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Brothers Sinister #4.5

Talk Sweetly to Me

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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.

109 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 18, 2014

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About the author

Courtney Milan

69 books5,247 followers
Courtney Milan writes books about carriages, corsets, and smartwatches. Her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. She is a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller.

Courtney pens a weekly newsletter about tea, books, and basically anything and everything else. Sign up for it here: https://bit.ly/CourtneysTea

Before she started writing romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.

Courtney is represented by Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 612 reviews
Profile Image for Kate.
550 reviews48 followers
August 20, 2014
WARNING: This review is nitpicky, cantankerous, and possibly even querulous. Proceed at your own risk.

I had high hopes for Talk Sweetly To Me, but today they were dashed--dashed I say--against the unforgiving shores of reality. Here in no particular order I present my grievances:

1. Sloppy editing. Stephen's name is--have you guessed it?--Stephen, yet at one point the author refers to him as Patrick. At another point Rose marvels "You've mounted an entire theodolite telescope mounted in the window." But Rose, tell us--is it mounted?!

2. The cover. Rose Sweetly is a black woman. Why has she been white-washed for the cover? Someone casually browsing Amazon would have no idea on seeing that picture that it's meant to depict a heroine of color, and that is a disappointment.

3. The plot. Originally there was going to be a Shop-Around-the-Corner style plot with Rose and Stephen corresponding and simultaneously falling in love, which I was very much looking forward to, and which apparently got edited out. What's left is pretty flimsy, sadly. Their love felt too instant for me, and honestly, I'm not convinced Stephen is smart enough for Rose.

4. Finally--I think it's really great and exciting that CM has written a historical romance with a person of color as a lead character, and I hope that this novella is successful and inspires other romance authors to write non-white heroes and heroines. With that being said, I could've done with a couple fewer references to Rose's dark (and "frizzy," agh) hair, dark eyes, dark skin. I don't feel that I have a good picture of what Rose looks like, other than dark, because that's CM's go-to adjective for her. It comes across almost as if CM is periodically reminding us that Rose is not caucasian.

Official nitpicker's grade

May 25, 2017

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Rose Sweetly is a brilliant, scientific mind whose efforts go mostly unrecognized because she is a) a woman and b) black. Most people roll their eyes a little once she starts to talk "Sweetly" (a.k.a. go on a major geeky bender), but not Stephen Shaughnessy.

Stephen is the columnist (Actual Man) for women who want to ask men questions and have an "actual man" respond. He's also a bit of a rogue and a rake, though not a rapacious one. The fact that he's so charming and so forbidden causes Rose no shortage of concern - especially now that he seems to have taken it upon himself to court her in a bizarre fashion: by soliciting her for mathematical tutoring.

It was so great to see a nerdy heroine who actually walked the walk. Rose is such a nerd. The nerdy jokes and scientific banter in TALK SWEETLY TO ME were great. I could relate so hard to being interested in something that makes most people roll their eyes and say, "Oh, there she goes again." (In my case, it's books.) Milan hit the nail on the head there.

Like all of Milan's heroes that I've encountered so far, Stephen is a delightful beta hero. Very sweet and attentive, despite an active sexual history. There are only one or two sexual encounters between them, and they were well written, albeit abridged and a little tepid. Stephen was a little bland for my liking...I think I liked Robert in THE DUCHESS WAR more because we got more time to explore his character, and he had a moody backstory and a bit of an edge, which is always exciting in a hero. Still, nobody writes beta heroes like Milan. I didn't even think that I liked them until I read Milan.

That said, TALK SWEETLY TO ME is probably my least favorite Milan book I read. HER EVERY WISH, a novella in her Worth series, does a much better job of giving backstory and providing steam in a short amount of time. But don't be alarmed: saying that this is my least favorite Milan book is a little bit like saying, "This is my least favorite glitter." Glitter is always going to be sparkly and fun, so even if it's your least favorite glitter, the fact that it is glitter means that, by nature, it's always going to be at least somewhat amazing. (By the way, for some interesting images, do a Google search of "ugly glitter.")

I enjoyed reading TALK SWEETLY TO ME. I'm not sure I'd read it again, but it was a charming bit of fluff that brightened my day with its sparkle and its charm. What more can you ask of glitter?

3 stars!
Profile Image for UniquelyMoi ~ BlithelyBookish.
1,166 reviews1,634 followers
November 14, 2015
Without fail, Courtney Milan gives me stories I can get lost in and amazing characters I can fall in love with! Talk Sweetly to Me is a charming, romantic, passionate tale of two people who could be poster children for 'opposites attract.'

