Title: The Duchess War (The Brothers Sinister)
Author: Courtney Milan
Publisher: Courtney Milan, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 12, 2012)
This is a wonderful historical romance with flawed characters that grow throughout the story. I love Ms Milan’s writing as she weaves stories with amazing characters.
Robert Blaisdell, the Ninth Duke of Clermont is a puzzling man who is trying to make amends for his father’s wrongs. His father was not in the habit of treating people well, including his wife and son. Robert has a secret that he does not want anyone to know about, yet it helps him deal with who he is.
Robert meets Wilhelmina Pursling while she was being accused by George Stevens, Captain of the town's Militia of writing handbills that may cause worker upheaval and problems for factory owners, and although not a true beauty, he sees something in her that attracts him.
Minnie leads a quiet life living with her Great-aunts and has no wish to be the center of attention, as a matter of fact when she is in a crowd, many times she faints as she has a memory of a swarm of people surrounding her, calling out her name as they spit and throw rocks. She was twelve at the time and her world had just been destroyed. When Minnie was a child, her father passed her off as a boy for the first twelve years of her life. Her father loved and adored her and wanted to take her when he traveled, so he dresses her up as a boy and called her Maximilian Lane. She was a brilliant chess player and they both played all over while traveling, until her world crumbled around her and she was betrayed.
Minnie figures out Robert’s secret and although silently applauds his ingenuity, she does not want anything to do with it, as she does not want her past discovered.
As we learn about Robert’s past we see how his early years shaped who he is now and notice that he is an emotional wreak as he had no love while growing up until he was accepted unconditionally by a half brother he never knew about. Oliver was raised by loving parents however Robert’s father was cruel to both his mother and to Oliver, never accepting him. Robert would do anything for Oliver including telling secrets.
As Minnie tries to prove her innocence Robert is amazed by her and asks her to marry him. Because of her past and his, she doesn't want to; feeling someone of her status should not marry a duke. She is also worried about what people will think if and when they find out who she really is.
What an emotional story, Ms Milan writes such compelling characters in all her books, they usually are surprisingly wonderful people with interesting histories. I loved how Minnie and Robert are not necessarily attracted to each other in the beginning and when they marry, they may not even feel love. However we see the feelings grow as they spend time together and when they have to deal with a crisis we see the emotional tug of war that goes on between the two and how heartrending to see how it is resolved. I really enjoyed the secondary characters which include Oliver, Sebastian and Violet and look forward to their stories.