Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan
Click here to buy the book on Amazon

The first meeting between Edward and Free ends with Free handing Edward her card and telling him to call on her if he ever needed exclamation points. I find that I need them right now, quite a number of exclamation points, actually, in order to express just how much I loved this book.

I knew that, when I started reading this book, I would not be able to put it down. I started reading at around 9 in the evening, and finished before midnight. My e-reader's battery had gone from 60% to 20% -- and I hadn't noticed any of that until I had finished the book.

There's a point in the book where Edward talks to Oliver, and Oliver isn't surprised at Edward's reaction (and subsequent attraction) to his sister. You'll either love Free or hate her, he says, -- in my case, it was love, love, love at first read. Long before this book, there was something about her spirit that was just so captivating -- you just had to follow her around, curious about her ideas and actions.

And she is, indeed, a woman worth listening to and worth watching. She put her Aunt Freddy's money to good use and is championing the rights of women. She knows that she is in the minority, and she has already gained the enmity of a number of people. Free is afraid. She's received threats and letters detailing malicious intent -- but she is so, so incredibly brave to face her fear and stand at the forefront of this particular battle. It's easy to forget that Free is human because she is a force of nature -- so tireless and dedicated to her newspaper and her cause -- but, Milan reminds us of the very human, very fragile part of Free when she writes about Free's nightmares.

The idealist vs the realist. At the first sign of resistance, it would have been so easy for Free to close shop, and go home to her parents' house and live the rest of her days in relative peace, safety, quiet and comfort -- but Free is so, so incredibly driven. It's an aspect of Free that baffles Edward as well -- who has taken a shot at the glass ceiling and failed. He suffered terribly because of his youthful idealism and life has made a realist of him. He's been to where Free is going and he doesn't understand why she keeps going forward, when there is nothing but failure at the end of the road. He doesn't try to sway her or stop her, but actually walks alongside her as she fights against the tides.

Edward claims that his reasons are selfish and that he doesn't care about Free, but, his actions say otherwise. He epitomises the anti-hero and, for some strange reason, I kept picturing Pedro Pascal, while reading about Edward. He's been burned by life: betrayed and abandoned by his family. He had intended to stay away forever, but he had a debt to pay to his lifelong friend -- and so he has reluctantly returned to England. The tragedy of Edward's life is that he lost his dreams a long time ago -- the rose-colored glasses have been shattered and he thinks he sees the world for what it really is: cold, cruel and unforgiving. But even he cannot deny the existence of kindness and goodness, and so he strives to protect Patrick, Stephen and Free from the world and from himself.

James's eyes widened. "Was it bad?"

"No," Edward lied. "But only because I learned to be worse in response. Trust me, James. I'm no longer fit company. I know who Viscount Claridge is supposed to be. I had enough lectures on the meaning of our family honour to recall that. I can't be him."
- Chapter 2

There is a villain in this story and a really nefarious plot to discredit and destroy Free's newspaper. James Delacey is Edward's younger brother who stands to inherit Edward's title once Edward is legally and finally declared dead. It wasn't an easy decision for Edward which side to choose, because he still believed in his brother's goodness and he did try to find the best solution to all their problems. What I appreciated about how Milan used the conflict in The Suffragette Scandal is how it served to redefine such words as "family", "brothers", and "honour" -- when the dust finally settled, I think Edward and Free got a clearer picture of what it was they truly needed.

Love Conquers All. Love is such a powerful and resounding force in this novel -- it agitates the characters out of their comfort zones and batters down walls and chips away at carefully-guarded hearts -- and it does all this in quiet patience. Between Free and Edward, I was expecting there to be a power struggle and, in the beginning, there was that amazing display of intellectual prowess (read Chapters 3-4) -- but, as the story continues, our hero and heroine come to know and respect the other. There are no worldviews colliding or battle of wills -- what happens between Free and Edward is that they manage to find the best of both worlds -- and create a new one for themselves.

"Which of my myriad flaws is making you uneasy, Miss Marshall?" He gave her a long, slow smile. "Is it my arrogant conceit or my wicked sense of humour?"

"Neither," Free answered. "I rather like both of those. It's just that you're trying to use my attraction to you to set me on edge." She smiled at him. "It won't work. I've been attracted to you since the moment I laid eyes on you, and it hasn't made me stupid once."
- Chapter 6

As the final* installation to the series, Free's story brings everything to a full circle. It was wonderful to see Oliver and Robert and Sebastian again and especially enjoyed the scene between Robert and Free. While this series is supposed to be about the three men, I can't help but see this as a celebration of wonderful, unique, driven women who weren't content to stand in the shadows, but to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the men in their lives.

I can always count on a Courtney Milan novel to engage me completely: heart, mind and everything else in between. When I finished reading this, I felt giddy, exhilarated, inspired -- and wanting more. ^_^

The Suffragette Scandal is Book 4 in Courtney Milan's The Brothers Sinister series. To find out more about Courtney Milan and her books, click below:

*Courtney Milan is releasing an e-novella that features Stephen Shaughnessy and a gifted mathematician named Rose Sweetly, Talk Sweetly to Me.


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