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4.5 out of 5 stars28
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on 23 December 2013
The relationship at the centre of this story is heart-rending and incredibly complex. These are two people who know each other as nobody else does, although there are still secrets between them that threaten to destroy their relationship. They're best friends who care deeply for each other - but even Sebastian doesn't know the true extent of Violet's fears. He knows that her marriage had not been a happy one - especially towards the end of it - but doesn't know how badly Violet has been affected by the emotional cruelty of her late husband. All he knows is that the Violet of today is a different woman to the young woman he grew up and fell in love with; fragile, brittle and sharp-tongued, she shrinks from the slightest physical contact and never wants to talk about herself. So he keeps his distance, never letting on how he really feels until a nasty argument causes things to change between them.

My heart broke for both of them. Violet is so tightly wound and has suffered so much that she feels worthless and regards herself as cold and empty with nothing to offer anyone. She doesn't want to feel emotion because it terrifies her to think of losing herself to feeling, so she focuses on her work, believing that to be the only thing of value about her.

And Sebastian. Oh, what a wonderful character Sebastian Malheur is. Thinking rationally, I know he's far, far too good to be true, even on the scale of romantic heroes, who are, by their very nature, all too good to be true! But his sensitivity to Violet and protectiveness towards her; the way he takes care of her in so many ways that she doesn't even realise, was really quite beautiful to see and won me over completely.

I am, once again, in absolute and total awe of Ms Milan's storytelling abilities, her amazing characterisations and her emotive and powerful writing. Sebastian and Violet are incredibly well-drawn characters who absolutely and completely belong together, and the level of sexual tension between them is off the charts. I was fascinated by the detail the author included about Violet's and Sebastian's work, and about the discoveries made by one of the secondary characters with whom Violet collaborates towards the end of the story.

"The Countess Conspiracy" had me riveted from start to finish. It's so beautifully written that the emotions just leap off the page, and there was more than one time while reading I found myself with a tear in my eye or a lump in my throat. It might not be the book for you if you don't like a large amount of angst in your romance, but I'm never one to shy away from a high angst content provided I know all will be well in the end and I loved it.

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4.5/5 stars

I've been waiting for Violet and Sebastian's story for a long time, and at last Miss Milan delivered! I can honestly say that the dynamics in this book's relationship surprised me.

Usually the man is the aggressor, the pusher, the one who is more detached. In this case it's Violet who is an impregnable fortress and it's Sebastian, who is under his veneer of a scandalous scientist, still a gentle, kind and loving boy who fell in love with Violet at sixteen.

Sebastian is heartbreaking. He is such a wonderful character, - amiable, charming, the person who will make you laugh to put you at ease.

What Violet asks him to do slowly destroys him from the inside because he can't stand when people hate him. The last straw is when his older dying brother refuses to make him a guardian for his son thinking him frivolous and irresponsible. Sebastian decides to change and the biggest thing he can do is to admit that Violet is a genius behind his shocking discoveries on genetics.

This whole book is dedicated to women in science who often hid behind their husbands to force the scientific world accept their work in the past few centuries.

Violet has a brilliant mind, a multifaceted personality and many secrets. She has a formidable mother and selfish sister, so in many ways the only person who understands and supports her is Sebastian. So when he refuses to keep the charade any longer and starts trying to woe her heart, Violet is at loss. She is socially dysfunctional and mentally unprepared to accept that Sebastian's love for her is real even if she secretly desires him.

Oh, this review is such a mess because my feelings towards this book are a mess too! Courtney Milan doesn't write simple historical romances. Ever. There are always so many layers and impossible decisions to make that they leave your brain muddled, but at the same time she is so emotionally rewarding that I recommend her wholeheartedly. Please, read this book, peeps! It's marvelous.
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on 18 December 2013
I really enjoyed the first two books in the Brothers Sinister series - but this one absolutely blew me away. It's genuinely one of the best romances I've ever read, and I loved every minute of it, even when it made me cry (at two different parts). It would stand alone just fine - you don't need to have read the earlier books to enjoy it - but if you have read the earlier books, it's fun to see the reactions of recurring characters as all of Violet's and Sebastian's secrets finally come out.

Mostly, I just love, love, love both prickly, wounded, wonderful Violet, and sweet, much-smarter-than-he-realizes Sebastian - and their romance together is just beautiful to watch.
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on 3 January 2014
Such a wonderful book! This is the best of The Brothers Sinister Series and that is saying something as they have all been excellent so far. Courtney Milan has very quickly become an auto buy author for me.

Violet is a woman of immense intellect who must hide it because in this era it is unseemly. Sebastian has been helping by presenting her work as his own, but he can do it no longer.

