Talk Sweetly to Me (Courtney Milan)

Talk Sweetly is the final installment (in the form of an additional novella) in the Brothers Sinister Series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 16.3.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Content Note: (critical treamtent of) racism/misogynoir

Plot:
Rose Sweetly works as a computer at the astronomy department. She is happy when she gets to do math, especially in the field of astronomy, though very few people around her understand that passion. Stephen Shaughnessy is a satirical columnist for a feminist newspaper where he dispenses the wisdom only an Actual Man can share. He also lives next door to Rose and is utterly enchanted by her and her science rants. So much so that he hires her to tutor him in math. And if something more should develop, even better.

Talk Sweetly to Me was a really nice addition to the series, one that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. It combines political issues with a very nice romance in a very balanced way that I very much enjoyed.

The book cover showing a Black woman in a pink dress smiling softly.
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The Suffragette Scandal (Courtney Milan)

The Suffragette Scandal is the fourth novel in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 12.2.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Content Note: torture

Plot:
Edward Clark had meant to stay away from England, but when he hears that one of his oldest friends, Stephen, is in trouble and it’s the fault of Edward’s own brother James, he comes to help. Stephen works at the Women’s Free Press, a paper run by Frederica – Free – Marshall who is also in James’ crosshairs. Edward offers Free his support, but warns her that he is a scoundrel himself and she should not trust him. Running a paper devoted to women’s liberation, Free is no stranger to untrustworthy men and knows how to deal with them. But it appears that with their partnership, they both got more than they thought and maybe more than they can handle.

The Suffragette Scandal is the final novel in the Brothers Sinister series (there is still a novella left, though) and a really wonderful finish. Not all of the novels in the series worked equally for me, but The Suffragette Scandal is one of my favorites of the series.

The book cover showing a red-headed woman wearing a blue ballgown, looking over her shoulder.
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The Countess Conspiracy (Courtney Milan)

The Countess Conspiracy is the third novel in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 4.1.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Content Note: abuse, domestic violence, miscarriages

Plot:
Sebastian Malheur has quite a reputation, and the least of it is that he is a rake. No, he is known for his scientific endeavors about the inheritance of traits, a topic bound to rile people up. Only what people don’t know is that Sebastian is merely the public face of these theories. They are actually the work of his best friend, Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury. Violet would like to remain respectable and pursue her work in peace. But Sebastian needs for things to change. This causes the two of them to re-evaluate their relationship and come clean about more than just their science.

I enjoyed The Countess Conspiracy, though maybe not quite as much as I hoped I would. I just didn’t fall in love with Violet and Sebastian as a couple.

The book cover showing a white woman in a purple ball gown and white gloves.
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The Heiress Effect (Courtney Milan)

The Heiress Effect is the second novel in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 21.10.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, ableism

Plot:
Jane Fairfield has one mission in her life and that is to remain unmarried for about another 500 days, for the sake of her sister. Since her considerable inheritance may entice men to propose to her though, Jane has to make herself as unattractive as she possibly can. And she is damn good at it, wearing the most outrageous dresses, saying the wrong thing always and generally making a nuisance of herself. Oliver Marshall, on the other hand, has spent his entire life making himself fit in with the rich and powerful, despite being the bastard son of a duke, hoping for a career in politics himself. When his paths cross with Jane, he may have to choose between his ambition, and both of their honor. And Jane really doesn’t make the decision easy for him.

I loved The Heiress Effect in general, and Jane and Oliver in particular. It’s a glorious book the biggest fault of which is its cover that hides the fact that Jane is fat.

The book cover showing a woman, her back towards the viewer, in a long, shiny green dress.
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The History of Bees (Maja Lunde)

The History of Bees is the first novel in the Climate Quartett by Maja Lunde. I read the German translation (Die Geschichte der Bienen) by Ursel Allenstein.
Finished on: 9.8.2021

Content Note: misogyny

Plot:
1852, England. William is a biologist who dreams of studying bees. But after a professional setback, he hasn’t managed to get out of bed for months now. Maybe he’ll find new energy, though.
2007, Ohio, USA. George is a bee farmer, hoping that his son Tom will follow in his footsteps. Tom has other plans, though.
2098, China. Tao is one of many human pollinators, doing her best to fill in for the bees who disappeared and left agriculture and with it humanity in a life-threatening situation. But the work is hard and pay is meager.

The History of Bees is an okay read, at least once you get through the first half. While I found the topic interesting, the execution was difficult for me to enjoy.

