Rameau’s review archive: The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister 01) by Courtney Milan


Sometimes love is an accident.

This time, it’s a strategy.

Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly–so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don’t get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

But that is precisely what she gets.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he’s up to, he realizes there is more to than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he’s determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match…

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

I had a spoilery discussion about this book with Anachronist that is now posted on Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell-blog. I recommend you read the book before the blog post.

The blurb says… actually, I don’t have a clue what the blurb says. At this point I never look at the blurbs for Milan’s books because they feel like spoilers. I’d rather go in without any expectations and just enjoy the story and writing. Of course, for The Duchess War I was partly spoiled because of The Governess Affair.

Here, the only legitimate son of the previous Duke of Clermont, Robert Blaisdell finds a mouse in the library and becomes fascinated. Of course said mouse is clad in a severe blue dress and scowls without her glasses, so that’s a perfectly natural reaction for a handsome young lord to have. Except anyone who’s read The Governess Affair knows Robert’s upbringing wasn’t quite the traditional kind and he’s grown up bent by the aristocratic standards.

Minnie Lane has her own secrets and an unusual past to hide. She uses her scar and simple clothes to mask the final vestiges of her former self, her exceptional mind. She struggles with her new name and the attitude that comes with it, but treasures the friendships.

Both Robert and Minnie are having and identity crisis of sorts and they need each other to lean on and to guide themselves out of it. It’s the best kind of growing together that can happen to two people who fall in love and end up married. Or course because it’s a romance novel and more importantly a romance novel written by Milan, things aren’t quite that easy. There are truths and lies to be told, betrayals and choices to be made, there are apologies to be made and forgiveness to be asked.

There’s history be distorted.

What I like most is that Milan takes a historical fact and builds around it. She chooses a time period, looks what was going on in the world then and picks the things that fit her characters. In doing so, she reminds me of things I’ve learned and forgotten, and she tells a brilliant character driven story. Her characters make mistakes because of who they are instead of because what the plot requires, deus ex machinas are wonderfully absent, and whatever misunderstandings happen are dealt with promptly instead of prolonged unnecessarily.

That isn’t to say that this novel was perfect. The beginning was slow and felt like it was progressing in fits and starts. I’m not quite sure why, but the pacing felt off and didn’t get better until the later half of the book. I also wished there’d been more interactions between Minnie and Oliver considering their shared interest. At the end, I would have been happy with a casual mention of chess boards being left all round the Duke’s household for the two enthusiasts. It felt like an obvious connection Milan somehow missed.

I’m not quite sure the Dowager Duchess earned her son’s forgiveness. She could have been on her way to achieving it, but I didn’t believe she quite got there and that’s another reason why the epilogue felt like an easy out or a too tidy a bow on a messy gift wrapping.

Also, at the end [highlight to view: when Robert and Minnie were giving an interview to a roomful of journalists I was flashing back to royal interviews I’ve seen on TV]. That scene quite decimated the high I was feeling—there were tears—after the brilliant scenes between Robert, Oliver, and Oliver’s mother.

I’ve read worse, but Milan at her worse is better than most authors are at their best.

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4 Responses to Rameau’s review archive: The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister 01) by Courtney Milan

  1. We had a discussion about this one? I completely forgot. :O

  2. blodeuedd says:

    We did? I forgot too? And what I thought

  3. rameau says:

    Memorable book. Or discussion 😛

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