- Title: The Countess Conspiracy
- Author: Courtney Milan
- Genre: Regency Romance
- Why: Last in a series which I thoroughly enjoyed so far.
- Rating: 5 Stars
Description: 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.
Review: Well, hasn’t Milan just saved the best for last in the Brothers Sinister series? I adored the prequel novella and really enjoyed the first and second entries, but this… This was something else altogether.
I should say that right from the moment he was introduced in The Duchess War, I adored Sebastian Malheur. Presented as an educated rake who gives lectures on genetic theory, he is one of the most reviled men in the country. Bear in mind that this takes place in a time when Darwin was still alive, so public lectures which include the topic of reproduction are scandalous beyond measure.
Then in this book we find out that things are even worse, because the theories Sebastian defends with such fervour aren’t his at all – they’re all the work of Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury who has also been Sebastian’s closest friend for most of his life. As a woman she would never be taken seriously (even though she tried), so Sebastian has been presenting her work as his, and got famous for it. That he has also been in love with her for most of his life is by the by, especially since Violet is prickly and, by her own admission, difficult and eminently unlovable.
The biggest strength of this book is the depth of Sebastian and Violet’s relationship, which right from the start is shown as going beyond what most friends do for each other. They have their own secret code, they know exactly what the other does or thinks or needs, but for the longest time they never know or understand that what they need most is each other. Sebastian never pushed Violet because he knows that her marriage had secrets that she’s never shared with anyone, and they have left their marks on her. When you finally find out what happened it’s profoundly disturbing, and no, it’s not what you might think it is.
As always, Milan has come up with a hero and heroine who defy convention, who are anything but your run-of-the-mill romance couple, and Sebastian especially often surprises with his insight and unexpected reaction. As a man who thrives on making people laugh, it’s heartbreaking to see that no one takes him seriously because of that, even when it should be clear that there is so much more to him than his jokes.
Milan never disappoints, but this book was an absolute beauty and I loved it from start to finish.