Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan

Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan

Nobody knows who Miss Rose Sweetly is, and she prefers it that way. She’s a shy, mathematically-minded shopkeeper’s daughter who dreams of the stars. Women like her only ever come to attention through scandal. She’ll take obscurity, thank you very much.

All of England knows who Stephen Shaughnessy is. He’s an infamous advice columnist and a known rake. When he moves into the house next door to Rose, she discovers that he’s also wickedly funny, devilishly flirtatious, and heart-stoppingly handsome. But when he takes an interest in her mathematical work, she realizes that Mr. Shaughnessy isn’t just a scandal waiting to happen. He’s waiting to happen to her…and if she’s not careful, she’ll give in to certain ruination.

Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan writes “issues” books. Set in what is possibly my favourite time period, the Victorian era, her books are outspokenly feminist and concerned with multiple social issues at one time.

Talk Sweetly to Me is a novella that fits somewhere into the middle of a series, but I haven’t read all of the books and I had no trouble following the story or the characters. We have a heroine who is not white, who is a mathematician, and who tends to start talking in great detail about science and maths when she doesn’t mean to.

I have to admit something: my one real memory of my last day of high school is how overjoyed I was I would never, ever have to sit in a maths class again. I know feminists are ‘supposed’ to be all, “Yay – go maths and science!“ but nothing can change the fact it bores me to tears. So there were a few scenes in this story I skim-read because I was getting nasty flashbacks!

I like that the author pushes boundaries and tackles difficult subjects. She definitely shows the different struggles her characters face to be accepted in society. I do think it would have been even worse for our heroine in Victorian England than is shown; even decades after this book is set, Australian women (white, wholly of British origin) used to lie about their backgrounds to be accepted by the English. I can’t imagine our heroine would have had it any easier!

One little thing: it may be called jelly in America, but to the rest of us, it’s jam!

I’m probably preaching to the converted with any positive comments about this book. Milan has a strong fanbase, and if you like her writing, you’ll like this one, too. Especially if you’re a fan of maths!


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 6th – 12th January

Canberra Australia Sunset 9th January 2014 Sonya Heaney Oksna Heaney

Canberra’s gorgeous sunset on Friday night.

This week was all about Christmas – again! It was Ukrainian Christmas; we celebrate on the 6th, but the actual day is the 7th.

Ukrainian Christmas Canberra Australia 5th January 2014 Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney

What I want out of 2014 – Historical Romance

Historical Romance Duke Book Covers

My review of Montana Bride by Joan Johnston

Montana Bride (A Bitter Creek Novel) by Joan Johnston

My review of The Earl’s Christmas Colt by Rebecca Thomas

The Earl's Christmas Colt by Rebecca Thomas

My review of Everywhere She Goes by Janice Kay Johnson

Everywhere She Goes by Janice Kay Johnson

My review of The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

The Countess Conspiracy Book 3 in the Brothers Sinister Series by Courtney Milan

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan

The Countess Conspiracy Book 3 in the Brothers Sinister Series by Courtney Milan

Sebastian Malheur is the most dangerous sort of rake: an educated one. When he’s not scandalizing ladies in the bedchamber, he’s outraging proper society with his scientific theories. He’s desired, reviled, acclaimed, and despised—and he laughs through it all.

Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury, on the other hand, is entirely respectable, and she’d like to stay that way. But Violet has a secret that is beyond ruinous, one that ties her irrevocably to England’s most infamous scoundrel: Sebastian’s theories aren’t his. They’re hers.

So when Sebastian threatens to dissolve their years-long conspiracy, she’ll do anything to save their partnership…even if it means opening her vulnerable heart to the rake who could destroy it for good.

The Countess Conspiracy (Book 3 in the Brothers Sinister Series) by Courtney Milan

“For every woman whose name has disappeared without recognition.

This book is for you.”

I like Courtney Milan’s dedication at the beginning of the book!

I’ve said before that even though I’m most definitely a feminist, I cringe when I see twenty-first century feminism dominating historical fiction. However, The Countess Conspiracy raises a very, very good point. Even my own city was designed by a husband and wife team from America, and yet it’s only the man who anybody has heard of, who gets any of the credit.

Courtney Milan writes… hmm. I don’t know how to describe her writing. I think she creates a world for her characters to exist in that is constant. You’re not being pulled out of the ‘world’ and getting whiplash from the jumping back and forth from old to new, from historically accurate to twenty-first century behaviour.

Yet it seems to be a deliberate decision to make this ‘world’ slightly different from Victorian Britain. The characters are well and truly on the progressive side of things, and the language is a little modern, a little American (’conniptions’, for example, and ‘exact same’), yet that, too seems constant.