A full review may come later, but the bottom line is that historical romance fans will love Ms. Milan's writing, and those who are not fans of the genre should give her a try anyway - and prepare to be wow'd!
Profile Image for Ingie.
1,356 reviews168 followers
April 2, 2016
Written December 28, 2014

3.8 Stars - Charming with several important topics

Book #4.5

This was the last part in the amazing well done Brother Sinister series. A quite short novella (3:50 hrs) I buddyread (me listening...she reading) together with my 'Milan'-friend Sofia.

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A lot of happy roses...
A worthy conclusion to a fantastic HR series. So very well done and romantic as ever.
“I’m merely making you comfortable with the notion of failure,” she told him, looking down. “When it comes to me, you should expect to fail. Often.”
He set his chin on his hands. “I’d rather fail at you than succeed at anyone else.”

Highly recommended audiobooks, too. ~ Narrated as always by Rosalyn Landor in a remarkable —like outstanding— good way.


Greenwich 1882
‘The nearby docks brought visitors from around the world: lascars from India, midshipmen from the West Indies, swarthy sailors from Portugal…and yes, a goodly number of Irish toiling on ships and in warehouses.’

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This is the sweet love tale about Miss Rose Sweetly, a shy, mathematically-minded, of African descent, shopkeeper’s daughter. Her love to soon be is her, or actually her pregnant married sisters, new neighbor Stephen Shaughnessy. An infamous advice columnist and a man well known as a women's rake.
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“Your computer?” Stephen asked with studied nonchalance. This was what he’d hoped for, after all. “What’s that?”
“Precisely what it sounds like: a person who computes. Absolutely necessary for those of us engaged in any sort of dynamics. All those calculations come to a dreadful mess; if I had to do them all myself, I’d have no time to think of anything. And yes, my computer is a woman.”

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

So Rose get the assignment to try to teach this writer Stephen some little basic about math (with a protective lady chaperon of course..) and Rose's favorite subject astronomy.

Then soon is that very unique day December 6, 1882 when the Planet Venus will intervene between Earth and the sun. Obviously our heroine Rose dreams of seeing this in a space telescope, but this wasn't the time when young (black) women's desires were satisfied in the first place. (An 1882 photo:)
...If there wasn't gentleman-like romances princes course.


The seventh part in the Brother Sinister series by Courtney Milan. Amazing good...

“Having you watch me calculate is like…” He paused, searching for an appropriate analogy. “It’s like having Beethoven attend a child’s first recital on the pianoforte.”
She gave a little snort behind him. “I shouldn’t think so. There are a few salient differences.”
“True. Beethoven isn’t female. Beethoven isn’t lovely. You’re far more disconcerting.”

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I'm just a huge 'Milan' fan...
This was entertaining and as always in Ms. Milan's romances filled with important political (women's rights) messages. In this part som diversity with a dark skinned heroine as well. ~ A shrewd, smart, clever and very intelligent heroine and a charming good-hearted hero. Yeah!! I enjoyed and it is with sadness that I listened to the last page of this wonderful HR series.
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There will undoubtedly be many more book selections from me by this author. Absolutely! ~ Courtney Milan historicals always catches my attention and makes me love these unique characters.

description Farewell!!

I LIKE - as I said; a worthy last novella - thanks!

The Brother Sinister series by Courtney Milan. Four novels and three novellas.
Profile Image for KatLynne.
547 reviews564 followers
August 26, 2014
Milan’s ingenious recipe for a charming, short read...

An African American woman – the very clever and gifted Rose Sweetly...
A scrumptiously delicious Irish, Catholic male... Mr. Stephen Shaughnessy...

Toss in...

Mathematics, astronomy, humor, seduction, and a few surprises along the way....

And, of course, the main ingredient...

The very talented pen of Courtney Milan...

The Results...

An appealing, engaging love story featuring two very lovable characters resulting in a sweet, fun romance.
Profile Image for Nakeesha.
351 reviews9 followers
August 22, 2014
Romance novels are an escape for me. I turn the news off. Tune out the kitchen table talk of girlfriends. Bow out of the supper club nights of my social circle. I plug in my earbuds on the commuter bus, shut the bedroom door to the kids, hideaway from all of the troubles of the world and get lost in books. That's what romance novels are for in my world.

Like many women of color romance readers, I've lamented that there are too few historical romance novels featuring non-white women. Its kind of obvious why isn't it? At least for me it is. I run from social and racial issues and dive into romance books to escape. I learned in The Heiress Effect that Courtney Milan will not always let me run and hide when she introduced an Indian hero to her Englishwoman heroine. If she's not tackling race, she's tackling class like in Proof by Seduction. If not class, then gender like in The Suffragette Scandal. In Talk Sweetly to Me Milan multiplies all these issues together when she boldly introduces a middle class heroine of African descent to a radically heroic Englishman.

