Friday, 20 April 2018

#CBR10 Book 33: "The Duchess War" by Courtney Milan

Page count: 270 pages
Audio book length: 11 hrs 3 mins
Rating: 4.5 stars

Wilhelmina Pursling has a deep dark secret, and a scandal in her past. Her real name is Minerva Lane, and the reason she's assumed a new name, and tries to stay as quiet, unassuming and unnoticed as possible, is because it would be disastrous if the truth came out.

Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clairmont, not only notices Minnie, he's fascinated by her. The son of the rather dastardly duke in The Governess Affair, Robert hates being compared to his father in any way (not easy when the physical resemblance is very strong) and has devoted his life to righting the wrongs of the former duke. He hates his elevated position of privilege, and would like nothing more than to abolish the peerage entirely.

When Minnie is accused of writing handbills that incite workers towards riots and strikes, she realizes that her carefully constructed existence is being threatened. She needs to prove that Robert is the true author, while he's determined to charm her into silence, and possibly a dalliance while he's in town. The more time he spends in her company, however, the more smitten he is with her.

Milan's heroes are always Protectors. Strong and powerful men who are determined to take care of and protect those around them, but Milan's heroes always have wretched pasts as well. Robert is no exception. He's rich, handsome and powerful and spent a dreadful childhood feeling rejected by both his parents. His father was a tyrant, who exploited people for monetary gain or his own pleasure. Robert is determined to be his exact opposite, if he can. He's sensitive, clever and deeply lonely, and the scene where he tells Minnie about a "funny childhood memory" is absolutely heartbreaking.

Milan's heroines tend to be strong, independent and very smart. Minnie is probably the cleverest one yet. She's fully aware that most people will underestimate her, and uses it to her advantage. One of the few niggles I have about the story is the fact that in the beginning of the novel, Robert is so impressed and aware of Minnie's brains, but when it comes to sorting things out towards the end of the book, he seems to completely forget that she's clearly more brilliant than him and goes behind her back instead of of including her in the planning.

However, even with this minor annoyance, I would still rate this as one of Milan's best books, and it's not for nothing that she's my favourite historical romance author writing today (her contemporaries aren't bad either).

Judging a book by its cover: One of the many photo-shopped "lady in a wedding dress" covers that Ms Milan tends to use for her self-published romances, I nonetheless really love the deep red cover of the dress on this one. I don't really think the title of the book is very appropriate. Minnie and the dowager duchess (Robert's mother) are never at war, and none of the two duchesses ever wage war on anyone else either.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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