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The Countess Conspiracy: Volume 3 Paperback – 16 Dec 2013
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About the Author
Courtney Milan’s debut novel was published in 2010. Since then, her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. She’s been a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller, a RITA® finalist and an RT Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance. Her second book was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010. Courtney lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, a marginally-trained dog, and an attack cat.
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The Countess Conspiracy follows the story of Sebastian Malheur and Violet Waterfield – the two remaining members (honorary included) of the Brother’s Sinister. In previous books Sebastian has become reviled by most people due to his “crazed” notions on reproduction of plants and comparing them to Darwinism and proving the theory correct.
He started off as a joker before becoming infinitely more serious as the books progressed and I missed the funny side to him. Unfortunately spends the better part of this book serious and seems to lose himself in his and Violets plot.
Now Violet is my main issue with this book. Throughout I wanted to pull the stick out of her behind and beat her over the head with it. She was stuck-up, prudish, overbearingly annoying, flat out rude and completely beyond any hope.
At about 50% I gave her the benefit of the doubt what with her history with her previous husband and the many many miscarriages but in the next chapter I wanted to beat her over the head to knock some sense into her again. She was awful and insufferable. In the latter pages of the book she redeemed herself most highly but by that time I’d already resigned myself to the fact that this book would get a 3 star review and not a 4.
I found that parts of the book were a little bit Americanised particularly towards the end and it felt a little too modernised at some stages which detracted from the regency part of the genre.
It wasn’t an overly bad instalment just one that I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as the previous ones. There were parts to the story that I didn’t like and the characters I had some issues with (Violet and her sister Lily) being the biggest ones but overall it was alright.
"The only thing worse than an unlovable woman was an unlovable woman who whined about not being loved."
The above is something to do with Violet and her mother’s rules, the only thing was though was that Violet whined – and she whined a lot.
“I know.” He didn’t look away from her. “Isn’t that what I said? Only one of us is in love, and it isn’t you.”
God that quote from Sebastian near broke my heart. I felt so sorry for him – the man’s been in love with her for 16 years and he’s had no chance in hell of getting her.
A final parting quote: "Knitting makes even the most conniving soul look innocent. Her mother had it right. For some reason, butlers rarely suspected that a woman who had started knitting would stop and sneak about a house. Idiocy on their part; they were knitting needles, not shackles."
That is the quote that made me smile. It’s such a misplaced quote for the story but it’s still really good.
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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