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rameau's ramblings

A reader who’ll try anything once, including bad books in search of good ones. Eclectic as her tastes are, she tends to gravitate to historical romances, realistic contemporaries, and some fantasy novels.

Currently reading

The Complete Sherlock Holmes (The Heirloom Collection)
Arthur Conan Doyle, Simon Vance
Progress: 13 %
Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila

The Countess Conspiracy (Brothers Sinister #3) by Courtney Milan

The Countess Conspiracy - Courtney Milan

There'll be spoilers in this review.


So you've read the blurb. Sebastian Malheur is the sinister brother of the book, an educated rake. Violet Waterield is the widow heroine with a secret. Their reputations are on the line as is their friendship. Can they find love?


Of course they can. This is, after all, a romance novel.


It's like Milan is trying to figure out how my mind works. There was something very personal I recognised in Oliver in The Heiress Effect but there's so much more in Violet, things painfully familiar to me, yet so different.


The more Milan writes, the less clichéd and more interesting her characters become, which just leaves the story to follow the familiar traditions of a romance novel. The problem is that as her heroines are defying the accepted social norms of their time, Milan herself is trapped by the existing norms within the romance genre.


I'm not just talking about the mandatory happy ending—I certainly didn't object to it here because Violet and Sebastian earned theirs—I'm talking about the genre expectations that distort the wonderful characterisations and sabotage the whole. My least favourite moment in the whole book happened around the 22% mark when Sebastian, quite uncharacteristically started repeating to himself: "Go make her yours."


There was absolutely no need for that line.


Sebastian has been in love with Violet for half of his life without her knowing. He's become to a point in his life where that must change. The problem is that Sebastian can't just seduce Violet like any other rake would seduce a woman he wants—which covers about 90% of all historical romance plots—he has to be her friend. He must wait and let her come to him.


That's what not most the readers expect.


They expect the hero to go and make her his, to take her even if against her will at first, and for him to convince her that they are meant to be together. "Go make her yours."


Most readers don't see that Sebastian merely sitting in silence, waiting as Violet works, is part of the seduction. Most readers don't see how proactive it is for a man to be patient, to wait a fifteen minutes, an hour, or sixteen years, for the woman to see him like he sees her. To allow her the choice. To utterly bare himself, place himself at her mercy, and still say "whatever you choose, I'll still be your friend."


That's the beauty of this book. Milan sees it. Sebastian sees Violet as his equal, not someone he can or has to manipulate to bend to his will. He sees her as a brilliant scientist who has problems with touch and trust and who loses herself in her work to the point of neglecting her own health. He doesn't just see her as a woman to be a conquered, but as a human with wishes of her own. The fact that her wishes don't coincide with his own doesn't mean they should stop being friends.


He respects her.


As for Violet, I see so much of herself in her. The interest in science for one, the tendency to feel misunderstood or like an outsider for another. Childlessness, a third. But, I must wait another day to read about an utterly asocial heroine without any trauma.


This book should have been perfect for me but something was missing. I really liked Sebastian and Violet's story, but I didn't love it. The magic didn't quite work and the spark didn't flame.