It’s not often in a romance where I’m more interested in the non-relationship plot, but Ms. Milan continues to prove herself a rockstar of the genre by doing just that. Usually all I want to read is two people coming together and finding their version of happiness (hence why romance novellas are the best), but The Countess Conspiracy proves how a great author can take both a love story and a the main non-romance plot to make something special.
The Countess Conspiracy is the beloved friends to lovers trope this time with Violet, Countess of Cambury, and Sebastian Malheur, “world renowned” geneticist (before such a thing existed). The story sets up with the discovery that the geneticist is actually Violet, and Sebastian has just been covering for her in order for her work to be published and seen. Sebastian tells Violet that he can no longer be her front man as it’s making him very uncomfortable and disliked (this is Victorian England so anything like biological science would be hated on a special level a la Darwin). This sets into motion both Violet coming to terms with who she is, and giving Sebastian the freedom to admit that he has been in love with Violet pretty close to his whole life.
And it gave me too many feelings. As a woman in science reading, even fiction, about women beaten down by the men in the profession for not being good enough hits way too close to home. Hard science is still not a remotely women friendly place, and so many of Violet’s feelings (a combination of knowing she knows more, while at the same time feeling inferior because she is aware that they will not listen) was a constant refrain in my life throughout grad school among myself and my female colleagues. I honestly didn’t particularly care about the love story, because getting to watch Violet get her happy ending (not so much Sebastian, but more scientific acceptance) felt like a triumph. Yes, a fictional triumph, but still. We’ll take any we can get.
This is one I highly recommend. Especially for those who have felt like an outcast in their professions, it’s nice to spend a couple of hours cheering for someone, and they get a complete happily ever after.