Courtney Milan is one of those authors that continuously raises the bar, and I know I can always expect great things from her. Her characters are consistently favorites of mine, and she often leaves me scrambling for what to say that I haven't said before.
Once again it's the characters that draw me so deeply into this story. Jane Fairfield is a awesome person, strong and determined, and so very smart. She uses everything at her disposal to protect the one person that she loves above all others - her sister - including making herself an absolutely laughing-stock of society. The way she completely dedicates herself to the role, going all-in, not letting a single cutting remark be seen to affect her is breath-taking for me; her inner strength is awe-inspiring. I admired the way she put herself out there, willing to be hurt, willing to be disappointed, because she couldn't stand giving anything less than all when she put her mind to something.
If you've read The Duchess War you know we've already met Oliver Marshall - the Duke of Clermont's illegitimate brother who has spent many years making himself, treading a path that he laid before himself many years ago. He's got determination in spades, but constantly at odds with that need to get where he's decided to go are his core, intrinsic values - the ones that are behind his need for fair-play and a need for equality that is just beginning to be fought for. When he meets Jane, who is nothing like what he thinks he needs, he can't help but be drawn to her fire and strength. He finds that she's everything he's never known he needed. I loved his utter honesty. Where there were plenty of opportunities for deception and misunderstandings, Courtney Milan instead gave us a twist. The characters talked and had new issues to deal with, but they dealt with them together. Being honest and open didn't solve everything, but it sure made the journey all the sweeter.
The fight for the equality of all men to vote, Jane's need to protect her sister for another year, Oliver's struggle with his own ambition and desires - all of these things flawlessly pushed the characters to their limits. What were they willing to do for the outcome they desired. How far would it push them, and what unexpected surprises awaited them along the way. I was totally invested in each of these journeys, in each of these battles - large and small. I loved how Ms. Milan tackled hard issues like racism and labor rights, the right to vote, the voice of the common people. Again, her history is inspiring and fantastic to read. Accurate and beautifully uplifting. I can't say enough good things here.
I can't wait for the next book in this series. Sebastian intrigued me from the beginning, but after reading this I'm nearly pacing the streets waiting for The Countess Conspiracy, due out December 2013. Ms. Milan always delivers a fascinating story, with these characters that are so intricately created that I can't help but love them - strengths, flaws and all.