Trashy Read 2012 #3: The Governess Affair, by Courtney Milan
I read a couple Courtney Milan books back in January, and I loved them. So when I heard she just released a new novella that's meant as an appetizer for a trio of novels out later this year, I jumped on a chance to read it. I downloaded The Governess Affair and read it within a matter of hours. I flippin' loved this little story.
Serena is a former governess who was raped by the horrible Duke of Clermont. Now pregnant and broke, she sits outside his house everyday, hoping to force him into providing a life for her child. The Duke sends his right-hand man, Hugo Marshall, to deal with Serena. Hugo has fought (literally, at times) for everything he has, and he will do whatever it takes to make the Duke happy enough to keep making money off of him until he can start his own business. But he finds he cannot "deal" with Serena as well as he would like, especially once he realizes what has happened to her. Instead, the two of the fall for each other, etc.
I loved the two protagonists, even if the novella form doesn't allow them enough room to be fully fleshed out. Serena is determined by not stupidly so, and Hugo tries really hard to tough out any soft spots he fears he might have, a well-worn romance trope that I adore. Their relationship feels organic, despite happening in only a third of the space of a normal romance novel. Milan is a very good writer (she's second only to Loretta Chase as being my favorite historical romance writer), and she knows that humor and pathos must be balanced out just right in order to create a winning story. Also, she writes some of the more original sex scenes I've seen in romance - not dirtier, just better-told. The foreplay scene in this one is so sweet and charming that for once I actually did more than just skim it, which is really rare.
So yeah. I loved The Governess Affair. A lot. You can bet your sweet bottom that Milan's next book, a continuation of this series, will be on my Kindle the day it comes out. And in the meantime, I'll be catching up with some of her back catalog.