In the last decade, Courtney Milan has written almost thirty romance novels and novellas that are equal parts smart and swoonworthy smart. With a mixture of traditionally and self-published stories, Milan is becoming a romance writing powerhouse, along with being a powerful advocate for diversity and accountability within the genre. She’s primarily written historical romances, but has a few contemporary romances in her backlist as well.
In her stories, Courtney Milan often introduces diverse characters and important issues to subvert well-known romance tropes. Her books cover racial prejudice, economic inequality, sexism, mental illness, queer and transgender representation, immigration, and more. They’re also filled with witty banter, sizzling chemistry, and a plethora of gorgeous dress descriptions. Get you a romance that can do both!
If you’ve never read a Courtney Milan romance (or you just want to keep reading through her beautiful backlist), here are a few ideas to get you started:
If you like to start at the beginning of a series and love a wallflower romance try The Duchess War.
This is the first book in Courtney Milan’s most popular series, The Brothers Sinister. This Victorian Era romance is about a woman trying to hide from a scandalous past behind quiet manners and a pair of spectacles. Unfortunately for Miss Minerva Lane’s reputation (and very fortunately for us readers) Robert Blaisdel, the ninth Duke of Clermont doesn’t buy her act. This story has everything you’d want in a romance: sharp back and forth, fake courting, and lots of pro-union sentiment! Both characters must learn to trust their instincts and move beyond their pasts in order to fully experience the love this relationship offers. Sawoon!
If you don’t mind jumping in the middle try The Countess Conspiracy.
The third book in the Brothers Sinister series, introduces the roguish Sebastian Malheur. He is considered the most controversial scientist in Victorian England. He has many published papers under his name about the beginnings of genetic theory and half of England hates him for these revolutionary ideas. But the theories aren’t his. They belong to his best friend, the widowed Countess Violet Waterfield. She’s unable to publish under her own name. And after her traumatic past, Violet enjoys her quiet, respectable life. But Sebastian gets tired of their arrangement and wants to give up publishing her ideas under his name. The only thing he might want more is Violet’s love and affection. However, given her past experiences Violet is reluctant to enter any kind of romantic or sexual relationship again. This is a twisty, slightly angsty friends to lovers romance that I promise will give you all the feels.
If you prefer contemporary and want to read a subversive billionaire romance try Trade Me.
Even though Milan mostly writes historical romance, Trade Me is one of my all-time favorite contemporary/New Adult romances. Tina Chen is a Chinese American scholarship student working hard to pay her bills and trying to live up to her immigrant parents’ expectations. When her billionaire classmate Blake Reynolds makes an insensitive comment in class, she calls him out and argues he has no idea what it’s like to be poor. He suggests trading lives for a semester to find out. She gets his income, his luxurious car and house. In return, he must live in her apartment (an unheated garage), work her hours, and still send money home to her parents. But what starts as a social experiment, turns into a romance. And they both learn they didn’t fully understand each other’s struggles.
FYI the second book in the series Hold Me features Tina’s transgender best friend and roommate Maria is also excellent.
If you like your romance with a side of revenge try Unveiled.
Ash Turner wants revenge on the man who ruined his family and stole his title. He’s ready to take his place as the rightful heir and future duke, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. Lady Margaret hates the man who stole her dowry and ruined her family’s future. She poses as a nurse to spy on the new duke and pass messages back to her brothers. But this is a romance novel so… you can guess what happens next. They obviously fall in love and ignite a passion strong enough to wipe out old grudges.
If you’re intrigued by an older romance heroine and second chance romances try Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure.
When I first read about this novella, I’ll admit I was a little shocked. I’d never heard of a romance quite like this before. The heroine is Mrs. Bertice Martin, a widow in her seventies. She is blessed with financial independence, youthful looks (for her age), and lifetime full of spite to keep her going. Unfortunately, she’s also mourning the loss of her lover and friend, Ellie. And she as a Terrible Nephew, who is always called the Terrible Nephew throughout the book and who will inherit all of Mrs. Martin’s fortune when she dies. When she meets the nephew’s recently swindled landlady, sixty-nine-year-old Violetta Beauchamps, the two decide to get their revenge on the Terrible Nephew and fall in love during the process.