16 August, 2013

Review: The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan

My abiding love for Courtney Milan books is well documented. You should know that I have neither objectivity nor credibility on this subject. (Which means you should totally read every Courtney Milan review I ever write because the breakup is going to an epic bit of room clearing.) ANYWAY. The Heiress Effect. The book she didn't really want to write. Ok, that's probably not true. I'm fairly sure CM wanted to write The Heiress Effect as much as she's wanted to write any of her books in the Brothers Sinister series since she's self publishing and therefore not beholden to contracts, Everything about The Heiress Effect indicates an author wanting to push the edges of the genre out just a bit farther and squeeze more interesting people in the box. Our core couple, Oliver and Jane, are a fairly typical lead. Oliver is of noble blood but moderate birth. He's the stuck between two worlds kind of guy busy figuring out what price is too high to pay for his ambitions. I liked him fine. Jane is desperate to protect her family but constrained by limited legal rights. They should just kiss and get married already so we can move on to the secondary romance.

 Ok. FINE, That's not fair. Oliver and Jane do not suck even a little bit. Jane is a woman of outlandish attire and complete social failure. Oliver is a man of painful exactitude. In each other they recognize kindred spirits, people constrained by the demands of their lives to wear social masks. I loved them, they rock. Jane gets extra points for refusing to take a man willing to accept her when an outsider would claim that's the best she can get. Oliver and Jane, super awesome. But wow, the secondary romance. I need to not spoil it but I need to tell you everything about it in extreme detail. There is a minority character who clearly sees the limits racism put on his career and daily life. There is a disabled character who refuses to accept the limitations others confer on her because of her medical constraints. These crazy kids meet and save themselves. Push a couch under me because I'm swooning.

But wait! You also get the voting rights movement, same sex attracted characters who are neither saints nor sinners, class turmoil and complicated family dynamics. Now how much would you read this? (If Oliver's sister doesn't bat for the home team and hook up with Obvious Childhood Friend I will be so sad. I'm pretty sure Obvious Childhood Friend is actually going to hook up with Jane's Friend instead, though. Wait! What if Jane's Friend and Oliver's Sister are... yes kids, I'm shipping the secondaries.) I'd love to give The Heiress Effect an unqualified endorsement but I can't. The side story of Anjan and Emily is so strong that it occasionally overpowers Oliver and Jane. I don't want to leave Emily to find out what Jane is doing, although when I do Jane is perfectly interesting in her own right. My other caveat is a scene where Emily stands up for proper pronunciation that makes sense from a class and ethnicity perspective but was an eye roller from a reader perspective. I also feel completely unqualified to judge Anjan's family dynamics or Emily's understanding of them. Is she correct? Is this stereotypical? I have no idea. Let me know after you read it.

* This review was originally posted at Love In The Margins.

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