There’s a debate in historical romance how faithful authors should be to the time period, and those that don’t bother with accuracy at all are called ‘wallpaper’ books. Milan certainly doesn’t write ‘wallpaper’ books. She digs deeply into specific areas of the nineteenth century. I’ve not read any others in this series, but the other books I have read by her are all distinct from each other, all with a strong plot and a romance that develops at a believable pace.

I’ve seen some reviews that suggest this book is more historical fiction than historical romance. I can definitely see why that is being said, but on the other hand I appreciated a book that was more like historical romances of old, where plot was just as important as the – ahem – other activities characters might engage in.

One thing readers should be aware of is that there’re… hmm… There’re fertility issues raised, and if you’re at all sensitive to topics surrounding that, you might not enjoy that aspect of the storyline. Not one bit.

I like books with impossibly gorgeous characters (and, on the man’s part, a strapping superhero rather than the aristocratic dandies of the day), yet I also enjoy books like this. The characters are real in their quirks. They look real and have all kinds of faults to go with their attributes. I think that’s another aspect of the story that makes readers think more of historical fiction than historical romance. They don’t quite look or act the parts of romance characters, and they have so many issues going on in their lives they don’t have time to grace ballrooms every single evening.

For whatever strange reason, I’ve not ever read a Courtney Milan series in order. However, I’ve also never had a problem with that. I appreciate authors who can make all their books standalone reads.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Free books for the weekend

These are all currently free. I am a big fan of both Courtney Milan and Kay Stockham.

I haven’t read a book by Dorien Kelly – yet!

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan


The start of a new series from New York Times bestselling author Courtney Milan…

She will not give up.

Three months ago, governess Serena Barton was let go from her position. Unable to find new work, she’s demanding compensation from the man who got her sacked: a petty, selfish, swinish duke. But it’s not the duke she fears. It’s his merciless man of business–the man known as the Wolf of Clermont. The formidable former pugilist has a black reputation for handling all the duke’s dirty business, and when the duke turns her case over to him, she doesn’t stand a chance. But she can’t stop trying–not with her entire future at stake.

He cannot give in.

Hugo Marshall is a man of ruthless ambition–a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner’s son to the right hand man of a duke. When his employer orders him to get rid of the pestering governess by fair means or foul, it’s just another day at the office. Unfortunately, fair means don’t work on Serena, and as he comes to know her, he discovers that he can’t bear to use foul ones. But everything he has worked for depends upon seeing her gone. He’ll have to choose between the life that he needs, and the woman he is coming to love…

The Governess Affair is a prequel novella (about 33,000 words) to the Brothers Sinister series. It is followed by The Duchess War, which is now available.


Secrets of a Summer Night by Kay Stockham

Secrets of a Summer Night by Kay Stockham

Apparently this one is also free on Kindle, but when I look it up on Amazon it is showing as 99 cents (which isn’t exactly expensive!).

 Older man. Younger woman. The story is as old as time. And if the man is your father’s best friend…

With everything working against them, can it really be love?

Award-winning author Kay Stockham kicks off a brand new contemporary series with SECRETS OF A SUMMER NIGHT, a free e-read, soon to be followed by BLIND MAN’S BLUFF, the first full-length novel in her Stone Gap Mountain series.

The Last Bride in Ballymuir by Dorien Kelly

The Last Bride in Ballymuir by Dorien Kelly

A RITA Award finalist!

When Michael  Kilbride, a handsome man with a dark past, arrives in the Irish village of Ballymuir, rumours begin to fly. While many turn against him, one woman steps forward–the village’s beloved schoolteacher, Kylie O’Shea. Kylie’s friends have long believed that proper Kylie is bound to fulfill the local legend of being the last bride in Ballymuir. But sparks soon ignite between Michael and Kylie. Will Kylie, who also hides secrets, find the courage to confront her past and claim passion as her own?

Unlocked by Courtney Milan Free for Kindle

This is usually up for the hefty price of 99 cents(!), but if you really need that extra dollar in your life, go and pick this up now while it’ll cost you nothing!

Courtney Milan is an excellent writer – really excellent.

I haven’t read this one yet (though I did fork out that huge price for it before it was free!), but I’ve only heard good things about it.


From New York Times bestselling author Courtney Milan…


A perpetual wallflower destined for spinsterhood, Lady Elaine Warren is resigned to her position in society. So when Evan Carlton, the powerful, popular Earl of Westfeld, singles her out upon his return to England, she knows what it means. Her former tormenter is up to his old tricks, and she’s his intended victim. This time, though, the earl is going to discover that wallflowers can fight back.


Evan has come to regret his cruel, callow past. At first, he only wants to make up for past wrongs. But when Elaine throws his initial apology in his face, he finds himself wanting more. And this time, what torments him might be love…