My rating: 4 of 5 stars
(Note: I’m posting this review out of order because my next 2012 Book Log post is book 2 of this same series–and I didn’t want to post the review of the second before I posted the review of the first!)
I come to Courtney Milan courtesy of the fine ladies of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, and while I’m not always aligned with their tastes, I have got to back ’em up on Milan’s Turner series. Here’s the thing about my reading romance novels–there are certain tropes in them that drive me spare, and are among the main reasons I steer clear of most contemporaries. I favor historicals and romantic suspense, on the grounds that they’re less likely to display the tropes that drive me most spare, even as I’m very aware that those particular romance subgenres also have their own issues.
I’m not a history geek, so I couldn’t dissect for you whether Milan’s depiction of her chosen period is historically accurate. But I can tell you that she pulled off a story that, for me, beautifully balanced a historically accurate feel with character sensibilities more appealing to modern readers. In my reading experience to date, that’s hard. Better yet, she skillfully subverted two of the biggest tropes I hate in many romances: having such a huge deal made over the heroine being a virgin, and the Big Misunderstanding that far too often provides “conflict” between the leads, the sort of conflict that can be solved in five minutes if they just talk to each other like adults.
And happily, she does all this in a tasty little scenario of political and familial intrigue. Ash Turner, our hero, has proven that the Duke of Parford is a bigamist, therefore destroying the legitimacy of his heirs, and opening the way for himself to take over as the rightful heir to the dukedom. But the Duke and his sons are having NONE OF THIS, and they’ve set the ailing Duke’s daughter Margaret up to masquerade as his nurse–putting her into an excellent position to spy on the incoming new Duke and find anything, any flaw in his character or vulnerability in his history, that can ruin him in the eyes of Parliament so that they can take back their estate.
Naturally, our heroine finds Ash Turner dangerously appealing. And has to soon choose between him and her own family.
Margaret was awesome, and it is through her that Milan subverted those aforementioned tropes so beautifully. I’m not going to spell out how, so that I can avoid spoilers, but suffice to say that as aspects of her history were explored and Ash’s responses to them were shown, I liked both characters immensely.
Mad, mad props as well to the inevitable vulnerability that Margaret discovers in Ash, another thing I won’t spell out so as to avoid spoilers. But I will say that it’s an aspect of him that is a source of genuine past strife between him and his brothers, and which genuinely made my heart go out to the poor guy.
Last but not least, how the eventual resolution of Margaret having to choose between Ash and her father and brothers–and how Ash must choose between Margaret and his own desire for revenge against her father–worked out beautifully.
All in all, great fun. I had some minor questions of plausibility here and there, but nothing serious to get in the way of enjoying the story. Four stars.