The Brothers Sinister Series: A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan

A Kiss for Midwinter is one of my all-time favourite romances. It’s in my top five.

I read romance novels for the banter, and, indeed, the romance, but writing emotion genuinely and sincerely is very difficult. A Kiss for Midwinter contains one heart-stoppingly romantic moment and such moments are rare. Julie Anne Long almostalmost managed one in her last book , but of the scores of novels I’ve read, I would say there have been maybe 8 times when I was actually overwhelmed by the sincerely romantic nature of what was happening. Not crying mind you, but gasping and covering my mouth, and doing that hand fanning gesture while I took a moment. This was that.

A Kiss for Midwinter is a novella in Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series. The collection includes two novellas, this one and The Governess Affair, and a full length novel, The Duchess War, so far. I have read and will read everything in the series, and anything else Milan publishes. She is the best writer in the business. Tessa Dare is a lot of fun, Julie Anne Long gives great smolder and is wonderfully funny, but Courtney Milan is an artist. She’s funny, romantic, realistic, and heartbreaking, plus this book has a Spinal Tap reference in the first chapter. Her heroes are exclusively protectors, perhaps slightly forbidding (I’m looking at you, Smite), and possess fierce honesty. They demand the same honesty of their partners which allows the women freedom from Victorian society’s double-standards and strictures.

Lydia Charingford is the best friend of The Duchess War’s Minnie and this story picks up where that happy ending left off. Set in 1860s Leicester, Lydia has recently broken her engagement and is at a loose end. She and Dr. Jonas Grantham volunteer with a group that provides support to the local poor, the same group which populates his practice. Jonas has been in love with Lydia for over a year, but his brusque, brutally frank manner overwhelms her, and, more importantly, makes her feel seen through into places where she does not wish to look. With a terrible sense of humour and a bleak world view, Jonas sets out to court the vivacious Lydia by daring her to accompany him on three house calls and not be demoralized. His prize, should he “win”, is a kiss. If she wins, he must never speak to her again.

Having a wager involving a doctor working in the slums allows Milan to write about parts of the world usually seen only in passing in novels built around cultural necrophilia. The story is well-researched and the quality of it, and the writing, lift her books out of the genre. Not that there is anything wrong with the genre, but when I read Milan it can feel like I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out: A perfectly enjoyable piece of escapist reading suddenly feels like a “proper” book. I don’t know how to say that without insulting the genre, other than to clarify: There are things one looks to these books for and glimpses of workaday reality are not among them, but Milan folds everything in so well, the reading experience becomes more, and with every book she’s getting even better.

A complete summary of Courtney Milan’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

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3 thoughts on “The Brothers Sinister Series: A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan

  1. Malin December 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm Reply

    It was so good! I absolutely adored it. I possibly adored it more than Unraveled, and that’s saying something. I’m now suffering a massive book hangover, and so upset that it’s going to be months until the next one comes out.

    • Prolixity Julien December 18, 2012 at 7:16 pm Reply

      I think it was her best yet and that is saying something. She is amazing at forbidding men. Dear god, I nigh on swooned at one point.

      I might post a bunch of reviews to wrap up my “year of romance”, not because I’m going to stop reading it, but because I’ll have to start with a fresh list in a couple of weeks. I still haven’t given Kleypas her due. I’ve already started a review of a Mary Balogh and I’m going to stick to 3 simple paragraphs if it kills me.

      > Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2012 00:04:27 +0000 > To: >

  2. […] had promised myself a reread of A Kiss for Midwinter this Christmas. It is Mrs. Julien’s favorite novella, possibly of all time, and one that I really enjoyed, but always felt like I was missing something. I think I’m still […]

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