This book did not do its job. It did not allow me to escape social, gender, and racial pressures. It put them front and center in my face right alongside the love story. I couldn't escape. Milan was subtle in showing the indignities faced by her heroine, heavy-handed in making you feel the prejudices deep in your gut, and perfectly paced in bringing the star-crossed lovers to an HEA. It broke me wide open because my heart pounded at the love story and my head raged against the obstacles which still exist today. Milan brought all these issues into my happy place and she made me cry. And now all I want to do is buy a plane ticket to Ireland to find me an Actual Man.

ARC provided by Netgalley
Profile Image for Caz.
2,757 reviews1,033 followers
August 20, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Starr (AKA Starrfish) Rivers.
969 reviews290 followers
December 25, 2018
I seem to like the novellas a lot better than the full-length novels in this series. This was a great book!

I like how CM finds unique (very smart, or damaged or brave) characters and bring them to life.

Rose Sweetly is an black woman who is also a genius mathematician. Stephen Shanghessy is a white Irish Catholic man and a genius with the written word, I suppose, since he's a writer for a woman's newspaper column and a successful novelist.

They are both in their early twenties to boot.

Stephen is one of those lady-killers that I just can't hate. The way he romances Rose is just so sweet and devoted. I like how she puts him in his place but when he's proven his devotion, she's devoted right back.

Highly recommend!
Profile Image for WhiskeyintheJar.
1,317 reviews539 followers
December 28, 2014
3.5 stars

Courtney Milan could make a priest reading the phonebook to a nun sound like sexual banter....or something like that. You know what I mean, Milan knows how to use words between couples. Was too short, I'm aware it's a novella but I'm a greedy obsessed fan.

When does the next Milan book come out?
263 reviews41 followers
August 22, 2014

This was just as fun, heartwarming and sweet as I imagined it would be. I mean it's inevitable when you pair a heroine who is so unashamedly a maths geek (to those who care to listen to her anyway) who has to live in a world that is, at best, indifferent to her as a black female mathematician, with a hero whose devil-may-care rakish sardonicism hides a world of hurt and a yearning for love buried so deep even he can't recognise it anymore.

I loved Stephen well before TSTM, because, really, who could have read his columns and not fallen head over heels for his acerbic wit?! But I truly didn't anticipate how much I'd love Rose and her brilliant way of putting people in their place using math :) I love all the fun she had messing with Stephen just because he had the audacity to corner her at her workplace. I also loved that Stephen clearly couldn't get enough of her even when he couldn't admit the extent of his feelings to himself. And his Grand Gesture was sweet as hell too! What was even sweeter was all of Rose's inner monologue acknowledging all his potent charm but sticking to her guns nonetheless; I loved that the unfortunate reality of her life and her childhood made her necessarily wary of letting people in, but that it didn't take her very much to realize that Stephen could be counted on to not let her down-if he couldn't help her solve any problem she might need help solving, he sure as hell would be by her side to face it with her and with a joke or two to hand :)

I just had the most sappy grin on my face the whole time :) Rose went through life undaunted by all her very grim struggles to be given equal consideration and respect regardless of the stigma attached to her race and gender, and did exactly what she wanted to do and did it amazingly well. And Stephen, just like Edward in TSS, wasn't there to take over her life, but to make easier what parts of it he could, so she could be exactly who she was with his love and support.

Courtney Milan has delivered another amazing story here. None of her stories are cookie-cutter by any stretch of the imagination, and once more she has so effectively conveyed an extremely relevant issue here-the rampant racism and sexism evident in Victorian London and the struggles women were going through to be considered equal to men not just as human beings but professionally as well. I wish we could have revisited all the Brothers Sinister again but to be honest we did get to say goodbye to them in TSS so I'm not overly disappointed. I do know that Rose will have absolutely no problem fitting in with Minnie, Lydia, Jane, Violet and Free, and the rest of the men too :)

A lovely and fitting end to the Brothers Sinister (*sniff*), and man am I going to miss these truly spectacular characters. I know CM says this series was groundbreaking for her because it helped her give up her day job and truly put her on the romance map, etc. but I can't begin to convey how groundbreaking it has been for me as a romance reader. Let me just say that in a world that overwhelmingly focuses on spectacular heroes, this series was the first on in my romance reading history where I waited eagerly for, and was rewarded with, spectacular heroine after spectacular heroine. Yes, the men were amazing, but it was the heroines' stories being told, and told so brilliantly. For so long the 'fantasy' in reading romance has been imagining the kind of hero you want to end up with; CM was the first author who showed me that the true 'fantasy' was, and should be, imagining the kind of heroine I want to be!

