Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan (Brothers Sinister 4.5)
August 19, 2014 (Historical Romance)*
My Rating: I’d go there again! (4/5)
Talk Sweetly to Me is the last Brothers Sinister addition, and this little novella was a lovely finale to the collection. Readers were introduced to Stephen Shaughnessy in The Suffragette Scandal, as the “Actual Man” that offers advice in Frederica Marshall’s newspaper. In Talk Sweetly to Me, Stephen has met his match with Miss Rose Sweetly, an extraordinary mathematical genius, who is quite opposite to Stephen’s carefree attitude.
Rose, like the all of the women featured in the Brothers Sinister series has a hard lot because of her sex. Rose is smart, but there are limitations imposed on her because she is a woman. Unlike the other heroines of the series, Rose has the added complication of also being black, which is more than difficult in 1882. Rose may be smart and reserved, but by virtue of the colour of her skin, Rose is immediately considered less. And no one explains the way society works more succinctly than Rose’s sister, Patricia:
“I love you, Rose.” Patricia sighed. “And I know you’ll make a good marriage, one as brilliant as mine. But you have to remember that most men who look at you won’t be seeing you. They won’t see you’re clever and amusing.” Her sister came forward and took Rose’s hand in her own. “They’ll see this.” She rubbed the back of Rose’s hand. Dark skin pressed against dark skin. “It doesn’t matter how respectably you dress or how much you insist. Most men will see that you’re black and they’ll think you’re available.” (p.11)
Patricia is concerned about Rose’s interactions with Stephen and worried that he might take adventure of Rose. Stephen has a bit of a rakish reputation and its understandable that Patricia is concerned for Rose. Luckily, Stephen does not have nefarious designs on Rose and is actually quite smitten with her, and even goes so far as to invent a reason for mathematical lessons with her to get to know her better. While Stephen doesn’t completely understand the hardship that Rose endures because of the colour of her skin, he is intrigued by her reserved nature and bright mind.
Rose is just as smitten with Stephen, but she is more than aware of the difficulties that are ahead for them if there were to pursue a relationship, which make her very cautious in her dealings with him. Rose is not sure if she’s willing to go through the future difficulties, and this uncertainty and vulnerability is what made Rose such a wonderful character. Both Rose and Stephen will need to determine whether their relationship is enough to overcome the inevitable difficulties and obstacles that will come their way because of their difference in skin colour.
Talk Sweetly to Me was another great novella by Milan, and I will admit that she is one of my favourite novella writers. The format is short, but Milan is always able to give you a satisfying and realistically developed romance despite the lack of pages. Talk Sweetly to Me was an emotional story, and I really liked that both Rose and Stephen were forced to really consider what they were getting into by pursing a relationship. Just because they care for one another doesn’t mean that they will be happy; Rose has to force Stephen to consider this:
“You told me the awkward difficult bit will only be the beginning,” she said. “But it won’t be. It’ll be difficult in the middle, over and over. It’ll be difficult at the end. It will never stop being difficult, and the only reason that you don’t know that is that you haven’t considered the possibility. At some point, Stephen, you’ll realize this is not a joking matter.” (p. 66)
I love that these considerations were included. So often in romance all obstacles are easily surmounted, and that’s great, I do love that aspect where anything can be overcome in a romance, but it’s also nice to read something and know that the characters really have thought about the consequences of their relationship and have made the decision to move ahead (or not) accordingly. For such a short book, I really do feel that readers are treated to a considered and realistically paced romance between Rose and Stephen. Ultimately, this was another great novella from Courtney Milan and I’m sorry to see the Brothers Sinister series come to an end. I can only hope that the author’s next series will be as thought provoking and unusual as this one has been.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
I’ve decided not to list my usual future reading suggestions, and instead I suggest that you check out my top 10 novellas. There’s a little bit of everything on that list!