November 27, 2012

Bibliocrack Review: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

This is the part where I tell you I have secretly become a Courtney Milan fangirl. That's right. I've been rather callously reading up a storm of Milan behind your backs. But it's okay. Because now I'm coming clean. The thing is, they're just so readily available for download to my Nook. And I had heard such positive feedback--kind of across the board. But more importantly, I love Milan's blog. I love it. She writes about things. About the industry and about her experience self-publishing after already establishing herself as a traditionally published author. Her take on writing and publishing is always incisive and insightful. So I was a regular reader of her blog long before I ever thought of picking up one of her books. That's actually not the first time I've found myself in such a situation. But in this case, it took quite awhile before I decided to go ahead and see if her fiction was as good as her non. So far I've only torn a path through her Turner Brothers series. But I was excited to hear she had a brand new one in the works, and I downloaded the introductory novella as soon as it became available.

Serena has gone about as long as she can without gainful employment. With a reclusive sister to support and a secret or two she'd rather keep under wraps, she does the only thing she can think of to do. She goes to the doorstep of the man responsible for the loss of her last position as governess and demands her due. The only problem is, the duke in question won't see her. He doesn't see anyone it seems. Rather, he delegates the whole of his affairs to a man known to all and sundry as the Wolf of Clermont. The Wolf has a secret or two of his own, but these days he makes his living (and his reputation) on the strength of his abilities as a formidable businessman. He cares for no one and nothing but burnishing his intimidating reputation and brooking no refusal when it comes to the duke's affairs. And so when faced with a single governess demanding a paltry payment, Hugo Marshall doesn't  break stride moving to get rid of her. But Serena won't go. Doggedly focused, she returns every day to the duke's residence and waits. And as he becomes more acquainted with Miss Barton and her situation, somehow, something in Hugo balks at destroying her. And so he must weigh his plans for the future against offering the help this woman so clearly needs.

What a marvelous find Courtney Milan was. Not only is she a remarkably consistent writer, but her prose is buttery soft. It goes down so smooth, you find yourself downing a hundred pages without even realizing it. In a very short period of time, I have come to be able to count on Courtney Milan for delightful historical romances about smart women I respect and men who are both complicated and kind. They may be in a bit of denial when it comes to the kindness, but it is there and it is real. Even better, her novellas are as meaty and satisfying as her full-length novels--a rare skill and one I heartily admire. Serena and Hugo have to be two of my very favorite Milan protagonists. Serena's earnest, quiet drive and Hugo's single-minded determination and reluctant sympathy immediately appealed to me. Here, a favorite snippet in which they both show a little of their mettle:
Hugo reached down and plucked a spare twig from the ground and set it on the bench between them. "This," he said, "is a wall, and I will not cross it."

Her eyes fixed on that piece of wood, a few scant inches in length.

"I don't believe in hurting women," he said.

She did not respond.

"I do a great many things, and I'm not proud of many of them. But I don't swear. I don't drink. And I don't hurt women. I don't do any of those things because my father did every one." He held her eyes as he spoke. "Now I've told you something that nobody else in London knows. Surely you can return the favor. What is it you want?"

She shook her head slowly. "No, Mr. Marshall. I will not be browbeaten, however nicely you do it. I am done with things happening to me. From here on out, I am going to happen to things."
I love them. I love them both. I think this is the quietest of Milan's books that I've read, and I am so fond of it because of that. Because it, it's characters, and it's author resisted being flashy, opting for still, deep waters instead. I said her novellas are surprisingly satisfying, but that doesn't mean I couldn't have read about Serena and Hugo for many more pages. Because I could have. And would have. As always, I'm a bit sad the first full-length novel in the series won't be about them. But Ms. Milan's backlist has taught me she comes through. And so it is with the surest anticipation that I look forward to encountering the Brothers Sinister in the very near future.

Buy: Amazon | B&N

Linkage
The Bookpushers - "All in all, this was a damn good read with intelligent characters and writing that leaves you wanting more."
The Brazen Bookworm - "Courtney Milan creates a relationship and set of circumstances that provides for what promises to be a stunning set of books."
Dear Author - "I loved how smart both Serena and Hugo were."
Feminist Fairy Tale Reviews - "These two people admire and respect each other's intelligence and personality."
Medieval Bookworm - " . . . a fantastic way to spend an hour or two."
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books - "' Well written' does not begin to describe this story."
Smexy Books - "This was not a good story for a novella, it was a fantastic story - period."

28 comments:

  1. I love Courtney Milan too, but haven't read her blog. I'll have to check it out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you? That's good to know. :) Which of hers is your favorite?

      Yeah, I just enjoy her frank approach to writing and publishing.

      Delete
  2. You had me at Nook, novellas and satisfying.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've been not so secretly reading historical romances since high school, but I haven't read anything by Courtney Milan. Though based on your review of this novella, I think I need to get crackin' in that regard. If you like the historical romance genre well enough to read others, I recommend Julia Quinn--she's hands down my favorite romance author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No way! This is excellent news. I've been wondering where to go with Quinn. I think I read WHAT HAPPENS IN LONDON awhile back. Which is your favorite book and/or series?

      Definitely give Milan a shot. She rocks.

      Delete
    2. I like the Bridgerton series the best--I don't think she's written anything quite as good before or since. But all her books are amusing. My favorite by FAR is "Romancing Mr. Bridgerton" (I think it's the 4th in the series, but they don't need to be read in order). My other favorite of that series is "The Viscount Who Loved Me."

