Oct 20, 2018 | Books I Read

The Countess Conspiracy

Author: Courtney Milan

Series: Brothers Sinister #3

Tags: Regency, widow, bad dead husband, botanist, secretly publishing science papers, evolution, childhood friends, PTSD, miscarriage, jokester with a secret

Format: audiobook

Rating: Super Yay!

 

I’m not crying, I SWEAR!

 

I was really looking forward to this book, and I was NOT disappointed. Sebastian and Violet have been side characters since leading up to this story. I’ve gotten to know them both and really enjoy their characters.

Sebastian is the Regency romance equivalent of the class clown. He’s the one that is very rarely serious, often poking fun, or making people laugh when they shouldn’t. For instance, he was told not to speak a word to a previous prospective bride, so he spent the entire train ride only communicating through pantomime. Sebastian gets increasingly distraught throughout the series, and no one knows what’s up.

Violet is also pretty great. She has a sharp tongue and scathing wit. She’s matter-of-fact about most things. She is the honorary member of the Brothers Sinister, since she grew up with them all, and takes her position as only female in their little group in stride.

Sebastian and Violet seem outwardly to be nearly inseparable, in an odd, platonic way. The other men of their little group don’t quite understand it, but accept it. Before this book, both have started to act increasingly out of character, however, and it’s not until here that you find anything out.

 

I love it when series do that outside view/inside view thing. A certain character is seen through the lens of each of their friends as the books progress, until we finally get to their story. It’s part of the reason why I enjoy Regency romance so much. I think a lot of one-off novels, in Romance and without, take hits on the quality of the story when they don’t treat supporting characters as full characters. It’s more enjoyable for them all to have their own agency and motivations.

Everyone is the main character to their own story. Moreover, everyone deserves to be the main character to their own story.

As someone who could have been typified as the “fat friend” or “friend of guys” many times in my past, I highly value supporting characters with their own independence.

 

You see Sebastian really struggle and hurt by the end of book 2, and it only gets worse before it gets better.

There are such exquisite moments of unrequited anguish, and not of your typical manufactured tortured duke variety.

Sebastian has loved Violet all his life, has watched her struggle and almost die, knows that she is somewhat broken from the relationship with her dead husband. He holds back his affections because they know they will only hurt her. He waits for her to heal. In the meantime, he does what he can to bring her joy. She is a botanist and a scientist; he helps her and becomes her pseudonym so that she can publish her findings as a man.

Their lie gets out of control and he finds that it is eating at him. He can’t hold it up any longer.

 

There’s this excellent moment in the end of the Heiress Effect that brings to light so many things. Oliver is surprised that Sebastian dislikes his notoriety as the hated pro-evolutionist. Sebastian calls him on it, “have I ever given you any indication that I like to hurt people? Have I made any joke at anyone’s expensive other than my own?”

 

Such compassion Sebastian shows throughout the novel! True sympathy for friends. True restraint of his own desires to care for others. Radical consent, when it comes to the sexual tension between him and still-fragile Violet.

Violet had 19 miscarriages (19!) and can’t face the chance of pregnancy again. I love when Sebastian says “there are many things between a kiss and pregnancy. I look forward to exploring every one with you.”

Thank GOD! Some romance character actually acknowledging there is something more than P and V sex.

 

This is why I’m ruined for relationships with humans. I spend so much time analyzing motivations and manners of fictional characters, that I have a very sharp, narrow view of what true compassion looks like, and I value it above all else. Too bad traditional masculinity values independent and devalues compassion.

Too bad there isn’t a filter on Tinder to weed out assholes. Would it be empty if there was?

Sighhhhhhhh.

Suffragette Scandal

Author: Courtney Milan

Series: Brothers Sinister #4

Tags: Regency, women’s suffrage, woman business owner, editor, publisher, women’s newspaper, criminal, forger, long lost first son, vengeance

Format: audiobook

Rating: Yay!

