I’m just going to say it – I love everything Courtney Milan writes. Some of her stuff has a huge emotional impact on me (Unveiled, A Kiss For Midwinter) and some has a medium/high emotional impact on me, but everything she writes leaves me with some level of good book sigh. The Heiress Effect is no exception.
The Heiress Effect is the second book in the Brother’s Sinister series (loosely connected stand-alones, with accompanying novellas).
The first full-length book, The Duchess War, was about Robert, Oliver’s half brother. Oliver is the illegitimate son of Robert’s father, and he struggles to feel that he has a place amongst the aristocracy. Oliver has hopes to rise politically, perhaps even to become Prime Minister. To this end, Oliver has learned to blend in and to maneuver discreetly.
Meanwhile, Jane Fairfield has a large fortune, and a desperate need to appear to be looking for a husband while avoiding ever being proposed to. Jane’s sister is under the guardianship of their uncle, and the uncle allows Jane to live with her sister as long as she appears to be trying to get married off as soon as possible. To avoid being proposed to, Jane wears gloriously horrible gowns and has perfected the art of making dreadfully insulting comments in a completely disingenuous fashion. Oliver survives by blending, but Jane survives by clashing with her surroundings as much as possible without openly breaching decorum.
While Jane and Oliver get to know one another, Jane’s sister, Emily, makes the acquaintance of a charming man who happens to be Indian. This romance is secondary to the one that Jane and Oliver have, which is too bad, because I found it to be more interesting. I hope to see more of them later as I’m wildly curious about what their life as a married couple might be like.
Like every other book by this author, the use of language is superb. It’s also fairly long, which gives both couples time to develop. One thing I appreciated is that the characters develop quite a bit on their own, not always as part of a couple or a potential couple. Jane refuses to run to Oliver every time she has a problem (although when she does, he’s awesome). Emily learns to save herself without depending on her sister. Oliver makes his own decisions about what his direction should be. So one of the many messages of the book is that you have to be your own person – but you also need people who will stand behind you when you really need them, and who will give you space when that’s what you need at the time.
The conflicts are realistic, the characters are complex, there is tons of angst and yet the book is laugh out loud funny, as when Jane and Oliver are riding a horse together (they are on the same horse at the same time) and Jane wishes that Oliver had “pillowy thighs”. And oh, God, the supporting characters are just…well. Free (Oliver’s sister) is getting her own book, thank goodness, and the aunt with agoraphobia was the one element of the book that I got most deeply emotional about.
Now I am waiting with baited breath for the third book, The Countess Conspiracy. It is about Sebastian and Violet and involves science and angst, and, knowing Sebastian and Violet, probably a lot of snark. We are also promised a book about Oliver’s sister, Free. I am not being the least bit snarky when I say that the anticipation is killing me (although I am exaggerating slightly).
The Heiress Effect didn’t push my emotional buttons as ruthlessly as some of Milan’s other books, but it was gloriously satisfying to read, and the happy ever afters were ingenious, well earned, and deeply satisfying.