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.
What worked for me?
The characters… Stephen and Rose were not nobility. They both work for a living—Stephen as an infamous advice columnist and Rose as a computer for astronomers. But they’ve been living almost next door to each other for the past two months and the attraction is definitely there. So is wariness, the beginnings of companionship, and comfortable conversation. Rose is of African descent and the racial difference and the racial prejudice of the society at large is one of the challenges that they had to overcome in the story. I love that they know themselves enough to know what they really want in life and enough that they can argue their case with each other.
Courtney Milan’s take on racial discrimination… This is, I believe, my first historical romance book that featured a heroine who is of African descent in England during that time in history. If you’ve been an avid follower of her Brothers Sinister series, you know that Courtney Milan has given us amazing female characters that are, in a sense, as unconventional as they are fantastic—a governess, a writer, a scientist, a suffragette—and now a genius mathematician who also has to contend with the prejudice of society because she is of African descent. I was just riveted by her portrayals of the trials that Rose and her sister went through just because of the color of their skin. I’m mentally shaking in anger whenever they have to endure something awful because of ill-informed people and I was mentally fist-pumping towards the ceiling when the villainous character had his come-uppance. But I love most of all that in the end, while Rose’s race did become an issue, it served as an important reminder of the strength and depth of their affection for each other.
What did not work for me?
I was a little disoriented in the beginning because I didn’t know that the story blurb had changed and so I was expecting a particular plot that did not materialize in what I was reading. And I was looking forward to the references with numbers in the conversations between the two and although Courtney Milan did have that in abundance during the first parts, I felt there was a disconnect between the characters and what they were saying, sort of like a joke falling a little short of the punch-line.
I think this novella is shorter than any of the other novellas she’s written so I was in want of more backstory as to why and how Rose and Stephen fell in love with each other. There were references to it but I was actually waiting for more.
The part where Rose did some punching… Gosh, that was so good to read…
And of course, that first kiss…
My over-all take on it?
This wasn’t Courtney Milan’s best novella (and I might be a little biased here since her A Kiss for Midwinter is one of my favorite stories of all time!) but it is still a very worthwhile read and the unique story and characters are a gem especially in a genre such as historical romance.
My rating: (3.75 stars)
Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. Yes, these are my honest and personal thoughts on this book.
About the Author:
Courtney Milan’s debut novel was published in 2010. Since then, her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. She’s been a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller, a RITA® finalist and an RT Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance. Her second book was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010.
Courtney lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, a marginally-trained dog, and an attack cat.
Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships with some really important people who are way too dignified to be named here. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.
Courtney is represented by Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency.
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