Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

Skeptic Scale: ♥♥♥♥♥

This red dress on the cover - do you know if I can get it on Amazon? I have a coupon for free shipping and I think it would just be sublime for my annual Here Comes Summer barbecue.   

First of all let me ask a question about language. Is it possible to get turned on by language? I don't mean talking dirty to your long distance boyfriend who's studying abroad in Australia for Fall semester. And I don't even mean, the libidinous musings of Lord Byron or the breathless sonnets of Willy Shakespeare. I mean, can you literally get squirmy reading sentences like this one:

"Of course you're charming... I'm charmed to my teeth." There was a note in her voice that sounded so bitter it almost tasted sweet. 

"You're a force of nature, Your Grace," she said. "But so am I. So am I."

Oh God. It's happening again.

Talk about getting totally swept away by a romance novel. We discuss everything here - the rights of women, the impact of industrialization on English society, the changing views towards the peerage and its archaic inheritance laws - even the excitement of Darwin's theories of natural selection. And in the middle of it all, our hero and heroine, not just perfectly drawn character studies, but agents for change. You get the sense that their love really matters, in an epic kind of way, for the future of British society.

He: Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, it not your typical peer of the realm. He is a radical and a passionate "righter of wrongs". His life's mission is to do the right thing and he does it - even when it means he might lose the people who he loves most. He's kind and heroic in a wonderful, quiet way.

She: Miss Minerva Lane, strategist and logician, the woman vibrates with an energy that practically buzzes through the page and through your fingers. She quiet, intense and not particularly beautiful - not the ideal resume for a would-be wife of a typical young gentleman in good society. But she doesn't need a typical gentleman - she needs a radical and a revolutionary and that's exactly what she gets.  

Conflict: So many! The obvious one of course, is that he is a duke and she's a commoner. And not just any commoner, but one with a scandalous past. And not the same old scandal of getting her virtue ruined by a rakish lord in her previous life. But a real, proper scandal that's both depressing and incredibly exhilarating  

The next layer of conflict is the damage done to both of them by their families, leaving each with emotional scars that makes them fear even the hope of a Happily Ever After.

What I absolutely LOVED:
1) Both H & h, so finely drawn I thought I knew them, stay true to character throughout the story. He is passionate about justice, and stays true to that goal even when it means he must sacrifice love and his own happiness. She is a master tactician and stays that way even in the throes of uncertainty and unhappiness. 

Often authors will show characters acting outside their true nature because the author wants a shorthand way to up the stakes. In this story the stakes are already as high as they could go and neither character ever deviates from their true selves - even for the other. It's a strange thing to show in a romance novel, but it was perfect.

2) Marvelously, the story is by turns witty, hot, depressing and inspiring. I went through an entire estrogen cycle in the space of the 6 hours it took to read this book. Thankfully, I was on a plane and no one I knew had to be subjected the emotion overflow that took place all over my kindle. The guy in 11F may have a few words to share with me, but he knew the risks of trying to get some shut eye on a flight and should have planned ahead with some earplugs and an eye mask. I won't be blamed for rookie mistakes.

What I didn't like as much:
Nothing. I got nothing. I loved everything. Even the cover. Which is a weird thing for me to say because I usually think covers detract from the general awesomeness of a book. But this cover kicked ass and I want a pretty red dress just like that. I can wear it and stride about in my bedchamber (dinky little bedroom) ordering the servants (dust motes) around.

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