So thank you Courtney, and I will be eagerly waiting for your next series :)

Three Courtney Milan releases in a year. Only GIFs can truly encapsulate my squee-y joy now :)

We get this in 4 weeks? And then we start the Worth saga by the end of this year?!?!?! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKK. It's almost too much to have hoped for after the utter brilliance of The Suffragette Scandal, but hell, if Courtney Milan wants to spoil us, who am I to complain? :D

The excerpt was delicious, and I am totally intrigued by Rose and I am totally relishing getting to see more of Stephen! But mostly Rose, because she is the first black h I'm reading in HR. And she sounds amazing! But I'm so glad we finally get to read a non-whitewashed version of historical Britain. And there's no one I trust to get it brilliantly right like I trust Courtney Milan. And while I'm guessing the Worth saga will be unconnected to the Brothers Sinister (or at best loosely connected), I like that the POC representation in this one will feel like a tie-in/lead-in of sorts to the Worth saga.

Also, all of y'all that enjoyed Stephen Shaughnessy's awe-inspiringly hilarious brand of acerbic and bitingly sarcastic wit should go check out "his" Tumblr where he answers more questions in his "Ask A Man" columns :) Yes, it's even better than you're imagining :D

Profile Image for Steelwhisper.
Author 5 books403 followers
August 31, 2014
I need to sleep over this. Review to come!

I normally like Milan's books, they vary from 3 to 4* for me usually--mainly because she writes genuinely strong heroines who tend to be at least still partially true to their era. And she tends to have heroes who aren't outright dicks or completely bland apart from their looks, titles and riches. So far I took the slight preachiness and the usually very atypical sex in stride, a minor price to pay for something somewhat different than the mainstream.

This time it was a bit too much. Too much of everything. And herewith under spoilers (you were warned, don't open unless you want to be spoilered).

So, this book simply contained way too many modernisms and not enough realism for me to like it. It was, of course, still well-written (with a few SPaG issues), and I liked the MCs, so I rounded down from around 2.5*.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,198 reviews3,671 followers
June 30, 2020
Short and certainly sweet, Talk Sweetly to Me is a historical romance novella following Rose Sweetly, a quiet yet brilliant Black young woman with an interest in mathematics and astronomy and Stephen Shaughnessy a notorious Irish-Catholic rake with a heart of gold who can't get enough of her. He woos her with a telescope for viewing a celestial phenomenon and they both make wonderfully bad mathematical jokes. It's very cute.

But this also addresses the fact that Black women often receive lower-quality medical care, especially when giving birth, and their descriptions of pain are often disbelieved because of beliefs that Black people are somehow stronger or more tolerant of pain. Rose's sister is pregnant while her husband is away and when she goes into labor early, the doctor doesn't believe her.

As always, Courtney Milan delivers a well-crafted romance along with substantive themes, this time in bite-size.
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
789 reviews165 followers
August 20, 2014
Talk Sweetly to Me is the last Brothers Sinister addition, and this little novella was a lovely finale to the collection. Readers were introduced to Stephen Shaughnessy in The Suffragette Scandal , as the “Actual Man” that offers advice in Frederica Marshall’s newspaper. In Talk Sweetly to Me, Stephen has met his match with Miss Rose Sweetly, an extraordinary mathematical genius, who is quite opposite to Stephen’s carefree attitude.

Rose, like the all of the women featured in the Brothers Sinister series has a hard lot because of her sex. Rose is smart, but there are limitations imposed on her because she is a woman. Unlike the other heroines of the series, Rose has the added complication of also being black, which is more than difficult in 1882. Rose may be smart and reserved, but by virtue of the colour of her skin, Rose is immediately considered less. And no one explains the way society works more succinctly than Rose’s sister, Patricia:

“I love you, Rose.” Patricia sighed. “And I know you’ll make a good marriage, one as brilliant as mine. But you have to remember that most men who look at you won’t be seeing you. They won’t see you’re clever and amusing.” Her sister came forward and took Rose’s hand in her own. “They’ll see this.” She rubbed the back of Rose’s hand. Dark skin pressed against dark skin. “It doesn’t matter how respectably you dress or how much you insist. Most men will see that you’re black and they’ll think you’re available.” (p.11)

Patricia is concerned about Rose’s interactions with Stephen and worried that he might take adventure of Rose. Stephen has a bit of a rakish reputation and its understandable that Patricia is concerned for Rose. Luckily, Stephen does not have nefarious designs on Rose and is actually quite smitten with her, and even goes so far as to invent a reason for mathematical lessons with her to get to know her better. While Stephen doesn't completely understand the hardship that Rose endures because of the colour of her skin, he is intrigued by her reserved nature and bright mind.

