When school started in September, I told myself that now that I had a little bit of free time, I was going to catch up on two things that the Cannonball community had recommended:
1. Watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube.
2. Reading a few books by Courtney Milan. There were simply too many 5-star reviews for me to ignore. This was a bandwagon that I needed to get on!
3. Attempt to read at least one of the Outlander books.
Well, the kids have been in school for 7 weeks now, and I’ve completed action-items 1 (LOVED) and 2 (we’ll see if I can squeeze item 3 in before the madness of the holidays!).
Really, I’m not too sure I need to get into plot details here, as I feel like I’m one of the last humans to have read these books. And because I pretty much read them non-stop from beginning to end, its a bit difficult for me to break down my thoughts by book. So I figured I would try and just provide a giant overview of the series as a whole.
For the few who may be unaware, these books take place over a 50 year time period in Victorian England, starting in 1835 with The Governess Affair, and ending in 1882 with Talk Sweetly To Me.
Honestly, these books are about so much, that it’s nearly impossible to do them justice here. It is quite clear that Milan is a proper historian. Her descriptions of societal class and the era in general were fascinating. Plot lines include everything from interracial marriage, rape, sexual preference, abortion, education, and a woman’s right to vote. But mostly, these books are about the role of women in society during this time period in England, and how some women fought hard to change how their gender was perceived. None of our heroines simply sit home and sew samplers for their living rooms. These are women of action. They are scientists and mathematicians, suffragettes and scholars. They are sisters, daughters, nieces, and wives who would do anything for their families. They are brave and strong, and totally worth reading about.
There were so many little details I loved in these books. Robert, the Duke of Clermont, sitting on the floor and making toast. The Mrs. Larriger adventure series. Puppy cannons. The romance between Emily Fairfield and Anjan Bhattacharya (sigh. why couldn’t these two get their own novella?).
And the larger issues were great, too. What is a woman’s place in society? How is she expected to act and who is she expected to be? What is she allowed to talk about and with whom? Where can she be seen and what is she supposed to wear? How can she possibly know what’s best for herself? She needs a man to make her decisions for her, right?
And there were a few things I didn’t quite love. Like many others, Oliver Marshall wasn’t my favorite. I was constantly annoyed by his pronouncements — to her face! — that while he might love Jane, she was totally unsuitable because of his political aspirations. Blah. And honestly, I really wasn’t crazy about the term “Brothers Sinister,” as these men were so very far from being sinister. I had to laugh when Edward Clark made fun of the little band of brothers for having such a ridiculous name.
My favorite of the books was the sweet novella, A Kiss for Midwinter. I’m a sucker for any story about Christmas. I loved the fact that Jonas knew all of Lydia’s secrets, and that her strength made him love her even more. I loved the honest relationship she had with her father, and the way he doted on her. I loved Jonas’ awkward sense of humor, even though Lydia didn’t seem to. I loved that this was only a short novella, but that Milan provided us with fully-formed characters and a beautiful story.
My least favorite? Probably The Heiress Effect. As previously noted, Oliver wasn’t my cup of tea. And Jane’s outlandish fashions quickly tired me out. I just never bought into their love affair. It never seemed likely to me. It certainly wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t as great as the rest of the series.
While I”m not quite ready to dive head-first into the romance genre, I’m glad to have read these books and will likely read more by Courtney Milan.