Love stories are going to get me through this crazy year. Outside, the country may be losing its collective mind, but in here it’s warm and cozy and imperfect people still get happily ever afters. Courtney Milan’s books have become my new favorites because of how she incorporates real issues from history. It makes me feel like I’m getting an escape, without a guilt hangover afterward for wanting to disengage. Social class struggles, women’s suffrage, lady scientists, evolution—it’s all in there and it’s all awesome. And unlike a lot of series I’ve read, each book is better than the last. (Needless to say, I have high hopes for the fourth and final installment I just bought in audio!)
If too-good-to-be-true, perfectly beautiful, socially demure ladies are your jam, these books might not be for you. Milan’s characters buck stereotypes and challenge their men and the world around them at every turn. In The Heiress Effect, Jane is a big, curvy girl with ostentatious taste in fashion and a sizeable dowry that makes her a target of all manner of unsavory individuals. A relationship with an up-and-comer in government who is also the bastard son of nobility seems impossible, but…well, you know in Romance World, nothing is impossible.
In The Countess Conspiracy, Violet is a botanist and an expert on reproduction and inheritance, but as a woman she isn’t allowed to present her theories herself. For years, her best friend Sebastian has published her work as his own (and since evolution is such a scandalous idea in 1867, his speeches often result in vegetables being thrown at his head by crowds of angry skeptics). Will Violet ever be able to take credit for her groundbreaking work—and will she be able to overcome the painful baggage in her past and admit her true feelings for Sebastian? Swoon!
In both books, the male leads love their ladies because of their oddness, not in spite of it. Neither Jane nor Violet fits easily into polite society, but both are fiercely intelligent and loyal. Finding someone who loves you for you and doesn’t want to file off your rough edges, that’s the dream, isn’t it? Well, that, and discovering the chromosome.