I am aware Courtney Milan's The Countess Conspiracy has been heavily reviewed. It's at the top of everyone's list for Best Book of 2013. (Save yourself some time, it's good and you should buy it.) Unlike most I had some issues with The Countess Conspiracy that kept me from declaring this her best book ever, ever, ever. It's a good book, it's one of her better books, but did I cry? Not even a sniffle. Every superlative I've ladled over Milan stands and is justified by The Countess Conspiracy. Long may she swim in the butter boat of my adoration. Here's the thing, I didn't want Violet and Sebastian together.
From the prior books in the series it seemed likely they would be together, and for the very reasons that unfolded. Certainly the Violet and Sebastian of this book were perfectly suited and should be together. Absolutely. But what if Violet truly didn't want him? What if Violet deeply treasured his friendship but just wasn't that into him? That was my Violet. I'd toyed with her being interested in Free. I'd toyed with her being truly asexual. I'd considered any number of paths for Violet to walk that I had to abandon to appreciate the path Milan's Violet was on, a path my Violet had already rejected. The real Violet is totally into Sebastian and she absolutely should be. He's divine. I adored the way he had to slowly realize that he was actually just as clever as people thought, despite feeling like a fraud. I applauded the way their lifelong friendship allowed them to see each other's family clearly while giving the wisdom to hold silent. Their miscommunications were appropriate. The relationships with their friends and family was as richly detailed and considered as their relationship with each other. This was a wonderful look at a woman recovering from low expectations and a man from high. Everything about this book is what I want when I want to read a romance.
Which brings us to the close. I've been having a lot of trouble with the final act of romance books lately. Part of it is them, part of it is me. I feel, while reading, as though the end is not something I've arrived at slowly and naturally. Instead a sudden burst of speed occurs as we near the finish. Plot threads start flying, knots are tied, speeches are hastily assembled, and everything is As It Should Be when our couple embraces on the final page. I feel all askew. I wanted to look out the window a bit longer, I don't understand why we had such a rush and bother. I've become a romance dowager, always too hot or too cold and rarely just right.
At the end of The Countess Conspiracy it's Violet rushing about. I can see her rapid embrace of a newly perceived future but it's all just too easy. Everyone listens to her because she's Violet and the book is ending. I don't want to reveal all the steps to the finish line, if I had my way you'd read the book knowing nothing at all about it when it begins. While Violet deserves her happy ending, this ending was too incandescent for me. There's only one dim spot on her horizon and it's a smudge she can fairly easily live with. Please ignore my curmudgeonly ways and enjoy The Countess Conspiracy for the multitudes of things it gets right. Milan is my favorite author in the field.
* This review originally appeared at Love In The Margins.