Friday, December 21, 2012

On Handbills: A Review of The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1)Courtney Milan surprised me with this one. I've had several experiences with her work now, and I've always liked it. This book, though, was just a little more special.

Minnie Pursling has worked hard to establish herself as an anonymous wallflower, beneath the notice of most people. No one would guess that she possesses a uniquely organized mind, capable of the most precise of tactical thinking. Minni's hopes to marry before her scandalous past comes to light and forever ends her future prospects. When she accuses Robert, the Duke of Clermont, of writing radical handbills stirring workers to strike, she is only trying to keep suspicion from falling on herself. Instead, she captures Roberts attention, and he is all to quick to conclude that he must have her.

I liked Minnie. I was surprised to like Minnie, because she is so mousey and seems dry at first. As the story went on, though, I really enjoyed being inside such a clever mind. I enjoyed the path that her character development took. I related to her discomfort when it comes to large crowds and the comfort that she takes in being anonymous. Yet, I felt proud of her when she faced and overcame some of her fears, or found ways to cope with them. She's a layered, well written character, and even if you don't like her you have to respect her.

Robert is, again, so much more complex than he initially seems. He's presented as having a major case of rich person guilt, where we see him trying to make up for his father's actions by seeking political and legal justice for the working man. It seems self righteous first, but he goes about it intelligently and with an honest sense of idealism. More importantly, in a story such as this, is the emotional journey he goes on in order to find, feel, and accept love. He's all too used to feeling love for others, but less used to people loving him back, and so he suppresses any hopes he might have for a real connection with Minnie.  As an idealistic person, he also struggles with the difference between his fantasies and reality, which is at first disappointing but later proves to outdo his imaginings. Again, I found him very easy to relate to in this respect.

The chemistry is between our characters is warm and sweet. I also noticed that this was a very sexually intelligent book. Instead of romanticizing the love scenes, the author allows for awkwardness and mild disappointment.  And then, she has Minnie explain to  Robert what she needs, matter-of-factly and without sugar coating. How novel.  Seriously.

If I had to name a flaw...Well, I guess the degree to which I felt informed or invested in the workers strike/handbills subplot was pretty weak. That's not saying that I didn't care a little bit, but the conflict could have been something different or not present at all and I wouldn't have noticed.

Overall... God, this was such a good book. Smart, easy to read, and romantic. I could not ask for more from a historical romance. 4.5 stars.

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