THE DUCHESS WAR
Brothers Sinister #1
Adult Historical Romance
Received from author for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Sometimes love is an accident.
This time, it’s a strategy.
Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep
it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention,
it ended badly--so badly that she changed her name to escape her
scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at
least they don't get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town,
the last thing she wants is his attention.
But that is precisely what she gets.
Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie
figures out what he's up to, he realizes there is more to than her
spectacles and her quiet ways. And he's determined to lay her every
secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may
prove to be more than his match...
The first full length novel in Ms. Milan's new Brothers Sinister series, The Duchess War gives us the wonderfully rich characters we've come to expect from her books, delighting us with two people who are a beautiful combination of strengths and weaknesses and who find the counterpoint to each of those things in the other. This newest release is perhaps one of her slower-building romances, the careful courtship dance between Minnie and Robert both humorous and tension filled as they struggle with the shape their families molded them into, longing to be the sculptors of their own forms but at a loss as to where to start once they pick up the chisel.
Minnie is a spitfire masquerading as a quiet and unassuming young woman, her repeated interactions with Robert the only moments she allows the stranglehold she has on her true personality to lessen enough that a flame or two escapes. She's frightfully intelligent and exceedingly clever, her banter with Robert gloriously entertaining as she gives little mind to his status as a duke when she opens her mouth, allowing insults, innuendo and ego to slip out and dance merrily in the air between them. She has a painful past, one that instilled in her such fear that she allowed her aunts and society as a whole to pinch and twist her until an ordinary veneer masked and imprisoned an extraordinary woman. The threat of her past does at times cause her strike out in self defense before a strike against her can be made, but the strength of her reactions to what haunts her is so great that it's difficult to muster up any ire at her for doing so.
Robert, like Minnie, has allowed his mother's indifference and his father's cruelty to make him a chimera of sorts, their combined action and inaction forcing two distinct individuals–the man he currently is and the man he wants so desperately to be–to exist side by side in one body and battle each other for dominance. He lives with the constant fear that he is his father's son, analyzing his every thought and action and comparing it to his father's to see if he is in danger of becoming a man who would exploit his station to his every personal and professional advantage. Watching as two deeply terrified but amazingly strong individuals find someone to whom they can hand their worst fears and find solace and warmth– rather than disgust or condemnation–upon the baring of their soul is a pleasure to read about, and an experience we can't help but want to repeat again and again.
Though the secondary characters play a very small role in this first installment, Ms. Milan manages to make them memorable despite their brief appearances, and we can only sit back and smile when we see them on page, knowing their souls are the next to be bared to us as the series continues. Overall, The Duchess War is a highly enjoyable start to this new series and yet another winner from Ms. Milan.