The Duchess War ~ Courtney Milan

  • Title: The Duchess War
  • Author: Courtney Milan
  • Series: Brothers Sinister #1
  • Genre: Romance
  • Format: e-book
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  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…

Review: My expectations were high after reading The Governess Affair, the prequel novella to this series, and I was not disappointed. I like Romance in all its incarnations, but while its various tropes are executed in many entertaining ways, I rarely come across a Romance novel that truly surprises me. This one did.

Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not your average aristocrat. His father was a womanising bastard (not a bastard in the literal sense) who relied on his status to get away with anything he wanted, which has made Robert determined to be everything his father was not. Yet he is still the Duke of Clermont, so many people are unable to see past his title.

Until he meets Wilhelmina (Minnie) Pursling. On the outside she looks like the quiet, mousey type, but that’s just because she’s hiding who she really is. Underneath that unassuming appearance is a razor-sharp intelligence, and Robert soon finds this out to his disadvantage.

You see, when I say that Robert is not your average aristocrat, I mean this in the sense that he tries to use his position to better the lot of those less fortunate than he, to the point that he is determined to abolish the peerage. He tries to right the wrongs his father has wrought, and at the start of this book he is writing and publishing seditious pamphlets to try and draw out someone who has been abusing his position. This is the industrial age; workers are starting to do things like try to form unions, go on strike to try and get better working conditions, and the upper class don’t like it one bit, because God forbid that the cattle should have opinions of their own. Surely they can’t have brains, right?

The plot is not what kept me engaged in this book, though it is by no means trite or predictable. What kept me enthralled were the constant surprises I came across. I have never, ever seen a Romance where even one of the main characters masturbates, never mind both of them, and I have always found it rather daft that in Romance, men in particular seem to resort to cold showers and whatnot rather than beating the old snake to get rid of their sexual frustration. Especially since that’s exactly what most men do. And most women, for that matter.

Anyway, I won’t mention every single instance where this book delighted me, but the characters were endearing and very believable, the dialogue was wonderful and often very funny, and I sniggered out loud at the scene where Robert joins Minnie on the train and gets his cousin and their childhood friend to chaperone him.

Truly wonderful, and refreshingly original.