The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan (Brothers Sinister #3)
December 16, 2013 (Historical Romance)*
My rating: Vacation by the beach (3/5)
The Countess Conspiracy is Courtney Milan’s third book in the Brothers Sinister series. Ever since reading the first book, The Duchess War, I have been a huge fan of Milan, and I’ve tracked down and read most of her previous books. There just something about Milan’s writing that I love. She knows how to write a good romance. Each of her books is emotional, and you really can understand why her romantic leads make a perfect match. There is no change to that in The Countess Conspiracy.
In The Countess Conspiracy we turn to Sebastian Malheur, the cousin of Robert (book 1) and Oliver (book 2), and the third member of the unofficial club, Brothers Sinister. Sebastian is famous in London society for his controversial scientific lectures. What no one knows is that the real brains behind Sebastian is the widowed Countess of Cambury, Violet Waterfield, childhood friend of Sebastian. Sebastian has always cared for Violet, so when the opportunity arose to give voice to her scientific work, he does it, he doesn’t hesitate. Over the years, they’ve grown closer because of this, but they’ve never crossed the line in their friendship. Sebastian knows that Violet didn’t have a happy first marriage, and he doesn’t want to push Violet despite the fact that he’s been in love with her for years. However, pretending to be something he’s not has started to eat away at Sebastian and he tells Violet he no longer wants to continue being her mouthpiece.
Violet is a brilliant botanist and takes great comfort from her work. She doesn’t spend much time thinking about what’s missing in her life, but she is completely shocked when Sebastian refuses to continue to help her. Sebastian has been her closest friend, and she’s not quite she what she’s going to do without him. And she certainly doesn’t want to acknowledge the potential for something more between the two of them, as she’s sure that Sebastian couldn’t possibly want her. But this ultimatum may just be the motivation that Violet needs.
This was an excellent romantic set up for the novel and I think it worked really well. It was evident from page one that Sebastian and Violet had a close relationship, in fact, Sebastian seemed to be the only person that truly understood her. The romance between the two of them slowly evolved, so if you’re looking for something that throws the couple together quickly, I would say The Countess Conspiracy is not for you. Violet had deep scars from her first marriage, and it has very much impacted her confidence and desire for a romantic relationship with Sebastian. But the power of this book is in the journey that Violet takes in being able to take a risk on another person, and it was lovely. If you’re a fan of more emotional historicals, I highly recommend this novel (and anything else by Milan).
My only complaint is that I didn’t feel like the book was finished. Yes, Violet and Sebastian had their obligatory happily ever after, but I couldn’t help but feel that some issues weren’t truly resolved. Violet had a serious fear of intimacy and motherhood and while this was addressed, I don’t feel that it was resolved by the end. Sebastian and Violet don’t become a couple until nearly the end of the book, so I felt that the conclusion was somewhat rushed in giving them their happy ending. Perhaps this is why those issues were not truly resolved; there just wasn’t time to go deeper into them. I would have liked a little bit more surrounding Violet’s issues and how they would have dealt with them in the future; the epilogue didn’t do it for me. It gave readers a snapshot of the couple’s happy future, but I wanted to know more.
If you’ve read any other book by Milan, you will be sure to enjoy this latest one. There was a lot to like her. Emotional angst. Friends to lovers. Scientific intrigue. I could go on. It was a lovely read, and, as usual, I will be waiting for the next installment of the series, which looks to feature Oliver Marshall’s (book 2) younger sister and will be out in May 2014.
*Review copy via NetGalley.
If you were drawn to the career aspect and slow building relationship between Violet and Sebastian, I would recommend Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series. Yes, they are more or a mystery, but there’s a lot of Kiera, Lady Darby, that reminds me of Violet.
Lorraine Heath’s Between the Devil and Desire isn’t quite as emotional as The Countess Conspiracy, it does feature a woman getting a second chance after a less than satisfying first marriage. Generally, these widow stories don’t appeal to me, but Devil and Desire was a good (and tangled) tale.
If you liked the emotional quality of Milan’s work, Charlotte Featherstone and Grace Burrowes are two authors that I would recommend. Temptation & Twilight reminds me of The Countess Conspiracy as the hero and heroine work together as Violet and Sebastian do, and they also have a long standing relationship. The difference is that Iain and Elizabeth crossed that friendship line many years ago and Iain needs to convince Elizabeth to take a chance on him again.
As for Grace Burrowes, I find her hit-or-miss. But I find that, like Milan, emotion plays a huge role in her books. My favourite Burrowes novel to date is Ethan. Lot’s of issues here. And this time round, it’s the hero, Ethan, that has issues because of a disastrous first marriage.