Violet sees herself as unlovable and cold with "sharp edges" as she puts it, but Sebastian sees the passionate and caring woman she keeps from the world and even herself. He wants her to see herself as he does and for the world to recognise her brilliance.

I really fell in love with Sebastian, he has his own issues, but he has found the woman that he loves and even if she will never be with him, he wants her to be happy above all things and to see how extraordinary she is to him.

Really looking forward to the next book in the series!
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on 21 January 2014
This book is better then the previous one's in series, but still doesn't fulfil the expectations. All books are thought provoking but could do with main character's having more action or dialogue rather the pages full of their thoughts.
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This book, oh my goodness, this book. It perfectly encapsulated everything I wanted to read, without me ever knowing I needed it. On the surface it 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.
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on 11 May 2014
Well, hasn’t Milan just saved the best for last in the Brothers Sinister series? I adored the prequel novella and really enjoyed the first and second entries, but this… This was something else altogether.
I should say that right from the moment he was introduced in The Duchess War, I adored Sebastian Malheur. Presented as an educated rake who gives lectures on genetic theory, he is one of the most reviled men in the country. Bear in mind that this takes place in a time when Darwin was still alive, so public lectures which include the topic of reproduction are scandalous beyond measure.
Then in this book we find out that things are even worse, because the theories Sebastian defends with such fervour aren’t his at all – they’re all the work of Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury who has also been Sebastian’s closest friend for most of his life. As a woman she would never be taken seriously (even though she tried), so Sebastian has been presenting her work as his, and got famous for it. That he has also been in love with her for most of his life is by the by, especially since Violet is prickly and, by her own admission, difficult and eminently unlovable.
The biggest strength of this book is the depth of Sebastian and Violet’s relationship, which right from the start is shown as going beyond what most friends do for each other. They have their own secret code, they know exactly what the other does or thinks or needs, but for the longest time they never knew or understood that what they needed most was each other. Sebastian never pushed Violet because he knows that her marriage had secrets that she’s never shared with anyone, and they have left their marks on her. When you finally find out what happened it’s profoundly disturbing, and no, it’s not what you might think it is.
As always, Milan has come up with a hero and heroine who defy convention, who are anything but your run-of-the-mill romance couple, and Sebastian especially often surprises with his insight and unexpected reaction. As a man who thrives on making people laugh, it’s heartbreaking to see that no one takes him seriously because of that, even when it should be clear that there is so much more to him than his jokes.
Milan never disappoints, but this book was an absolute beauty and I loved it from start to finish.
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Violet is a countess and she loves spending time in her greenhouse studying the transmission of inherited characteristics. She's widowed and can do as she likes. However society of the 1870s would disapprove of a woman researcher let alone one discussing mating and inherited traits. So she gets her friend Sebastian to present her lectures and papers as his.

This state of affairs can't continue as Sebastian needs to make his own living and has an unrequited crush on Violet. She has no wish to remarry or have affairs. They discover that more than a few learned gentlemen are greatly aided by their wives in their research. As a couple may be considered one person, the men confidently pass off all the work as their own.

Aniline dyes are new for fashions but Violet also figures out how to use them to stain slides and show up chromosomes. The Age of Enlightenment is here, but not everyone is happy to see it. With a wide variety of characters from an autocratic mother to an excited young girl in her first Season, and interesting locations, this is an easy read for anyone who wants a more unusual period romance. I highly recommend this story of an intelligent woman at a time when such women were stifled.
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on 10 October 2014
this is my favourite book of the series it was an engrossing gripping read with the reader never knowing or being able to second guess the plot which made it a captivating read i strongly reccomend this book
the storyline itself is a five star read i would actually rate the book four and a half stars (but there isnt that choice) the reason i took half a star away was for the american words
that are not in the english language
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on 6 August 2014
I have to confess I don't write reviews nearly as much as I should do, but this book has simply compelled me. Courtney Milan has styled a book that encompasses a beautiful romance as well as a moving tribute to women. A strong female lead with a brilliant mind captures the reader's heart as we root for her - not only with her romance but in her life and her discoveries in the scientific world. A well rounded book that perfectly entwines love and logic with a good strong dose of humour. This romance novel succeeds in being interesting even without the romance with a good plot and character development. The author has accomplished that most brilliant thing; making the reader actively feel emotions throughout, wringing almost tears from me at points (and I'm really not one to sob easily).
In her Author's Note Milan takes time to acknowledge the female minds that have been unfairly unrecognised throughout history, and dedicates it to "every woman whose name has disappeared without recognition"; women for whom I think this book does proud. I'd like to thank Ms Milan for this splendid read, and thoroughly recommend it to everyone.
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