One of the last books I read in 2013 was The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan. I adored the first books in the series earlier in the summer and when this showed up on NetGalley I was quick quick to grab it up. I barely hesitated before diving into it.
Sebastian and Violet have been friends for years, but a long held secret between the two of them has begun to threaten their friendship- and I'm not talking about the fact that he's secretly in love with her. No, this secret is much more scandalous and threatens to ruin the lives of their families as well. Sebastian is well-known for his talks on evolution and genetics, and in the era of Darwin has quite the crowd of followers, many of whom wish him ill. What will happen when he fesses up his hatred of this life to Violet? Can he just stop being the scandalous man everyone believes him to be?
A description like that sounds like this one will be all about Sebastian but shockingly, it's not. Sebastian is terrific. He's loyal to Violet to the core, even when he's setting aside his love for her in order for her to be happy. Violet has more than one secret, and her history with her late husband has taught her that she's unlovable, hard and brittle. She knows that were she to dare to have feelings that she'd shatter apart. It is very hard for the reader to like Violet at all. She's purposely this way, and honestly I think Milan might drag this out a touch too long. However, when the secrets all come out, and boy howdy do they!, you find yourself wanting to hug Violet yourself. Violet and Sebastian are SUCH a good pairing. He so desperately wants her and yet he keeps himself from even touching her casually, so long as he can tell she can't handle it.
This being a Courtney Milan book, there are of course other issues at play. As with the others in the series, she addresses social issues and women's rights and changing thought. I can't really go into this more without giving away spoilers, but needless to say it's very well done and I completely loved it.