 

Though I’m still coming down from the romance that was Sebastian and Violet, this one was quite enjoyable as well. Free is a unapologetic feminist, a suffragette, a university graduate, and the owner of a women’s newspaper that is solely operated and read by women. One of her enemies has taken a personal dislike to her and vows to ruin her enterprise. A mysterious sexy scoundrel drops out of the sky to help her defeat him. He’s a smooth talking hustler, a forger, and (secretly) the long lost elder brother of her enemy.

I liked the aspects we got to see of the printing press, the toil and bustle of the women who work there. There’s a dangerous situation or two that puts her livelihood in jeopardy. I especially liked the regular satirical advice column called something like “Ask a Man.” That was pretty funny. It is always signed off as, “Sincerely, Stephen Shaughnessy, a Real Man.”

I will admit to liking the side characters a bit more than the main ones. Stephen was pretty hilarious; he played pranks on the couple and was always cracking a joke. Plus there were GAYS in this novel! Oh, such a delight!!! Stephen’s elder brother had a relationship with someone, and one of the girls that worked at the newspaper has a crush on a mutual friend.

 

Bringing up gay couples in the context of romance novels is problematic in multiple ways. For instance:

  • In this day and age, we can’t POSSIBLY pretend that every single person under 35 in this fantastical world of Regency England is 100% hetero.
  • Also, the unwritten rule is that EVERY remotely good, unattached person under the age of 40 WILL be hooked up, most likely in their own novel. In fact, a person who is marginalized in some way (disabled, unattractive, odd, mentally divergent, etc.) is more likely to get their own novel than someone who is perfectly ordinary.
  • It really bothers me when one of my favorite implied romance novel philosophies–that every is the main character in their own novel–does not apply to LGBT side characters.
  • At the same time, this is an industry built on exactly one form of relationships–hetero, monogamous romance–and very few audiences deviate from it.
  • On the other hand, this is also the age of Fan Fiction, so hell yes, it looks like many people would be interested in some non-heteronormative love.
  • However, this most likely written by a heterosexual woman, so what exactly do they know, if anything about the life of someone gay, bisexual, or trans, and is it some mild form of exploitation for her to be writing about them?
  • Also, it’s not like it was that fun to be gay at that time, what with no rights, no marriage, and the threat of being thrown in jail or an asylum, should you live publicly as gay or trans. I mean, your happily ever after at best is, “and then they became roommates.”

 

There is also this excellent debate they have about feminism. Our hero accuses Free and her suffragette peers of attempting to “empty the Thames with teaspoons.” The small works they do will never add up to behemoth machine that is patriarchy.

“You mistake our purpose,” She says, “We are not trying to empty the Thames. We are using the water to grow gardens.”

He was still looking at it in the view of a man. It is not whether the river (patriarchy) can be tamed or emptied, but what it means to those outside of it. They are nurturing the women that read her newspaper, letting them grow by small degrees. It has nothing to do with men at all.

I thought that was quite beautiful.

Talk Sweetly to Me

Author: Courtney Milan

Series: Brothers Sinister #4.5

Tags: Regency, interracial couple, female scientist, journalist, astronomer

Format: audiobook

Rating: meh

 

Meh. It was a novella, so there’s that. The series is winding down, as well. The hero is not even part of the Brothers Sinister, a name for all a group of friends from Eton that were all lefthanded.

She is of African descent, and a brilliant mathematician. He’s the satirical journalist mentioned in the previous novel. He thinks she’s cute. She worries he wants to dally with her. He gets her to tutor her in math.

There’s something very fragile about Miss Sweetly. I can’t decide if she is supposed to be divergent minded,such as autistic. I just didn’t really buy into the whole thing. Perhaps there wasn’t enough time to convince me.

There is an adorable moment they have while using a telescope, though.

My Lady, My Lord

Author: Katharine Ashe

Series: Twist #1

Tags: Regency, Body Swap!, rake, bluestocking, childhood friends, neighbors, enemies to lovers

Format: audiobook, Audible Romance Package

Rating: Super YAY!

 

Oh, how delightful!

 

A body swap story! Who can resist loving this?