      Delete
    3. Noted. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton it is!

      Delete
  4. There are a whole group of fabulous historical romance authors coming through at the moment. Milan is one, Carrie Lofty, Tessa Dare would be examples of others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so interesting how that happens sometimes in certain genres! I'd heard of both Lofty and Dare but have no idea where to start. Suggestions?

      Delete
    2. I started with Portrait of Seduction - set in Austria, but another good place to start would be Flawless, about the daughter of a businessman who inherits a diamond mine in South Africa.

      As for Dare, start at the beginning of either of her trilogys. I started with Goddess of the Hunt.

      Delete
    3. Ooh, Flawless does sound good.

      Delete
  5. You know I won of copy of her book PROOF BY SEDUCTION ages ago and while I enjoyed it, never thought to pick up any of her other books. SOunds like I should track some down...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read that one, Michelle. But it's on my list after THE DUCHESS WAR comes out in a few days. I think you'd like this one a lot, fwiw. :)

      Delete
  6. I love Courtney's blog, so I finally broke down and read one of her novellas (Unlocked, I think). And, I have to say, while I really don't like historical romance, it was the best one I've read and I think I would read another book by her as well if I were in the mood for something like that. And, it was one of the best-structured novellas I've ever read--it felt like a complete story with character development and three acts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like we followed a similar path. I agree about her skill with structuring. I think it's what makes me return to her when I am in the mood, given I am fairly frequently disappointed in the end with many a historical romance (actually I haven't read that many, but it feels that way . . . lol).

      Delete
  7. Tiffany M.12:07 AM

    I love Courtney Milan. She is awesome, and one of my favorite/auto-buy authors. She is the reason I started buying digital books (though I now have a fare few). Two other authors I would recommend are Meredith Duran and Sherry Thomas. I love Julia Quinn, too, but my favorites are not the ones usually listed. Out of the Bridgerton series, I like book 2 (Anthony's) and book 6 (Francesca's) the best.

    I love your blog and the recommendations. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, she was up there in my first digital purchases as well! I haven't read any Duran, though I did read one Thomas not long ago and quite enjoyed it. The ending was a bit uneven. But wow up until then was great. Which Duran do you recommend starting with? And thanks for the Bridgerton recs.

      Thanks so much, Tiffany. :)

      Delete
    2. Tiffany M.10:54 PM

      I've actually fallen a bit behind on Duran (haven't read the last two). Duke of Shadows was heavy, like Gone With the Wind, full of emotion, war, and beautiful writing. The next two are lighter, Bound by Your Touch and Written on Your Skin are lighter affairs, but delicious. Wicked Becomes You I'm a bit more reserved about recommending whole-heartedly (Ana from The Book Smugglers has a similar opinion to mine on Duran, but I wasn't put off by the book, just not quite as enjoyable). Wicked Becomes You was my least favorite of the books, but by no means unenjoyable (imo), and still a favorite.

      So, I would suggest starting with Written on Your Skin for the lighter side. She's only written the one really heavy/dark one so far...Duke of Shadows (though apparently a companion novel is in the works...been waiting forever!!!).

      As for Sherry Thomas, I have definite favorites of hers. I like Tempting the Bride (favorite of the trilogy, which was the last). Not Quite a Husband gets me for the sheer emotions of it (same with Private Arrangements). Those would be my top three of the hers (I've only missed His At Night).

      Delete
    3. Whoa. Not sure I'm ready for Gone with the Wind heavy. But it sounds beautiful. Written On Your Skin sounds up my alley. On the list it goes!

      It was Not Quite a Husband that I read! LOVED it up until near the end when it felt like it got all floopy and lost that beautiful steam it had going. Hm. I think I'll try Private Arrangements and Tempting the Bride next. Thanks so much for the recs!

      Delete
  8. "Her prose is buttery soft" I like that! I'm also slowly, but surely becoming a fan, even though I think her novellas are better than her full-length novels. This one was wonderful for many reasons, but because she used regular people as characters. I think historical romance needs more stories like this one and less dukes and lords. Great review as usual ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So far I'm kind of with you on her novellas beating out the novels. So unusual, but I kind of love it. And I think I was so attached to Serena and Hugo because of their normality. The privileged can get a bit wearing over time.

      Delete
  9. You're reading historical romance?! It must be really good then! :P I've heard good things about Courtney Milan and bibliocrack reads are always a good thing. Must pick up her books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol. Dipping my toe in the waters of historical romance, yep. I read a couple that just did not work for me on any level, but didn't want to dismiss the genre. I really enjoyed Rose Lerner's A LILY AMONG THORNS and was talking to her, and she recommended Courtney Milan very highly. So when I saw one of Milan's novellas available very inexpensively for e-readers, I snatched it up and was delighted with the writing. And the characters. And generally everything. I have my favorites and this one is right up there.

      Delete
  10. I've never read Courtney Milan but I've picked up a few of her books for my Kindle in the past. I'm glad to see she delivers and oh, how I love books with 'still, deep waters' characterization.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She really does deliver. I always come back to the clean writing and characters who are so easy to love when I think about why I like her stuff so much. Nice that you have some on-hand if you get the itch!

      Delete
  11. I read this novella because of your review and I adore it!! Can't wait to read the next one (or should I say, the first one?)!! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you really? I'm so chuffed it worked so well for you, too! She's an incredibly consistent and lovely writer.

      Delete