Milan, Courtney. The Countess Conspiracy. [United States]: Courtney Milan, 2013.
eBook | $4.99 USD (or part of the $9.99 box set) | ISBN-13: 978-1937248208 | 309 pages | Victorian Romance
As has almost continuously proven true, nothing seems to break me out of a funk like a Courtney Milan book. The Countess Conspiracy is especially exciting, given how both Sebastian and Violet’s friendship has been featured in the previous books, and how it delves into the truth behind his scholarship, a minor point brought up in the previous books.
I could not help but love Violet, as she’s the embodiment of the many women throughout history who’ve been forced to deny credit for their scientific achievements, or otherwise robbed of the credit, as Milan acknowledges in her dedication to Rosalind Franklin, Anna Clausen, and the other women who have “disappeared without recognition” (Milan, 733 and 1347 in the omnibus edition). I also felt for her as the tragedy of her abusive marriage and her attempts to become a mother (putting her own life at risk) were revealed, and how it led to her feeling like a failure.
Sebastian is also a wonderful character, and I love that, while at first I thought he was going to be a charming rake playing a role, I saw how much he cared for Violet, carrying a torch for her for years and being patient with her as she opens up to him and the possibility of them being together. And ultimately, even if at first it seemed like him agreeing to take credit for her work, he also proves to be her greatest supporter throughout.
Both Violet and Sebastian also have evolving relationships with family members that play pivotal roles in their story arcs. It was great to see the evolution of Sebastian’s relationship with his brother, and how his brother thought of him as a bit of a scapegrace, playing into Sebastian’s slightly inferior view of himself and his capabilities. I think their arc and the positive note it ends on forms a great contrast to Violet’s proper sister, who is upset with Violet’s non-traditional path once it’s revealed and wants to keep her daughter from being influenced by Violet’s forward thinking views.
However, Violet also has a complex, layered relationship with her mother. At first, she struck me as fairly traditional, and that was Violet’s assumption as well, but upon the revelation of Violet’s secret, the way her mother shows pride in Violet’s abilities and there are hints at her own intellect as well.
This is a wonderful book in a wonderful series, and I very much recommend it to any historical romance reader who has not read it yet.
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