After reading several books in a row that ranged from mediocre to DNF, I picked up Courtney Milan’s newest book, The Heiress Effect. Milan is, hands-down, one of the best writers I’ve ever read, so I was hoping her newest would be good.
It wasn’t just good. It was fabulous, and I couldn’t put it down. In fact, my friends probably got to hear me read aloud half the book because every time something awesome happened, I hugged my Kindle and squealed, and then had to explain why.
Miss Jane Fairfield has made a career of social disaster. She wears outrageous gowns and says even more outrageous things. The only reason she’s invited anywhere is because of her immense dowry–which is all part of her plan to avoid marriage and keep the fortune-hunters at bay.
Mr. Oliver Marshall is the illegitimate son of a duke. His acceptance in society is tenuous as it is. If he wants any kind of career at all, he must do everything right. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.
I was really looking forward to this book because I liked Oliver, the hero, from Milan’s previous stories. I loved his relationship with Robert, the hero from The Duchess War, and I couldn’t wait to see Oliver as the hero in his own story.
However, Jane stole the entire freaking show and I loved every second of it.
By the end of the first chapter, you’re firmly in her corner. You completely understand why she’s trying her hardest to drive off any suitors. She’s brave and bold and brash, and even when she’s afraid, she doesn’t back down. You’re cheering for her every single step of the way.
Jane isn’t just bad with manners. She’s downright rude, saying things that don’t just toe the line of social rules; they jump screaming past them. “Outrageous” is quite possibly the kindest way to describe her dresses, as the first one she wears features four different kinds of lace. She came to the conclusion a long time ago that she would never fit in, so she’s going to stand out in the worst possible way to keep herself absolutely unmarriageable.
It’s hilarious to read about, but when she’s no longer playing for a crowd, Jane drops the act and we see how desperately lonely she is. And with Oliver, Jane has the first person, aside from her sister, that she can consider a friend.
Because of the circumstances of his birth, Oliver has spent his entire life with a foot in two worlds, and one of those worlds tries its best to keep him down. If he wants to accomplish anything, he has to play by the rules set out by those who came before him. And so he has, biding his time so that he can make the political changes he needs to.
However, there comes a point when the line between “biding your time” and “cowering” blurs, and that’s part of what Oliver has to deal with in his own arc. I loved him as well, loved watching him grow thanks to (in a large part) the women in his life—Jane, as well as his aunt and sister—and his final confrontation with Bradenton (one of the villains) is a sight to behold.
And I loved, loved, loved that Jane owned herself. She was never a damsel in distress, not really. She could and did take care of herself and handle her own problems. When she turned to Oliver it was not because she needed saving, but because she wanted the reminder that she wasn’t alone. Their relationship had balance.
Then, there was this line, which is one of the best lines I have ever seen a romance heroine utter EVER:
“I’m not a gift,” she said. “Or a prize that you’ve won. I’m a woman, and I want you because it will give me joy.”
Do you have any idea how rare it is to see that explicitly stated in fiction, to see a woman owning her desire and her sexuality without any kind of shame about it? Holy shit, that line might be one of the sexiest things I’ve ever read.
And this was one of the parts that made me shriek with incoherent glee:
“Do you think you’re squabbling with him [Bradenton] over me?” She smiled more brightly. “Oh, no, Mr. Marshall. You’re wrong. I’m squabbling with him over you.”
GO KICK HIS ASS, BABY; I’LL HOLD YOUR FLOWER.
Seriously, Jane was a thousand different kinds of amazing.
I adored the secondary romance between Emily and Anjan. Though it was shorter than the main story, it could easily have been its own book, but it worked very well as it was. My only issue was that I wanted more from Anjan’s viewpoint, because he was just great. One of his last scenes is easily a highlight of the novel.
Words cannot adequately express how much I loved this book. Everything about it was fantastic, and my nerdy little heart just absolutely adored it. While it is second in The Brothers Sinister series, you don’t need to have read the first book to enjoy this one.
Go pick it up. Now. It is worth every penny you will spend and then some.