Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fiction Review: The Duchess War (SP Alert)

Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly--so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don't get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

The Duchess War

Milan, Courtney (2012). [Genre: Historical Romance]

Formats: Just about everything you can think of

How I found it: I've been seeing a bit about The Heiress Effect (the second in the series) around blogland lately and decided to jump into The Duchess War after reading the free series prelude The Governess Affair.

To be honest I didn't think my second Self-Published Alert would be coming so soon, but it turns out I read self-published even more often than I think. In contrast to debut author Rachael Lucas, Courtney Milan was already an established published author when she decided to self-publish her future works.

Historical romance is the ultimate fluff reading for me. To be honest, it's usually what I turn too when I'm juggling to many balls in real life to put energy into a book. I had one of those moods recently and The Duchess War was a great antidote. Minerva is a completely different heroine from what one usually sees in historical romance - she has a mind. Other romance heroines undoubtedly have a mind too, but they usually use it mostly for witty sparring with the hero (which I have absolutely nothing against), but Minerva has a mind that just about leaps off the page. She's a strategist, quick and extremely intelligent, but hides it all behind the guise of a wallflower. Easily the most complex female character I've seen in the genre of late. The hero, Robert, Duke of Clermont is a little more stereotypical. Although well-written, he definitely subscribes to the I-just-need-the-right-woman-to-love-me trope.

The setting is also not typical of historical romance and was a refreshing change. Perhaps the one really unique trait of the hero's is his extremely EXTREMELY liberal views, which combined with Minerva's impoverished status take the novel into new realms - the streets and battles of the Georgian middle class. At times such a setting didn't mesh with the genre completely, but it was certainly a nice change up from the normal gentile settings.

The story . . .  was ok. I didn't love it, but I certainly didn't hate it. I didn't think Minerva's backstory was 100% believable and though it was constantly dangled in front of the readers face, we didn't get the full account until almost the very end. It became almost a distraction to the story that was going on in the (fictional) present. About the last 20% of the story dragged a little - just when you thought everything was wrapped up nicely, a spanner gets thrown in the works. It wasn't a bad spanner and it certainly made a point, but it just didn't feel completely. . .necessary I guess.

Overall, 3/5 stars. It had some unique aspects, but just wasn't as fun as it could be.



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