I’m sure there are Freaky Friday-ish body swap stories out there that are really poorly written, but I quite enjoyed how Ashe treats this plot line. The situations they get themselves in are funny without being too tongue-in-cheek. There is no freaky psuedo-body-rape that went on, THANK GOD. Gender swaps almost always come with some sort of sexual exploration, and when it’s a person doing it in someone else’s body, it gets super weird. There wasn’t even freaky consensual body swap sex.

Their relationship starts with animosity and slowly grows to love throughout the story. They have been neighbors forever, and always assumed the other person hated them, so they preemptively lash out. Such longstanding miscommunication doesn’t bode well for their future together, but whatevs.

I LOVED that they grew to share a bond unique to anyone else they knew. The body swap was dispensed with 2/3 of the way through the story to focus solely on their relationship.

It was so fun!

 

Apparently, Ashe wrote this story and kept it in her drawer without publishing it for years. I wonder why. Maybe because it was too risque? Or unconnected with the rest of her novels? It is the third of the series, and she is publishing the previous two after this one.

 

I had thought that I didn’t like Katharine Ashe. But now I do..? IDK. There are no other books of her in the Audible Romance Package, so I’m moving on.

Lady Be Bad

By Megan Frampton, Dukes Daughters #1 

Her: Duke’s daughter, yearns for adventure, but needs to be proper for their family to avoid even more scandal. Is betrothed to hero’s brother to save the family. 

Him: Ne’er do well younger brother of earl, doesn’t know what to do with his life, sells erotica on the DL 

Meetcute: run into each other at a book store, where she knocks his pornographic novel out of his hand. Later he is tasked to woo her for his brother. 

Rating: meh. 

 

This is the second book I’ve read from Frampton, and though I quite enjoyed One-Eyed Dukes are Wild, I think I was mostly seduced by the stick-in-the-mud dude and the eye patch. No stick-in-the-mud here; no eyepatch. Therefore, not terribly interesting. 

 

Frampton plays fast and loose with Regency world. You know, when the language is so relaxed that if you skipped the My Lord’s and curtseying, you could imagine it as a contemporary novel. There was more than one occasion where I caught historical inaccuracies, which is telling, since I usually let romance novels get away with A LOT. 

The most disturbing moment, however, MAY HAVE RUINED REGENCY SEX SCENES FOR ME FOREVER.  

Our heroine walks out of the private room in the book store, and tells him to get comfortable. When she comes back in, he has taken off some of his clothes. She says something like, “I expected you at least to take off you boots, since I can’t help you with those.” 

AND THEN NO MENTION OF BOOTS. 

IS HE STANDING THERE NAKED EXCEPT FOR HIS BOOTS.  

ARE THEY ALL STANDING THERE NAKED EXCEPT FOR THEIR BOOTS??? 

 

Sometimes historical romances talk about how difficult it is to take off those tall Hessian boots, mentioning that valets usually help them put them on. In one novel, the heroine is nearly thrown across the room with the force of taking them off. 

And sometimes they don’t mention it. At all. 

Can someone please research for me?? This is very distressing. I am starting to imagine all my favorite moody dukes and rakes with their britches pooled at their lower thighs, right above their boots, taking tiny, restricted steps toward the lavish bed. 

It is not remotely attractive! 

 

I have ALREADY given as much leeway as possible to the sex scenes when they take off all of their clothes for a simple romp. I mean, clothing at that time was hard to take off. And yet, no matter where they are, they seem to have a need to get bare ass naked each and every time. In Fanny Hill, erotica contemporary to this time, I can’t remember anyone stripping down to their skivvies. It seems they always stayed dressed when they were dressed. 

 

This one was more than usually ridiculous because they get all the way naked in a book store, for godsake. For her first time. Ew. 

 

I just didn’t have very much fun with this novel. Frampton is altogether too glib, too self-aware. The plot line was paper thin. So much talk of the desire to “be overwhelmed” as the main conflict. Please, can you get any more cliché? Too many more of Frampton and I may have to break up with her. 

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