Title: The Countess Conspiracy
Author: Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #3
Genre: Victorian Romance
Sebastian Malheur is the most dangerous sort of rake: an educated one. When he’s not scandalizing ladies in the bedchamber, he’s outraging proper society with his scientific theories. He’s desired, reviled, acclaimed, and despised—and he laughs through it all.
Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury, on the other hand, is entirely respectable, and she’d like to stay that way. But Violet has a secret that is beyond ruinous, one that ties her irrevocably to England’s most infamous scoundrel: Sebastian’s theories aren’t his. They’re hers.
So when Sebastian threatens to dissolve their years-long conspiracy, she’ll do anything to save their partnership…even if it means opening her vulnerable heart to the rake who could destroy it for good.
Source: Bought it
This book, oh my goodness, this book. It perfectly encapsulated everything I wanted to read, without me ever knowing I needed it. And I only picked it up because I couldn’t finish something else and this has been sitting on my Kindle for over two years since it first came out. Clearly I’m an idiot, because I loved this book, and I’ve wasted years not realising how much was here to be loved.
Okay, gush over. Time to review the book.
On the surface this seems to tap into a few familiar tropes – opposites attracting between the cheerful Sebastian and the cold Violet, a friends to lovers tale, a rake and a bluestocking – yet there is so much more to it than any of those. Mostly because both Sebastian and Violet are so much more complicated than what they first appear, and their friendship is layered and intricate and beautiful.
When things start Sebastian is on the verge of a breakdown. His brother is terminally ill and he’s sick of being feted for a genius that isn’t his. He doesn’t want to lie to everyone any more, which means he will no longer stand up and present Violet’s scientific findings about inherited traits as his own. A decision that threatens the foundation of their friendship, since the pair of them have been working in secret for five years, growing ever closer without anyone knowing.
Because Sebastian is in love with Violet. Everyone thinks he’s a careless rake, always making people smile, while also a surprising genius, but he’s a different man with Violet. He is clever, much cleverer than he gives himself credit for, but he’s also loving and understanding and has so much faith in Violet when she has none in herself.
As she does in him. For me the romance in this book isn’t about love. These two clearly love each other, even when Violet doesn’t allow herself to show emotion. But it’s their belief in each other that is truly special.
Violet isn’t the sort of heroine that everyone will be able to like. She seems cold and often compares herself to stone. Her marriage was difficult, her husband told her she was worthless, and because she is reserved and socially awkward, she believed him. Yet Sebastian offers her a different way of life. He loves her, but he’s patient. He waits and gives her the confidence to reach out. She finds it so easy to believe in him, and in doing so can’t deny when he believes in her in return. It isn’t the most earth-shattering and showy of romances, but it definitely stirred my heart.
And because this is a Courtney Milan book, and her characters are never run of the mill, there’s also a recognition of the countless hours of work done by female scientists that still, even now, often goes unrecognised. The idea that the work at all was a scandal, and that if a woman had written it, then it was nonsense. It explains so much about Violet, and Sebastian too.
If I had to be picky about anything, I might raise the underlying issue of Violet’s marriage and the way she and Sebastian never really discuss it with regards to their own future. Then again, the emotions involved would never have been easy for Violet to talk about, so I can understand it, and the subplot with his nephew already laid a few foundations for their future life together. But I don’t want to pick at this book, because the feelings it gave me overwhelmed everything else.
I’m a huge Courtney Milan fan and have been ever since her first novella came out, this book not only cemented what I already knew, it shot straight onto my keeper shelf. It’s not light, it’s not fluffy, there’s nothing ordinary or straightforward about it. Instead it’s beautiful and wonderful and the characters are emotionally complicated in ways I found fascinating. I loved it from start to finish, and have no doubt I’ll be reading it again and again.
The Countess Conspiracy is Out Now!
Visit Courtney Milan for more details.