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Customer Review

129 of 142 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can I Give It Eight Stars?, December 10, 2012
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This review is from: The Duchess War (The Brothers Sinister Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
M. Scott Peck's THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED begins with, "Life is difficult." Courtney Milan knows that and more. If you like Anne Patchett books because of their examination of "what if?" you will like--and probably love--Courtney Milan's newest. If you have a friend who holds romances in derision, give her THE DUCHESS WAR. Milan puts her hero and heroine in situations where prudence, honor, and loyalty demand that they betray one another, yet she does not satisfy the reader's expectations by easy solutions. She believes that it takes maturity and wisdom to love fully, a theme that ironically is rarely explored fully in romances.

Although this book is fascinating, it's not perfect. The beginning is a little slow and Milan holds you distant from the hero and heroine. I didn't quite like the heroine for a while, but then, I came to love her; I loved the hero almost instantly. Even though you can put the book down in the beginning, it is so thought provoking, so interesting, that is one of a handful of "best romances" that I've read in forty years.

THE DUCHESS WAR is different because of the intelligence and awareness of Courtney Milan. The central theme is the lasting damage that distorted, desperate, or narcissistic parents do to their offspring. Whether it is Robert's friend who is studying the controversial theory of genetic inheritance or the fanatical mother who mistreats her son to show the superiority of Christianity, Milan slyly unites this theme in its variations. Many writer have explored the theme of parental abuse, usually by the character's pain and her (it usually is a "she") eventual triumph of shedding her inhibitions to marry the hero. Instead, Courtney Milan shows a man who holds himself to an almost impossible standard of goodness and a damaged heroine who does the best she can for those she loves, even if it means destroying her own future. Then, in parallel dilemmas, the hero and heroine must decide whether to sacrifice their own happiness, betraying each other to protect more vulnerable people. Because life is seldom as easy as it is in most novels, Milan's books consistently explore the anguish, the uncertainty, and the grit it takes to lead a fulfilling and honorable life. It is impossible to read Milan's books and not to think, not to consider ethical problems, not to learn something about life. Most romances tell of fairy tale marriages with perfect happiness with effortless unity unto death. Milan's marriages are made up of imperfect humans, who often say the wrong thing, who knowingly almost destroy the person they love. Minnie and Robert have a vital, living commitment because both are capable of genuine love, honesty, and honor.

Whether authors mean to or not, they expose their own values. Clearly, Courtney Milan values fairness, generosity, honor, as most people do. However, she is smart enough to know that these virtues are sometimes almost impossible to achieve. Robert is so committed to being different from his despicable father that he pens pamphlets to unite the workers for better pay and conditions. I was taken aback when Milan tells us the danger of such an act: it is sedition and can result in imprisonment or death. Then I remembered: we are not the in the US. Milan's humanity is demonstrated so many times in this book. The factory owner glimpses the horrifying possibility that if life had been different, it could have been his daughter who was reduced to working under such circumstances. It is so difficult to write a truly good man that most authors settle for alpha males, even if they are werewolves. Milan's characters have the innate attractiveness of true goodness, without the self-satisfaction or the rote superficiality. THE DUCHESS WAR is an extraordinary book. Do yourself a favor: buy it.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 11, 2012 10:13:11 PM PST
jl47 says:
Exactly. That is exactly how I feel about the book, but couldn't find the words to say it as eloquently and succinctly as you did. Very well put.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 12, 2012 8:27:49 AM PST
lovesbooks says:
Thank you. That's so nice of you to comment.

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 9:07:56 AM PST
K. P. Dacey says:
Beautifully written!

Posted on Dec 21, 2012 7:00:38 AM PST
Danker says:
Great review.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 8:05:13 PM PST
Jersey Girl says:
Awesome analysis of Milan's themes. Her books are not "comfort reads" but they are among the best romance being written nowadays.

Posted on Jan 16, 2013 12:01:03 PM PST
I agree with all you said about the book and the author, as well. I await her books more than any other author these days. There is a depth to her plots and characters that few romance authors achieve (MJ Putney, Laura Kinsale, E Hoyt, Barbara Samuel did it) something extra that I just really love and appreciate. Glad she is young,lol.

Posted on Mar 25, 2013 9:38:18 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Mar 25, 2013 9:40:24 AM PDT]

Posted on May 18, 2014 4:25:13 PM PDT
Beautifully written review, and I couldn't agree more. Courtney Milan is awesome.

Posted on Dec 7, 2014 11:40:46 AM PST
Yellow Rose says:
I do not like books when christianity is presented as a tool for parents mistreated their children. It is sad that do not read the reviews because I will not buy the book now a some bookstore offers for free. Sorry noway I will read that book.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 10, 2014 6:31:46 PM PST
@Judith Sanchez - Yeah, best not to expose your mind to new ideas...Never know where that will lead...Be afraid! Run away! Aaah!

Actually, what Lovesbooks said is not the take I got from this series. The point is that the mother took Christianity to extremes. She gave to the poor to the point that her children had nothing to eat and had to fend for themselves. She took, "spare the rod and spoil the child" to extremes too. I think anything in extremes is bad, and life should be in balance, so if you can't stand the heat of critiquing Christianity's extremes, then maybe you should get out of the kitchen and not read this. I think the vast majority of people would agree with me though. Extremes = bad. Don't do that. Really.
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