Wednesday 17 September 2014

#CBR6 Book 96: "Talk Sweetly to Me" by Courtney Milan

Page count: 109 pages
Rating: 3 stars

Young Rose Sweetly is a computer in Victorian England. This means she works for a male astronomer, doing amazing feats of arithmetic and calculation to help him in his work. She lives with her pregnant sister, taking care of her while waiting for her brother-in-law, a naval doctor, to return from abroad. Preferably before the baby is born. She's also very much in love with her neighbour, the infamous author and columnist Stephen Shaughnessey. Yet she heeds her sister's advice. He is a legendary scandal and rake, and she is an unmarried black woman. Nothing good can come of her crush on him.

Stephen Shaughnessey loves hearing his pretty, brilliant young neighbour explaining to him about maths and astronomy. He understands that she's a mathematical genius and would like nothing better than to court her, yet no matter what he tries, she resists him. So he needs to convince her that he's not just a callous flirt with his mind set on seduction. He enlists the help of her employers and is lucky that there is a once in a lifetime eclipse happening in London.

Talk Sweetly to Me is the coda to Courtney Milan's excellent Brothers Sinister series, which contains what is now probably my favourite romance of all time as well as several other excellent books. Stephen Shaughnessey, Irish Catholic, son of a stable master and a seamstress, worked for Free Marshall's newspaper, giving a "real man"'s opinion in a publication "by women, for women, about women". He was a delightful supporting character and he's an admirable hero. I just wish some of his actions didn't veer too closely into coercion and manipulation, which I think they almost do here. Still, he sees the brilliance in Rose Sweetly and for that I applaud him.

Milan writes amazing heroines, and in several of the Brothers Sinister books highlights the plight of overlooked and inspiring women of the Victorian Age, marginalised, ignored or completely forgotten because of their gender. I didn't really know there were computers, or that there were a lot more black Victorians than I previously suspected, and that's another great thing about Milan's stories. She educates you without ever patronising you, highlighting unusual topics not normally featured in historical romance. Of the novellas in the series, this is probably the least impressive, but anything written by Milan is still of the very highest quality and worth reading.

The entire series:
The Governess Affair - 4.5 stars
The Duchess War - 5 stars
A Kiss for Midwinter - 5 stars
The Heiress Effect - 3.5 stars
The Countess Conspiracy - 5 stars
The Suffragette Scandal - 6 stars (it broke the scale)

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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