characters are richly drawn… they’re SO convincing and interesting that you almost lose interest in the main characters (especially our hero, who feels curiously muted). I still enjoyed the novel (hence 3 stars), but compared to other Milan novels, it just doesn’t feel up to snuff.

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Unraveled (Courtney Milan, Turner #3)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a satisfying end to a very, very well done series (perhaps one of my all-time favorites). The setup is probably my least favorite, but (as usual for Milan) the characters are just so richly drawn that you’re just engrossed in the book before you know it. Here, we have a dedicated magistrate who’s got a very, very traumatic past. He trusts almost no one, and prefers solitude (and in some ways, he prefers suffering). He falls for our heroine because she doesn’t pity or fuss over him, but rather, makes him feel calmer, more centered. Though the initial “falling” happens quickly, the relationship that develops between these two is very satisfying, and there are some nice cameos from earlier characters to make this feel like a well done finale (as opposed to just a solid standalone).

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Unveiled (Courtney Milan, Turner #1)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
So this 5 out of 5 star review is less shiny than my review for Unclaimed (which I thought was close to perfect), but having said that, this is just wonderful. You’ve got a simply fabulous male hero, one who is charming, loyal, and street smart with just a hint of insecurity in a way that makes him feel both layered and believable. He’s the type of character who makes you sigh, because you’re half in love with him by the end of the book. And, as a match, you’ve got a slight spin on the managing spinster, in that she was once one of those boring debutantes… before she was bastardized by legal machinations. I’ve been told that the legal/history part of this book isn’t accurate (it’s a major plot point, though it doesn’t really matter other than as a large McGuffin), but I can’t really confirm or deny that, and it didn’t really detract from what I thought was truly a very well done historical romance.

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