Within Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series, exist another series of books which chronicle the improbable adventures of Mrs. Larriger. The books are generally looked down upon by many of the characters as nonsense at best and a dreadful influence at worst. As it turns out, the books allow more than one of the characters to escape the confines of their narrow world.
That’s what pop culture does, it allows us to escape through entertainment. Life, even when it’s a life with which we are happy, is a grind. We have responsibilities, jobs, bills, families – all things that keep us focused on our own lives. For the most part, pop culture reinforces norms, but it also has the power to allow us to re-imagine the world. Any genre that opens the imagination allows us to change the way we see the world.
Science fiction gets a lot of credit for inspiring science innovation. Romance doesn’t get much credit for anything. It should though. Very few of us travel through space, most of us fall in love at some point. That period of romance and falling in love is ripe with possibility. It can be a time when we re-think who we are and what we want. It’s a time when we are taken outside of ourselves and start considering the wants of a new person. Romance novels can take us back (or forward) to that feeling and re-open us to the world. Romance is also the genre in which the female protagonist is most likely to be the primary actor.
Milan’s books are firmly and proudly within the historical romance genre. They are excellent works of feminist entertainment. The series is set in Early Victorian England – the early days of the Industrial Revolution. The characters grapple with changing social and economic structures. Romance plots are as much about overcoming obstacles as any spy novel. In this series, the legal and social position of women hinders our heroines’ ability to save themselves. They are forced to lie, hide and disguise themselves in order to remain within the small arena of safety afforded to them. They are aware of how tenuous that safety is for women. Their male love interests are rebels and radicals in their own way. The books are entertaining, the characters engaging, and the romance smoldering. Read them to be entertained, be reminded of the importance of compassion and feminism as a side benefit.
My personal favorite is the novella A Kiss for Midwinter, but they are all good reads. The series isn’t finished and the next book, The Suffragette Scandal, is scheduled for release on July 15th.
The Mrs. Larriger books are as popular and poorly thought of in the world of the novels as romance novels are in our world. They are also an escape, a catalyst for change, and a window through which compassion can shine. More importantly, Mrs. Larriger is a 58 year old woman who takes her life into her own hands and sets out on an adventure. What will these romances inspire you to do?