Nobody knows who Miss Rose Sweetly is, and she prefers it that way. She’s a shy, mathematically-minded shopkeeper’s daughter who dreams of the stars. Women like her only ever come to attention through scandal. She’ll take obscurity, thank you very much.
All of England knows who Stephen Shaughnessy is. He’s an infamous advice columnist and a known rake. When he moves into the house next door to Rose, she discovers that he’s also wickedly funny, devilishly flirtatious, and heart-stoppingly handsome. But when he takes an interest in her mathematical work, she realizes that Mr. Shaughnessy isn’t just a scandal waiting to happen. He’s waiting to happen to her…and if she’s not careful, she’ll give in to certain ruination.
This is a short and sweet (sorry!) coda to Ms Milan’s superb Brothers Sinister series which features the rakishly charming Stephen Shaughnessy, one of the secondary characters from The Suffragette Scandal and author of the controversial Ask A Man column in the Women’s Free Press.
As with all the books in the series, the novella packs a serious political message in amongst the wonderful writing and the love story. Here, we have an Irishman with feminist sympathies and a young Black woman who happens to be a mathematical genius, and Ms Milan doesn’t make light of the sort of problems and the prejudice they encounter individually and are likely to encounter as a couple in England in 1888.
It’s a quick read and I enjoyed it, but it lacked the romantic and character development that I’ve become accustomed to finding in all Ms Milan’s work – not just in her full-length novels. Stephen and Rose Sweetly are already enamoured of each other at the beginning of the story, though neither is aware of it, and the story is more to do with Rose needing to allow herself to believe in Stephen’s love for her and then to decide to face – rather than hide from – the challenges that will befall them.
That said though, there is a thorough tenderness permeating the story, and Rose and Stephen are likeable characters who make a great couple.
I’m really sorry to see the Brothers Sinister series come to an end, but I’m delighted to have this set of fabulous stories to go back to time and again.