[Some spoilers, For Mature Audiences]
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I need to begin this review by saying that I’m an idiot. The Duchess War has been on my TBR list for ages. I love HistRom, this story had good reviews, and the summary was pretty intriguing. However, when I’d look to my TBR list for my next read, I’d scan TDW’s summary and pass it over…mostly because of the potential angst.
But, as I said in the beginning, I’m a fool because sometimes a story is so lovely that it’s worth a little heartache and uncertainty. Sometimes a story’s characters are so fascinating and brilliantly portrayed that I’m lured into forgetting my fear of angst. The Duchess War is such a story–this book is fantastic! I started reading at about 11pm and I couldn’t put it down until I finished about 10 hours later. I’m grateful to my friend Katie for putting TDW back on my radar, and I give this story ALL the stars!
We begin with the strangest (and mostly adorable) meet-cute–Robert, Duke of Clermont and Miss Minnie Pursling are hiding. Both are attending a musicale in Leicester and, oddly enough, in an attempt to avoid unwanted attention, Robert and Minnie find themselves in the library using a davenport and set of curtains as a hiding spot. In the midst of their unconventional meeting, it turns out that Robert and Minnie are hiding in more ways than one: both have secrets driven by difficulties that arose in their childhoods. And both are trying desperately to forge a life for themselves which sets them apart from the consequences of callous decisions wrought by their fathers.
However, from the beginning, Robert and Minnie can see through each other’s facade. Minnie can see that Robert is more than a privileged Duke. And Robert can see that Minnie is more than a mousey wallflower: “quiet, yes, and perhaps a little shy in company. You have steel for your backbone and a rare talent for seeing what is plainly in front of your face. I could make everyone see that. I could make everyone see you.”
Truth be told, Minnie doesn’t want to be seen. She’s loathes being the center of attention and would rather fade into the background, where she’s safe. But something about Robert makes her want to give into his charm, to look up, embrace some of her former self, and to fly.
I completely ADORE this book, mostly because of Minnie and Robert.
I love Minnie. I love that, even though she’d deny it, she’s fearless. Minnie knows her worth, and even when she’s backed up against a wall, she won’t hide her intellect. Minnie is kind, perceptive, and a fabulous friend. From the beginning, I’m on her side and rooting for her HEA…preferably an HEA with Robert because he’s just as amazing.
Robert has had it rough. I didn’t read The Governess Affair before TDW, but I was able to put together the events in that novella and the circumstances that lead Robert to Leicester with a mission of righting his father’s wrongs. He could have been a self-important boor; he could have chosen to hide behind his title and money. But instead Robert is not only principled, but also willing to take the risks to further his cause–that of ensuring human equality and dignity. He’s a great brother, and like Minnie, a fierce friend to have in your corner.
I love watching Robert and Minnie get to know one another–he won’t let her look down and hide, and when others would do her harm, Robert protects her, which is exactly what Minnie needs. And over time, prim, secretive, quiet Minnie just unfurls for him:
R: “Win. Overmatch me, Minnie. And when we’re alone. When we’re alone, look up.”
“And then, before she could think it through–before she could outline the shouldn’ts and nevers–she popped up on her toes. There were only inches between them, and Minnie closed the distance without thinking. He made a soft exhalation of surprise. his lips were warm on hers, and after that first moment of shock, his arms closed around her.”
TDW also has amazing secondary characters! I love Oliver! Like I said, I didn’t read The Governess Affair, but from this book I certainly appreciate Oliver’s loyalty to Robert. Oliver could have been angry and bitter, but he’s the total opposite. I also really love Lydia, Sebastian, and Violent. I’m very excited to read their books!
You know I can’t finish this review without mentioning the sexy times because *UNF*
So, Minnie and Robert’s first time together isn’t necessarily earth-shattering, but I love Courtney Milan’s decision to show us how Minnie and Robert learn to please each other, especially since it’s so romantic and HOT HOT HOT:
M: “I think we were doing it wrong…I have no experience with men, but…Do you want me to show you?”
“She did something with her hand–something he couldn’t see until he sat up and focused on her fingers. The slid, not into her passage, but higher, focusing on the glistening nub between her legs. Her strokes were light and swift. Her breath caught once and then evened out…He nudged her knees apart so he could see what she was doing. As he did, his throat grew dry. Her skin appeared to soften as she touched herself…He leaned down and cupped her breast…he took the coral bud of her nipple in his mouth…he set his other hand over hers, on her sex…”
R: “That first night we met, God, that encounter played out so differently when I imagined it again. A woman with a voice like yours, a figure like yours, encounters me alone behind a davenport? I thought about you on your knees, fastening those clever lips of yours around my cock. And I wanted you.”
“She came with a fevered cry. Her whole body shuddered in waves of pleasure. For a moment, it felt as if those waves were traveling through him, too…He simply spread her legs farther apart and pushed inside her. This time, he sank into her depths in one solid thrust. This time, he could feel the difference in her body. The little shuddering waves that still travelled through her clutched at his cock. She was slick from want.”
There are several ups and downs as Minnie and Robert try to come to overcome their fears and past hurts. But they help each other, and when they’re together, it’s more than enough.
I 100% recommend The Duchess War to those who love historical romance and historical fiction. Actually, I feel very confident that romance-lovers in general will really enjoy this story as well. This is the first book by Courtney Milan that I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last!