This novella is the final entry in the “Brothers Sinister” series, which makes me sad. It features…gasp…an interracial couple! Really! In 1882! Readers met Irishman Stephen Shaughnessy, also known as “An Actual Man,” in the previous book, The Suffragette Scandal (reviewed here). His romantic interest is Rose Sweetly, a brilliant mathematician who also happens to be of African descent.
THE PLOT: Rose is a lot more interested in Stephen, her neighbor, than she should be. First, she knows his reputation with women. Second, he’s always joking, and she’s got serious things on her mind, like the distance between planets and caring for her very-pregnant sister. Third, she believes her racial background pretty much prevents her from ever being more to him than a mistress. But Stephen will not be denied a chance with Rose. He manages to set up math lessons with her as his tutor. He buys her a telescope for a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event. And at every step, he’s unselfish as can be. But Rose just can’t take the chance until a life-or-death situation proves whom she can trust most in the world.
MY TWO CENTS: How can you not love Rose? She’s a geek! She’s a genius! And, unfortunately, she’s forced to face the barriers of racism. (As I was reading Rose, I was picturing Freema Agyeman, who played another smart, geeky Brit who also happened to have dark skin.) And while I enjoyed Stephen, Rose was really the star of this story. She wrestles with her own feelings and the dictates of society, all while just wanting to be alone with her slide rule. (That is not a euphemism.) The moments where Rose shines the most are those she shares with her sister, Patricia, whose complicated pregnancy is even more endangered by the racist doctor who’s supposed to be caring for her. The first time the doctor referred to Patricia as “women like her,” I physically flinched. I’m so glad Rose gets to…oh, but wait, that would be a spoiler.
For those interested, no other Brothers Sinister characters show up. There is a mention of Free, but that’s all.
BOTTOM LINE: A really good novella, but I wish this story could have been a full-length novel. I feel like the story itself is stronger than the romance, which, granted, is not necessarily a bad thing. Stephen and Rose’s relationship could have developed so much more, and more gradually, over a longer novel.
TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups. Definitely worth checking out, even if you haven’t read the rest of the series, especially if you appreciate diversity in your reading.
ON SALE DATE: The novella is now available in e-formats.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.