My rating: Outstanding adventure (5/5)
Another wonderful, thought-provoking historical romance from the awesome Courtney Milan; she really can do no wrong when it comes to romance. The Suffragette Scandal concludes the Brothers Sinster series, although this is one more novella forthcoming that features a character introduced in Suffragette Scandal. I’ll be sad to leave the series, but I can’t wait to see what this author dreams up next; I depend on her for great romances that make you think. Every time I pick up a Milan book I always expect the usual historical romance fare, and each and every time I am blown away with how out of the ordinary her tale unfolds, and her latest is no exception.
Frederica “Free” Marshall is a young woman of twenty-six and the owner and editor of the Women’s Free Press: By women – for women – about women. She certainly has challenges being an independent woman in 1877, but she doesn’t let that stop her from pushing away until she gets small freedoms for herself and other women in the world. However, as strong and independent as Free is, there are some who would go to any lengths to shut her down, especially since she turned down their “gracious” offer to become their mistress, and surprisingly Edward Clark was not that man, meaning Milan effectively turns the conventional and expected into something new and so much more meaningful.
Edward Clark is a forger and also the brother of James Delacey (the guy that propositioned Free) who is intent on ending the Women’s Free Press by any means necessary. Unfortunately for James, Edward has no intention of letting that happen and decides to help Free foil his brother that left him to die. Of course, Edward did not expect to be bowled over by Free:
Every time he thought he knew what to expect from her, she upset his expectations. He Felt buffeted about, unsure of his footing.
Also, she liked boxing.
God, this was bad. Very, very bad. (p. 47)
It may be bad for Edward but it’s certainly very, very good for readers.
The events in Edward’s past have made him cynical about life in general and he’s sincerely unconvinced that Free and women like her will ever accomplish their mission:
“Maybe in a hundred years of women voting, you might manage a single female Prime Minster.” He gave her a rough smile. “But just the one, and even so, people will never take her seriously. If she’s stern, they’ll blame her menstrual cycle. If she smiles, it will be proof that women are not strong enough to lead. That’s what you’re setting yourself up for, Miss Marshall. A lifetime of small wins, of victories that land like lead in your stomach. Your cause may be just. But you’re delusional if you think you can accomplish anything. You’re pitting yourself against an institution that is older than our country, Miss Marshall. It’s so old that we rarely even need to speak of it. Rage all you want, Miss Marshall, but you’ll have more success emptying the Thames with a thimble.” (p. 94)
Despite his belief in the fruitlessness of Free’s mission, he never once disrespects her and even comes to realize that there is value in the small victories. And that transformation, my friends, is what makes this so much better than your average historical romance. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly do not need thought-provoking romances every day of the week, but I loved that this was a refreshing change.
The Suffragette Scandal has all the hallmarks of a Milan novel. There’s the signature humour and wit, the fantastic historical details, and a strong romantic relationship that’s founded on something more than lust. I absolutely adored The Suffragette Scandal and I highly recommend it, as well as its predecessors. Luckily enough, the heroes and heroines from the previous books also make cameo appearances in this latest installment.
The very last thing that I have to comment on is the author’s choice to populate her novel with characters outside the usual social classes. While there are upper crust characters, I love that the author takes a risk and moves to the working class in her novels and novellas. The era that the author writes in was a time of change and I love the fact that Milan conveys this in many of her works, but has done so especially in the Brothers Sinster series. Suffragette Scandal was not filled with balls and fripperies, but instead took a closer look at everyday life, which is, again, a refreshing change in the historical romance genre.
Ultimately, I hope I have convinced someone to give Milan a try, I promise you wont be disappointed. And now, I must go and re-read some other Milan books, perhaps starting with The Duchess War, still my favourite of the Brothers Sinister series.
*Review copy provided via NetGalley.
Like Milan, Laura Lee Guhrke also tackled women of independent means in historical romance in her Girl Bachelors series. While I don’t think it’s quite as good as The Suffragette Scandal, it would be an option if you’re look for a similar setting to this one. And Then He Kissed Her is also set within the newspaper world with another capable woman.
If you liked the whole “I have a secret identity” thing that Edward was playing, give Tessa Dare’s Three Nights with a Scoundrel a try. It’s not as serious as The Suffragette Scandal but it is still quite good and the right choice if you looking for some lighter fare.