This novella contains all that is good about historical romance. While many focus on the upper class and nobility, The Governess Affair stars a coal miner’s son turned pugilist who is using a frivolous duke’s penchant to gamble as a way to move into the ranks of the wealthy. All his plans threaten to collapse because the same duke can’t keep his hands to himself, which puts Hugo (named Wolf of Clermont for his ruthless ways) in direct opposition to a young woman determined to make Clermont pay for his actions.
Had Hugo been no more than he was painted in the newspapers, Serena might have been in real trouble. Instead, she captivates him with her determination and unnerves him with her fortitude in the face of what he comes to suspect is far from a simple seduction.
The repartee between Serena and Hugo, as well as Hugo and the duke, is lovely, while the letters Serena and Hugo exchange are full of double meanings and attitude. Serena, much like Hugo, is fighting the shadows of her past. She no longer has the option of bending with the weight, though. She has to think not just of herself, but of the baby Clermont set in her belly.
The characters are strong, determined, and delightful. The historical details blend well into the story, and though it stays true to the nature of standing and legal definitions where rape is concerned, Hugo’s reactions are well founded both morally and because of his own background. The duke is equally a product of his position, but where some used their position to good purpose, he is an irresponsible fool, dependent on others to keep his pockets lined and his name out of the papers.
The story is founded on violence, in Serena’s rape and Hugo’s abusive father, but little of this shows on the page. It is appropriately spoken of in sideways references and the worst confrontations are punishing fisticuffs.
True to the genre, the story ends with a marriage…or does it? Nothing quite so simple faces these two, though the special license is procured and their bond legalized. When they consummate their marriage, it is onscreen and detailed, but necessary as it shows Hugo’s true character as he gradually banishes her one experience, overlaying it with a wonderful one.
You may have the impression I greatly enjoyed the read, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Between the dialogue, the characters, and the story chosen, Courtney Milan had me hooked. Despite this being a novella rather than a full-length work, she even manages to play with perceptions in the relationship Serena has with her sister as well as a glimpse into their child’s future that is a beautiful thing. This epilogue changes a young gentleman’s view of himself and everything he’s known. She’s won another reader with this strong tale and snappy dialogue.