Judith’s review of The Heiress Effect (The Brothers Sinister, #2) by Courtney Milan
Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing—and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision. And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.
Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances—and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.
Wow!! Courtney Milan really knows how to write a great story! From the first of her novels until this one, I have never been disappointed. This story embraces the study of two very different people in that both are living right on the fringe of aristocratic society. Both have been subjected to the quiet and often underhanded slurs regarding their baseborn origins; both have endured the derision of those who know not how to relate to anyone other than look down their noses at them. Each has set goals and each is pursuing them with diligence. The problem is that they are eventually attracted to one another with the clear knowledge that any future relationship between them is impossible and that they are absolute opposites. Oliver wants a spouse who is completely acceptable to society, one who will bolster his bid for political power with her connections and society position. Jane, on the other hand, simply wants to be who she is, never buckling to the society demand that she marry, shut her mouth, and make nice with people she can’t stand. In fact, she deliberately works to offend as many people as possible, especially single men who are after her considerable wealth. All she wants is to shield her sister from an ignorant willful guardian. After that, she just wants to live her own life.
This is a story that is, at it’s most basic core, a character study of two individuals who are going in opposite directions but who are drawn inexplicably toward one another; both are friendless in many ways; both lack the social polish to be wholly acceptable; both are determined to succeed at what they each deem to be absolutely necessary to their sense of self-accomplishment. And being together? Totally impossible! Ms Milan has crafted characters who are not at the top of the social heap. They are both social victims in many ways having been born “on the wrong side of the blanket” and yet accepted by their legitimate relatives. Jane was dowered generously by her biological father, a man she didn’t even know existed beforehand. Oliver was never acknowledged by his father but eventually by his half-brother, the Duke, and as such was barely accepted by the ton. Both long to be accepted for who they are. And yet, as the story unfolds, it is clear that the person to whom they are most acceptable–each other–will never fulfill the plan they each have for their lives.
This story is filled with the raw realities of 19th century aristocratic prejudice and the struggles for acceptance that so many seek who live and function on the fringe of the upper crust. There is joy and disappointment here, frustration at the mindless control over women that was often exercised by unthinking “guardians” who believed that they were necessary because women didn’t know what what good for them. There is betrayal and hurt at the hands of aristocrats who appear to be friends but who look for any opportunity to put the less fortunate “in their place.” And as always, there are the fortune hunters who will say anything to a woman’s face just as long as they have an expectation of getting their hands on one hundred thousand pounds. In the midst of all this is the sorrow they cause each other, knowing that they love each other, but also knowing that their love will not be strong enough to overcome Oliver’s prejudice against a plain-speaking woman.
I can’t say enough of how much I enjoyed this book and how entertained I was at the antics of Jane and the sense of appreciation she gained at having just two or three friends, all of whom managed to see beneath the show she was putting on to discourage suitors for the sake of protecting her sister. The repartee Jane and Oliver share throughout the book is brilliant and the insightful look at the lower eschelons of English society make this the kind of novel that makes it stand out as an exceptional read. I highly recommend it for all who love historical romance. I think you will love it as much as I did. I give this novel a rating of 4.5 out of 5.
The Series (+ 2 novella’s):
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.
This title is available from Courtney Milan. You can buy it here or here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.