The book cover showing a bee lying on its side as if dead.
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A Kiss for Midwinter (Courtney Milan)

A Kiss for Midwinter is a novella in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan (set between the first and second novel).
Finished on: 15.7.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other Brothers Sinister books.]

Plot:
Lydia Charingford has left her past far behind her with the help of her family and her best friend Minnie. The only person who still reminds her of that most difficult time and who still could ruin her, is Doctor Jonas Grantham. Despite knowing about her past, Jonas has no such inclination, though – he would much rather win Lydia over for himself. If only she’d give him half a chance to do so. When he sees an opening to spend more time with her, he proposes a wager – and Lydia accepts.

A Kiss for Midwinter is a sweet read that explores its characters’ vulnerabilities in a really wonderful way, but the romance didn’t quite get off the ground for me in this one. I still enjoyed it, but it didn’t make me squee as it should have.

The book cover showing a dark-haired woman in a white 19th century dress with mistletoe in her hair.
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This Brutal House (Niven Govinden)

This Brutal House is a novel by Niven Govinden.
Finished on: 21.6.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, transmisia, queermisia

Plot:
Teddy grew up with the Mothers, gay leaders of a voguing group who also took in the kids that came to walk with them and, more often than not, did not have a (safe) home – like Teddy. By now, Teddy is grown up and works for the city. That’s why he becomes the point person when the Mothers start a silent protest in front of city hall, camping there, holding a vigil, not saying a word – because their children have been going missing and nobody seems to care. Teddy has to navigate his conflicted loyalties, his own past and his childhood love for Sherry, one of the missing.

I will come right out and say it: I struggled with This Brutal House. It has beautiful prose, but I could not get into the style or the story.

The book cover showing a black and white photo of a group of people lying on the pavement in (a) protest.
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The Duchess War (Courtney Milan)

The Duchess War is the first novel in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 23.5.2021
[Here’s my review of the prequel novella.]

Plot:
Minnie has perfected the art of going unnoticed. After a scandal forced her to change her name, she had no other choice. Now all she needs is a husband to find some security in her life. Impoverished and with her secret, she doesn’t have much choice. That is why she really can’t have it that none other than the Duke of Clermont, Robert Blaisdell, seems to actually notice her. His curiosity about her is a threat, and Minnie is determined to uncover his secrets first to protect herself. This decision leads both of them down unexpected paths.

The Duchess War is a really sweet book with wonderful protagonists and a good plot that makes good use of the period it is set in. More importantly, it’s easy to root for Millie and Robert and to enjoy their falling in love.

The book cover showing a woman from behind, in a red dress with a huge skirt. She has flowers in her hair.
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The Story of a New Name (Elena Ferrante)

The Story of a New Name is the second of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I read the German translation (Die Geschichte eines neuen Namens) by Karin Krieger.
Finished on: 4.4.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Content Note: rape, domestic violence, abuse

Plot:
With Lila’s marriage, she and Elena develop away from each other even more. But at the same time, they cannot let go of each other. Elena watches from a distance as Lila’s abusive marriage to Stefano turns ever more complicated by her husband’s business relations. Meanwhile Elena is dating Antonio more out of a sense of obligation, while still yearning for Nino who seems to be everything she aspires to. After Lila has a miscarriage, she asks Elena to accompany on a holiday to get her strength back. During that holiday, their paths cross with Nino and everything changes.

After reading My Brilliant Friend, I was reluctant but curious to continue, not quite sure what apparently millions of other people saw in the novel. The same thing is still true for The Story of a New Name. I read it, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either and I am still scratching my head as to why this series has gotten quite this big.

The book cover showing an illustration of a woman in a bridal gown standing on a balcony over the sea, her veil blowing in the wind together with petals from her bouquet.
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The Governess Affair (Courtney Milan)

The Governess Affair is a prequel novella of the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 28.3.2021

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Three months ago, Serena Barton was kicked out from her position as a governess in the Duke of Clermont’s household. But she is unwilling to let that dismissal stand. She seeks reparations from the Duke. The Duke asked is right-hand man Hugo Marshall, nicknamed the Wolf of Clermont for his bargaining techniques, to make sure that Serena goes away without a fuss. But Hugo finds that Serena is a tougher opponent than he suspected at first.

The Governess Affair is a sweet story that had me smiling, and also fanning myself. I really enjoyed it and would have liked it to be longer.

The book cover showing a woman in a yellow ball gown.
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