The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister, #0.5) - Courtney Milan Grade: A+ or 5 brightly shining stars

Beautiful, poignant, and skillfully written novella! I absolutely loved it!

***updated to add full review****

The Story
Serena Barton is a ruined woman. Her dismissal as a governess position leads her to demand compensation from the Duke of Clermont. Serena will not leave empty-handed. She is prepared to fight for there is much at stake. She’s aware the duke employs an unmerciful man of business, yet she bravely resolves never to be weak again.

Hugo Marshall has one grand ambition, which is to become the “richest coal miner’s son in all of England.” Once his employment with the duke concludes successfully he will have the necessary funds to actualize his dream. Hugo has worked too hard to resolve Clermont’s financial woes. Success equals a substantial fortune from a bet. Serena will not cost him his five hundred pounds.

The Characters
Serena and Hugo are incredibly well-written characters. I absolutely loved them! Serena’s spirit burns bright. She’s courageous, resilient, charming, and simply powerful. Her inner strength quietly resonates throughout the story. Serena’s sister’s fragility provides a nice contrast to her character. Frederica is a sad character frustrated with her sister’s pugnacious spirit.

At first glance, Hugo appears to be your typical hero – ruthless, ambitious, and self-serving – he’s not! Courtney Milan structures his character around a bittersweet core. What drives him is more than rising above his coal miner’s background. When I discovered what it was I found it deeply touching.

My Thoughts
I adored this achingly lovely historical romance about two ordinary-looking commoners, which Milan gently reveals in layers. Their story and romance was affective, balanced, and beautifully written. The Governess Affair deftly weaves dialogue, reflection (inner dialogue), and expressive actions (the showing part).

Hugo and Serena are heroic survivors with hopes and dreams. Physical appearance is bypassed; it’s how they make each other feel that establishes their connection. Their happy ending left me feeling triumphant for them. If this story were in paperback it would have a special place on my Keeper Shelf. It is now one of my favorite historical romances, and I’m highly anticipating the upcoming Sinister Series. Ms. Milan has gained a new fan! Overall, this is a touching novella that subtly and ultimately reveals the power of a mother’s love. If you haven’t tried this author’s work yet then this is the perfect introduction! Sincerely!

Memorable Moment
Safe, her dastardly senses whispered. He’s safe. There was something comforting about his forthright recital—comfort with an edge that only sharpened when he took a step closer to her.

“If I were a cobbler,” he said, “I’d offer you a discount on shoes.”

“Now you’ve completely lost your mind.”

“No. It would give me an excuse to measure your feet with my bare hands.” His lip twitched up. “And don’t think I’d stop at your toes.”

She had both her hands on top of his walking stick. She felt herself lean toward him, ever so slightly.

“But you’re not,” she said. “You’re the Wolf of Clermont, and I’m the woman you cannot drive away.”

“Can’t is such an unforgiving word,” he said. “I prefer do not wish to.

This was a man who had walked away from his family at fourteen. He had a reputation for getting what he wanted.

But there was so much more to him than the boorish drone she’d once envisioned. He had talked about crushing her hopes and dreams, but when he stood next to her, he drove away the despair she’d carried for so long.

The Sinister Series
Set in the 1860s and nearly thirty years after the prequel < i>The Governess Affair

The Duchess War – Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont (releases Summer 2012)
The Heiress Effect – Oliver Marshall, Serena’s son (releases Fall 2012)
The Countess Conspiracy - Sebastian Malheur, the Earl of Rane - Robert’s cousin (releases 2012 or 2013)

From the author’s website:
“The series is named after the men, but the individual books are named after the women. The women all share one characteristic: they’ve all been ruined. Just not in the usual way…” – Courtney Milan

[Note to readers: As of 4/23/12, this sweet little gem is only 99 cents and it's lendable!]