This got long, but the short version:
These are really terrific books. Courtney Milan is now at the top of my favorite authors list and I will be recommending The Governess War and The Heiress Effect to everyone who will listen. If you are at all a romance reader, I highly recommend that you pick these up. The Duchess War stands a good chance of being my favorite book this year, and in my Top Ten ever.
Recently, a romance reading friend recommended both Courtney Milan and Tessa Dare to me. In a move quite unlike myself, I bought a "stack" of e-books to try them out almost immediately, and then I read them all back to back to back, I think 9 books between them. I never BUY books, and I never read the same author twice in a row. It was unheard of, but I loved every one of them.
I read the Tessa Dare books first, but I loved the Milans more, so I'm starting there. As with any good author, you don't have to read these in order but I would recommend that you do so. The series is called The Brothers Sinister and they should be read in this order:
The Governess Affair (prequel novella)
The Duchess War
A Kiss for Midwinter (Not about one of the brothers at all, but rather a friend. A novella)
The Heiress Effect
The Governess Affair and A Kiss for Midwinter are both novellas, but still both very good. The Governess Affair really sets you up for The Duchess War, so I'd get them all. If you have an e-reader you can get all four books for under $10. I linked to Amazon above, but the same is true if you have a Nook.
SO, the books themselves! I'm not going to try and break down each title in detail. I've been planning on that and haven't written a single word, so instead you get a gushing post about the series as a whole. (Or as whole as it can be with the last books not yet published.) I'm really not sure why they are called The Brothers Sinister. There is absolutely nothing sinister about the three men. They aren't rakes, they aren't snotty peers, they don't have scandalous pasts. (Well, Sebastian has some scandal, but it's not about women or gambling or anything most romance novel heroes would be known for.) In fact, the the men are all completely upstanding and respectable. They are smart, charming, honest and likable. They are not all titled, and the hero of The Governess Affair is as far from a duke as it's possible to be, on purpose. These are not books about finding and catching a wealthy duke or a rich heiress to bring money to an old estate. They are very much the opposite of that, with our heroes working to actively end the peerage and gain rights for the common man. With the exception of The Governess Affair, these are all smart modern men who are politically active and aware.
The women, however, all have the potential to be scandalous. They all have a secret to keep and they are all the wrong women for the heroes. They are unconventional, both in appearance (one has a scar, one is larger than is in fashion, one is pregnant (scandal!)!) In every case there is some reason why they should not be together and it's more than just "family feud." There are real legitimate reasons, especially in the case of the two full length novels, of why this is A Bad Idea. This doesn't stop anyone from falling in love, of course. The tension is delicious and for the most part, the romance really works. None of them fall in love overnight, or over a week, which is becoming more and more common in romance land. These books take time to develop and while they may feel something early they don't announce their engagement a week after meeting.
These books are smart, both in the writing and in the plot lines, especially in the case of the two full length novels. These people are doing something, not just sitting around attending balls and gambling halls. Milan has a knack for turning a plot just slightly, so that instead of falling into the expected, familiar, romance land story line you get a book that is fresh and unexpected. You might think you see where it's headed, and you might be all tense about it, but she twists it before it happens and it's so much more satisfying. There aren't any Big Misunderstandings or juvenile actions. The adult behave like rational adults. The plots are never convenient ways to throw them together or apart.She mixes together class and legitimacy and politics and you never feel as though you're reading a history lesson.
I am now an impatient fangirl and can not wait for Sebastian's story this winter (I suspect it will be my favorite!) and I just noticed a final novel about Oliver's younger sister is in the works as well.
(Sorry about the images being all over the place, Blogger and I aren't getting along this morning!)