I simply could not let more days pass gazing longingly at the three Milan novels on my Kindle that I’ve been saving for a rainy day. I’d heard ’round these parts that The Heiress Effect is probably the least favorite book of the Brothers Sinister series, so I went in with tempered expectations. And what do you know — with those expectations so dialed down, they were exceeded! Mostly.
Here’s what I loved:
- Miss Jane Fairfield, the heiress in question, is a sharp, witty, confident, lively, practical, complex individual who is also fully devoted to her sister, Miss Emily Fairfield. This devotion manifests not only in a funny, warm, and overall delightful relationship between the two, but also in Jane’s willing self-sacrifice of her public propriety and likeability so that she can remain unmarried and stay with her sister.
- “So let me understand. You are proposing to deliver as many electric shocks as you like to my sister, for an indeterminate amount of time, on a theory for which you have no evidence other than a wild guess.” Emily has a form of epilepsy with “partial” seizures, which wasn’t recognized as epilepsy at the time. Emily’s guardian, the ladies’ uncle, attempts to employ various quack “doctors” to treat her. Jane’s defense of Emily is poignantly evidence-based, employing logic and expecting scientific rigor to buttress her emotional position. Her indignation is righteous, her defense all reason. It’s beautiful.
- Emily’s secondary romance with Anjan Bhattacharya is a lovely diversion that I almost wish had been its own novella.
- The unexpected sincere friendship that grows with Genevieve and Geraldine Johnson
- Knowing what I do about where the series is leading with The Suffragette Scandal and Frederica “Free” Marshall, I loved the groundwork laid here for the women’s rights movement and Milan’s continued dedication to thorough research and sociopolitical commentary.
Here’s what I didn’t love:
- Basically, just Oliver Marshall, winner of Mr. Nebbish Cambridgeshire, 1867. I simply don’t think he proved himself worthy of Jane in as much as we saw of him. I do believe that they loved each other, but when presented with a heroine so singularly fantastic as Jane, I want the hero to knock my socks off. For his part, Oliver spends much of the novel wondering whether or not to publicly humiliate Jane, and even once he finally decides against that, he still — to her face — has a list of reasons why she would be unsuitable as his wife. And the list isn’t even an IhateyouIloveyou/WecouldNEVERbemarried list as is common in the genre; it’s literally a “You would have to change your entire personality in order to be the kind of wife I need. But, I love you?” list. His eventual apology for that just nowhere near made up for his lack of backbone and denial of her brilliance throughout the rest of the novel. Girl settled, is what I’m saying.
So clearly, the “con” is a big one, but there were so many other aspects of the novel that I loved that I didn’t have the heart to give it any fewer than four stars.