This is my first re-read of this book (as it was my least favourite of The Brothers Sinister series). My original review can be found here.
When I first read this book, I had very high expectations, because I always do when reading a Courtney Milan novel. They are more often than not little masterpieces, that utterly transport me away and make me feel all the feels. Oliver Marshall is a good supporting character in The Duchess War, but disappointed me as a hero in his own story. He does eventually see the complete error of his ways, and how his life has crushed his confidence so much that he’s willing to give up on true happiness and a truly spectacular and original woman, and he does grovel prettily when he gets to that point – but even after everything, I was still left with the feeling that Jane, our unusual heroine, could do better. You don’t want to finish a romance wanting the heroine to end up with someone else.
Obviously, when I started this re-read, my expectations were no longer so high, and I just remembered this as the weakest of the books in the series. It’s why I’ve never re-read this one, which is certainly not the case with all the other books, all of which I love. This is still the weakest book of the lot, but as always, when ranking several things, something needs to come last, and this is not a bad book, it just ended up being something very different from what I was expecting the first time around and that made me cranky when rating and reviewing it, I think.
All the things I mentioned as good things still stand. All the various female relationships in the book are great. The subplot with Free and Oliver’s elderly, reclusive aunt affected me so much more this time around. I genuinely cried at her fate, and got so emotional, imagining the very lonely life she must have had and how little her family really knew about her and understood her. I still love the secondary romance, with Jane’s sister Emily, and Anjan. I especially liked how he got the prejudiced uncle won over and permission to marry Emily.
I’m very glad I listened to this again and gave it a new chance. I’ve upgraded my rating from 3.5 stars to a full 4, and will try to judge Oliver less harshly in future.
Judging a book by its cover: I don’t think any cover could really do justice to any of Jane’s truly eye-gouging dresses, and the frock worn by the lady on this cover seems far too elegant and not ostentatious enough for anything in Jane’s wardrobe. The green dress she wears in one memorable sequence is described as rather a lot more vivid as well, I pictured the shade almost iridescent, like the green of an insect’s wing.
Crossposted on my blog.