Friday, January 3, 2014

REVIEW: "The Countess Conspiracy" by Courtney Milan

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

Goodreads -- Amazon 
Author Website

For Ages 18+ (language, sex)
Historical Romance
Self-Published -- December 16, 2013
Ebook, 295 pages
Received from Netgalley

Favorite Heroine, Tormented Heroine, Unrequited Love--Hero

Sebastian Malheur is the most dangerous sort of rake: an educated one. When he’s not scandalizing ladies in the bedchamber, he’s outraging proper society with his scientific theories. He’s desired, reviled, acclaimed, and despised—and he laughs through it all.

Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury, on the other hand, is entirely respectable, and she’d like to stay that way. But Violet has a secret that is beyond ruinous, one that ties her irrevocably to England’s most infamous scoundrel: Sebastian’s theories aren’t his. They’re hers.

So when Sebastian threatens to dissolve their years-long conspiracy, she’ll do anything to save their partnership...even if it means opening her vulnerable heart to the rake who could destroy it for good.

"Violet Waterfield, the Countess of Cambury, was always most comfortable in a crowd."

Courtney Milan proves once again why she is considered to be one of the most talented writers of historical romance right now with The Countess Conspiracy, the third book in her popular Brothers Sinister series.  This collection of books focuses on three men (two half-brothers and a cousin) who stand out from the crowd of Victorian-era gentlemen in different ways such as political beliefs, economic status, and academic interest.  This particular installment focuses on Sebastian Malheur, one of England's most notorious scientists whose interest in genetics has made him quite the scandal.  Readers quickly learn what role Sebastian really had in the presentation of "his" scientific theories when he decides he is done with playing a part.

I have been interested in Sebastian since we first met him in The Duchess War and Ms. Milan did not disappoint with his characterization.  He has always come across as a pleasure-loving genius who seems to revel in causing scandals.  But, by refusing to continue playing such a part, Sebastian is shown to have real depth in his personality.  He is very good at playing a part (as many of Milan's characters seem to), but acknowledges the toll it can have on one's mental state.  Things are complicated by Sebastian's long-time romantic feelings of his friend, Violet, who is the real genius of the pair.  I loved how devoted Sebastian was to Violet yet he understood that the charade could not continue any longer.
 "My friends are worrying about me," Sebastian continued.  "That's completely backward.  I'm supposed to take care of them.  But I can't even explain to them that I 'm thirty-two and I'm disappearing--that I'm being praised for work that is not mine, and reviled for thoughts I didn't think...And then last complimented me on my talk, when we both know that you wrote it."
I really loved Sebastian's character (as I expected), but I was shocked by the fact that Violet stole the book for me completely.  The honest depiction of a woman trying to balance her love of science and society's expectation of her was both heartbreaking and revitalizing.  Violet is obsessed with her genetic theories, but her self-worth was damaged so badly by her late husband that she believes she should hide her true nature so as not to be "selfish."  There were so many moments in this book that I wanted to just hug Violet as she struggled to save her friendship with Sebastian, help her niece decide about her future, and make sure no one ever found out what a mess she was inside.
She was a blacksmith's puzzle without a solution.  Her faults never lay in the beginning of her acquaintances, but at the end--when she drove everyone who cared for her away.  It was only a question of how long it took them to ferret out the truth.  Nothing was what she was; nothing was what she gave to those foolish enough to care for your.  Nothing was what she deserved, and so nothing had been what she got.  It didn't matter how hard she tried or what she did.  At the end of the day she was a selfish, pointless, lying coward.
I definitely enjoy a good unrequited love story especially when it is the hero who has had the long-term feelings.  Sebastian has been in love with Violet for more than a decade and that is the main reason why he went along with the charade for such a long time.  Violet, for her part, feels completely unworthy of love so she has a difficult time understanding Sebastian's feelings.  Her late husband's treatment of her really shows in this aspect of the story and Sebastian must try to sooth those wounds as best he can while still acknowledging that she will never be completely healed.

While the romance is a key part of The Countess Conspiracy, Milan does a marvelous job of portraying the Victorian-era scientific community and the role of women in it.  I will be the first to admit that I know practically nothing about genetics, but I was able to follow along with Violet's theories (for the most part) and could see how revolutionary they were for the time period.  Anybody with basic historical knowledge could predict that it was quite scandalous for women to be involved in anything scientific especially genetics and reproduction.  That is what made the efforts of Violet so compelling to me.  She knew how difficult this could make her life (and those of her loved ones) yet it was something she felt like she had to do in order to stay true to herself.  Milan provided a kindred spirit for Violet in the character of Alice Bollingall who has similar interests.  I loved the depiction of the relationship of  Alice and her husband and would love to see a novella about them in the future.

So, as one can guess, I found this book to be absolutely amazing!  I loved almost everything about it from the romance to the science parts to the Brothers Sinister overlay to the relationships between Violet and her sister and Sebastian and his brother.  Courtney Milan continues to surprise me with her talented writing and understanding of human nature which comes together for some pretty spectacular reads.  I can't wait to read the final two stories in the Brothers Sinister series and to see what she has in store for readers next.

I received a free e-copy of this book from Courtney Milan via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Flush -- Detailed descriptions of lovemaking though nothing overly graphic.

**"For Rosalind Franklin, whose name we know.  For Anna Clausen, whom I discovered while writing this book.  For every woman whose name has disappeared without recognition.  This book is for you."

**"Ah, the rule that says that women aren't allowed to be intelligent."  He brushed a kiss against her forehead.  "Burn that one to the ground, Violet, and dance on the ashes.  And damn anyone who tells you it's selfish to do so."

0.5. The Governess Affair
1. The Duchess War
1.5. A Kiss for Midwinter
2. The Heiress Effect
3. The Countess Conspiracy
4. The Mistress Rebellion (Coming 2014)
4.5. Talk Sweetly to Me (Coming 2014)

1 comment:

  1. Gah, another series I've been hearing good things about! I need to get the first book ASAP.


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