July 29, 2013
Guess who's coming to dinner
Courtney Milan is one of my new favorite authors. I say new because she's only been
published for four years. I have a great admiration for her for a number of reasons, one of them being that she was brave enough to say to her publisher, 'You've got to be kidding,' and striking out on her own into self-publishing, especially when she was doing so well with her publishing house. The other reason is she always delivers well-developed books that are character-driven reads. In the case of The Heiress Effect, she has done that again. However, I have to say I'm not as in love with The Heiress Effect as I have been with some of her other works. The main reason I wasn't as fond of this book as her others was that it seemed to be more of a morality tale than a romance. Oh sure, there was a couple (actually there were two couples), but their problems took center stage and romance a back seat.
Let's examine the main couple, Oliver and Jane. Oliver is illegitimate and the half-brother of Robert from The Duchess War. And Oliver has a grudge. Because of who he is, he has always been bullied and now he wants to get back at everyone. The way to do that is with power, so he wants to be a politician - he wants to be someone who makes the rules. In order to do that, he curries the favor of those who bullied him when he was young. To put it bluntly he kisses a--, he's a brown noser, and when he does find the woman he will marry she will be a quiet, "stand by your man" kind of gal. He is actually quite a weak man looking for an equally weak woman.
Enter Jane Fairchild, and weak is the last thing one could say about her. She is strong, she is smart, and she's rich. Because she's rich, she has been courted for years; however, Jane doesn't want to get married, so she has adopted a facade over the years to drive these men away - she's loud, brutally honest, and her clothing is a disaster. When she enters a room all eyes turn toward her and for all the wrong reasons. She insults people right and left, and pretends innocence in these killing remarks. Over the years, she has made some pretty powerful enemies, one of these being the Marquess of Bradenton. Bradenton just happens to be one of the bullies from Oliver's past - and he promises Oliver his support if Oliver will destroy Jane. Because Oliver is kissing Bradenton's butt, he considers it.
I was actually fascinated watching Jane and Oliver as they worked through their problems. They are both very complex characters. One of my favorite reoccurring lines was, "Jane was exactly the sort of woman he wanted. Someone exactly like Jane, but totally opposite." In the end, because of Jane, Oliver becomes a worthy hero.
Now, we come to our secondary characters, Jane's sister Emily and a young barrister, Anjan Bhattacharya, who also happens to be Indian. Everyone in this book has a problem. Emily’s problem is she has epilepsy and this is 1867 and if you are not aware a person with this affliction often ended up in an asylum and, after years of quacks treating her, she is pretty close to being put there. Then we have Anjan and I guess his problem would be that he's Indian (India) trying to live in a white society in 1867. I was a little disappointed that the relationship between Emily and Anjan wasn't given a more realistic treatment. Oh sure, there is prejudice but not as much as there would have been in 1867. I can only imagine the hatred this couple would have evoked in this time period. As Spencer Tracy said in his final film speech : "As for you two and the problems you're going to have, they seem almost unimaginable,..." For me Emily and Anjan, as a couple, didn’t work so much. The problems they and their children would face were viewed through rose-colored glasses. I would have liked to have seen at least one of them acknowledge the probable bumpy road in their future together. I didn't have a sense as to whether either of them was strong enough to weather the storm.
Overall, this was a very strong book and I do recommend it. The story is well-developed with some very complex characters. I had a minor problem with the secondary romance being sugar-coated, but overall I think this is a satisfying contribution to the Brothers' Sinister series and I'm looking forward to Sebastian's story.
Time/Place: Victorian England