So I finally got around to reading Courtney Milan’s The Heiress Effect and I did so love it.
Miss Jane Fairfield is an heiress with a 100,000 pounds to her name—an inconvenience in light of the fact that Jane has no wish to marry, especially till her younger sister reaches an age where she can be free of her guardian. And so Jane transforms herself into an heiress who can beat people to death with feathers. To know precisely what I mean, help yourself to the book—I assure you it’s enjoyable.
For the purposes of this discussion suffice it to know that Jane’s a social pariah, tolerated only because of all those pounds (and also because people love to have a common target to snigger at and feel superior to I think). And so cleverly and deliberately Jane saves herself from the clutches of fortune hunting husbands.
Enter Oliver Marshall, the bastard son of a duke with definite identity issues and someone who is definitely not completely at ease straddling the world he grew up in and the world he has to court in order to further his political ambitions. He crosses Miss Jane’s path in furtherance of those political ambitions—namely, when the “villain” of the story dangles his political clout in front of Oliver as a way to further Oliver’s cause if Oliver agrees to publicly humiliate Miss Jane.
Notice the quotes around “villain?” That’s because Miss Milan does a lot of interesting things with her story. Not the least of which is that the villain is well not really villainous in the sense that you can see his viewpoint and where he’s coming from and that of course makes one feel a little teeny weeny bit charitable towards him, you know?
Speaking of not-so-villanious-villains, if not direct subversions then definitely “interesting things” are being done in this story: the heroine has a 37-inched waist. Her fashion sensibilities are most definitely not in in accord with the rest of the world. Garish might be a word one might use to describe her. So does she change herself in the course of the story to a more admirable and likable fashionista? No sir! Granted she does have a few qualms about the whole issue (which I think are normal and make the story that much more believable) but our girl refuses to change herself even when it becomes a contentious issue between our hero and her.
Gutsy, Miss Jane is. And clearly self-aware as well. She knows that acceding to change her dressing sense while having its advantages is really a recipe for disaster—she would come to hate both herself and the sensible Oliver in a very short period of time.
Then there’s the matter of Free, Oliver’s sister and Freddy, Oliver’s aunt, two intriguing side characters. Free is all set to conquer the grounds of Cambridge and when Oliver talking about how hard it was for him and is afraid at how much harder things are going to be for her says—
Going to Cambridge will not be a thing you do, followed by another thing and another thing. Going to Cambridge will define who you are forever after. For the rest of your life, you’ll be The Girl Who Went to Cambridge.
Someone will have to be The Girl Who Went . . . Why shouldn’t it be me? And don’t worry; I have no intention that getting a college degree will be the last of the dreadful things I do. I’d rather be the Girl Who Did instead of the Girl Who Didn’t.
I am so looking forward to Free’s story.
As for Freddy—there’s a really poignant revelation about her at the end. I like to think that despite being confined to that one room (she had an extreme phobia of crowds and rarely ventured out of her single room house) she was perhaps happy in her own way. And though she dies, I would love to know her backstory as well. Are you listening Miss Milan?
As Oliver struggles between “the right choice that is easy” and “the unethical answer [that] is too tempting” there’s a subplot with Jane’s sister at its forefront. I liked how Miss Milan wrote Emily, the sister. Usually such secondary characters are featherbrains, beautiful but empty-headed; however, that’s not the case here. In this storyline as well the heroine rescues herself—quite literally actually.
I like that the hero was almost a second fiddle of sorts and that the heroine came off as having more brains and gumption. That is not to say that the pairing didn’t work for me or that I think it won’t be a marriage of equals. It’s just that so much of our world (from 1800s to now) normally portrays the guy as having the more of everything that this book was a refreshing change. It worked resoundingly well for me.
And the tiny glimpse of Sebastian and Violet that we get to see? Yes, I know that I am being set-up for a sequel and I can’t wait for it to be released!
In conclusion, if you’re any sort of romance reader at all, do yourself a favour and get Miss Milan’s The Heiress Effect.