The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister #1) by Courtney Milan

tdw-medThe Premise: Robert Blaisdell, Duke of Clermont, has come to Leicester to investigate a case of corruption and to promote his anti-aristocratic views. His plans hit a snag when he meets Wilhelmina “Minnie” Pursling while they both escape dull company at a party. He’s fascinated by this brilliant woman, who pretends to be a wallflower, has panic attacks in crowds, and carefully conceals the truth about her past. When Robert and Minnie fall in love, the truth about Minnie’s childhood comes to light and a scandal brews around them. Will their love survive the public scrutiny? (Cover image and summary from

Bonus Factors: scandalous pasts, chess masters, Paris, 19th century trade union movement, police corruption, revolutionary politics, spinster (lesbian?) aunts, cross-dressing, overbearing show business parents, horrible fathers, awkward virgin sex

My Reaction: It might just be the setting, but I think fans of North and South would dig this. Just imagine that Margaret Hale is a former cross-dressing child chess prodigy and John Thornton is a duke who wants to abolish the aristocracy and that they fight crime in their small industrial town! It was smart, well-written, and full of angst! (Legit angst, not pointless angst.) Also, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books hit the nail on the head in their description of the wedding night as “fantastically bad sex between two virgins- followed by great sex as one of them manages to turn the whole thing around.”

Rating: 2/4 chili peppers (1 being a step above a sex-free gentle romance, 4 being an all-sex-and-no-plot romance)

Buy at: Amazon | B&N | Powell’s

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