Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review: The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister #1) by Courtney Milan

Miss 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's now hiding under an assumed name. 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.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. He knows there's more to Minnie than her spectacles and her shy speech, and he’s determined to lay her every secret bare. Every logical impulse tells her she should push him away. But the closer he gets, the more she wants to succumb...

Minnie Lane is a wallflower who never, ever wants to draw attention to herself. Dating back to a traumatic experience during her youth, she panics in crowds (she has a scar on her cheek from having a mob throw rocks at her, when she was twelve years old) and would rather go unnoticed then have all eyes on her. She’s living a simple life with her Aunts (one aunt by blood, another by friendship) and with their future on the line, Minnie knows she needs to marry to help ensure that her aunts are taken care of. Her only potential husband is a real winner. She overhears him talking about her, comparing her to a rodent. My heart went out to her right then and there. She certainly doesn’t want to marry this man, but her future, her Aunts future and a big secret Minnie’s hiding about her past which is connected to her fear of crowds, make her options limited. She’s determined to find another way and then her path crosses with a Duke, Robert Blaisdell.

Robert also had a difficult childhood and has never known love. He was made to be a pawn between his parents that resulted in his mother never acknowledging him no matter how hard he tried to get her attention and a tough father that never showed him love. His father had another son a few months younger than Robert with a woman he forced himself on. Oliver found Robert and they became fast friends and brothers. Robert envied Oliver’s life, one filled with love and family and no matter how hard Robert tried, or how much he dreamed about being accepted into Oliver’s family, it never happened. His hopes were crushed time and time again and he had to find jokes in his sad experiences because it was either laugh it off or cry as Minnie described it when she learned about Robert’s past.

The good for me in this book was getting to know these two lead characters, learning about their pasts and how those experiences molded them into the people they are today. Minnie is a shell of her former vibrant self and Robert is as un-Duke like as you can get. He has some radical ideas that would turn the peerage on its head and he’s also a force behind factory workers and righting some wrongs his father caused. Early on, I thought there’s no way Robert is acting like a Duke, especially when he looks twice at Minnie and actually sees her. She’s a quiet, shy woman and even though it’s mean to say, she wouldn’t be drawing the attention of a Duke. But, Robert is a man who’s trying to use his title for the good of all people. He’s trying to initiate change, as hard as it’s going to be, and fighting for the people who have no voice because they have no title.

My heart went out to both Minnie and Robert. Minnie had her own father turn on her after using her for his own gain. Robert never had a family member in his corner until he found his brother and then cousin, Sebastian. Minnie also had a bit of an unusual childhood that forced her to take a different name and remove herself as much as she could from society. But some of the most heartbreaking moments came from Robert and the retelling of his past. Whether it was him as a young boy trying so hard to get just a tiny bit of recognition from his mother and never succeeding, or his dream of becoming a part of Oliver’s family to have that hope dashed when Oliver’s mother took one look at Robert and had to leave the room because of his close resemblance to his father. So we have Minnie who believes she’ll never find a love strong enough to overcome her past and Robert who wants love desperately but won’t let himself even imagine it’s possible. These two people needed each other and they might have been an “odd couple” at first, but they find kindred spirits in each other and I really liked getting to know them together.

As Robert has refused to be anything like his father and sleeping with too many women, with their consent or not, Robert has gone in the opposite direction and both he and Minnie are virgins when they spend their first night together. Their first time was a combination of sweet, awkward and well, unsatisfying for Minnie. What I enjoyed most was Minnie is not truly the wallflower she’s been forced to pretend to be and with Robert she’s more open. Open enough to show him how to please her and he gets on board with that quickly. These two don’t have an easy time of it all the way around, but they’re the heart of this story for me and after really getting to know them and their history, I was happy that they found each other.

Where the book lacked was with the rallying of the factory workers. The start of the book dragged a bit for me. There was a lot of set up regarding the factory workers and who exactly was behind firing them up. There was just something about this storyline that I found hard to get into. It simply wasn’t that interesting to me, it felt like it took a long time to build up and by that point I was more interested in Robert and Minnie and their relationship and not the outside drama surrounding them.

The other members of the Brothers Sinister are introduced, Robert’s half-brother Oliver and cousin, Sebastian. I liked what I read for both of them, but there’s something about Sebastian that snagged me. He’s sarcastic, he likes to stir the pot with society and he’ll be a fun one to get to know better.

This was an interesting book for me. There were parts that I really enjoyed, getting to know Robert and Minnie and learning about all they’ve overcome and the love they find with each other kept me in the story. The suspense that’s brought on by the factory workers storyline - I had a hard time getting into that and it’s the main reason the beginning of the book felt slow to me. My final rating is a C; it’s a good read, but with a few issues. I would still recommend this story so people can get to know Robert and Minnie and I think their love story is enjoyable.

Rating: C

Release Date: December 7, 2012
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*eARC provided by author for review* 



  1. I thought this book was boring. So I totes agree with all you said.


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