In hopes of tackling all the books that are either on my to-be-read (TBR) list or piled percariously on my shelves, I’m joining Wendy the Super Librarian’s TBR Challenge this year. This month’s theme is short stories (novellas, categories, and the like).
Courtney Milan is one of those dependable authors for me. I know that when I pick up a book by her, I’m going to get a well-written, well-developed story with a satisfying romance and strong characters. For this month’s challenge, I chose to read The Governess Affair as it’s a prequel to her newest series, The Brothers Sinister. Well, that, and the fact that it’s been sitting on my Nook since April.
She will not give up.
Three months ago, governess Serena Barton was let go from her position. Unable to find new work, she’s demanding compensation from the man who got her sacked: a petty, selfish, swinish duke. But it’s not the duke she fears. It’s his merciless man of business–the man known as the Wolf of Clermont. The formidable former pugilist has a black reputation for handling all the duke’s dirty business, and when the duke turns her case over to him, she doesn’t stand a chance. But she can’t stop trying–not with her entire future at stake.
He cannot give in.
Hugo Marshall is a man of ruthless ambition–a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner’s son to the right hand man of a duke. When his employer orders him to get rid of the pestering governess by fair means or foul, it’s just another day at the office. Unfortunately, fair means don’t work on Serena, and as he comes to know her, he discovers that he can’t bear to use foul ones. But everything he has worked for depends upon seeing her gone. He’ll have to choose between the life that he needs, and the woman he is coming to love…
Serena and Hugo, unlike most historical romances’ heroes and heroines, are not members of the nobility. Hugo isn’t even gentry; it isn’t clear what Serena’s background is but impoverished gentry feels right. I enjoy the change of pace, because it gives the reader a chance to see things from the other side. Most historicals feature the good dukes (or at least the reformed ones). This one – not so much. This is a bad duke and you want to stand up and cheer when he gets what’s coming to him.
This story develops pretty fast, and it is here that I found the book to be both successful and unsuccessful. This is by no means a story that could fill an entire book. At best, it might make for a strong secondary romance in a single title; there is simply not enough material/action for a full length book. So it makes a perfect novella. However, I had some trouble with the pacing when it came to the feelings of our heroine. I thought Hugo’s emotions were well laid out and his sudden realization really wasn’t that sudden (just to him) because we, as the readers, were given plenty of insight into his mind.
Serena wasn’t as easy for me. I liked her, but I found her to be overly stubborn (not Old Skool romance stubborn though), bordering on stupidity (but, thank goodness, not Too Stupid To Live). I understand a need to make your point, but at the risk of sacrificing your health? That’s a bit too much for me. Despite that, I found her to be an appealing character who was really just trying to get what she rightly deserved, right up until BAM! she’s in love. I was like “um what? that was quick”. I didn’t feel her emotions as strongly as I felt Hugo’s so I was slightly disappointed in that regard.
Overall, I enjoyed this novella. It was a quick read (I read it in just under 2 hours), featured great characters with a solid, sweet romance, and the epilogue, aptly titled “Aftermaths & Beginnings” gives a lovely preview of the men that (I assume) will feature in The Brothers Sinister series. I probably won’t read it again, but it was a great way to spend a rainy evening and reminded me of why I really should read the rest of Ms. Milan’s backlist.