Rose is just as smitten with Stephen, but she is more than aware of the difficulties that are ahead for them if there were to pursue a relationship, which make her very cautious in her dealings with him. Rose is not sure if she's willing to go through the future difficulties, and this uncertainty and vulnerability is what made Rose such a wonderful character. Both Rose and Stephen will need to determine whether their relationship is enough to overcome the inevitable difficulties and obstacles that will come their way because of their difference in skin colour.

Talk Sweetly to Me was another great novella by Milan, and I will admit that she is one of my favourite novella writers. The format is short, but Milan is always able to give you a satisfying and realistically developed romance despite the lack of pages. Talk Sweetly to Me was an emotional story, and I really liked that both Rose and Stephen were forced to really consider what they were getting into by pursing a relationship. Just because they care for one another doesn’t mean that they will be happy; Rose has to force Stephen to consider this:

“You told me the awkward difficult bit will only be the beginning,” she said. “But it won’t be. It’ll be difficult in the middle, over and over. It’ll be difficult at the end. It will never stop being difficult, and the only reason that you don’t know that is that you haven’t considered the possibility. At some point, Stephen, you’ll realize this is not a joking matter.” (p. 66)

I love that these considerations were included. So often in romance all obstacles are easily surmounted, and that’s great, I do love that aspect where anything can be overcome in a romance, but it’s also nice to read something and know that the characters really have thought about the consequences of their relationship and have made the decision to move ahead (or not) accordingly. For such a short book, I really do feel that readers are treated to a considered and realistically paced romance between Rose and Stephen. Ultimately, this was another great novella from Courtney Milan and I’m sorry to see the Brothers Sinister series come to an end. I can only hope that the author’s next series will be as thought provoking and unusual as this one has been.

Originally posted on The Book Adventures.

*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Sometime.
1,689 reviews132 followers
May 5, 2019
I liked this novella with a young Black woman who is a mathematical genius, and an Irishman who is a journalist, author and a complete rake. The story highlights prejudice and the difficulties of interracial marriage. I liked the MCs as characters but I couldn't ever warm up to the Hero. He has a "hard earned" reputation with the ladies and he is a charming jokester who got on my nerves. The constant mentions of his sordid (and well documented in the papers as well as his own column) past affairs and the way he could never be serious about anything really turned me off. He's not the kind of Hero that I find attractive. Rose didn't seem to care, in fact she couldn't wait for him to put his "well practiced" hands on her. * gag*

This one just wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Dabney.
455 reviews69 followers
August 18, 2014
Like The Suffragette Scandal, this politics of this novella are almost impossible to separate from its fictional merits. The heroine, Rose Sweetly, is a brilliant black mathematician; the hero Stephen, a feminist Irish Catholic writer. Both are practicing their craft in Victorian London despite the prejudices of the time. Their love story is a rousing cheer for diversity and overcoming the limits of the society in which they live. I liked both Rose and Stephen tremendously.

This is not Ms. Milan's best novella. It's too short to encompass the emotional journey the leads take. I believed that Stephen and Rose fell for each other almost immediately but I didn't feel it. Their connection, like the comet Rose studies, was something I had to take on faith. The villain of the piece was a one note racist--I expect nuance from Ms. Milan because she's so extraordinarily talented--and almost all the secondary characters were too slimly sketched.

I enjoyed this tale though. I wish all those who think romance heroines are busty blondes just waiting for their bodices to be ripped or young administrative assistances pleading for their leather planners to be used against them by bossy billionaires would read Talk Sweetly to Me. The writing is lovely and empowering. The cover is subversively stunning. And, once you've read it, you'll better understand how to measure the path of a comet.
Profile Image for Amber J.
917 reviews65 followers
March 26, 2021
Loved it. Such a sweet quick romance. The characters are so interesting. I've loved this entire series and this is the last book. I'm not as sad as I could be though as I'm excited to read more this author.
Profile Image for Ami.
5,863 reviews497 followers
January 18, 2021
3.5 stars

While I appreciated Courtney Milan to write interracial relationship - and kudos for Rose to bring up the problem that they would be facing to Stephen, who seemed didn't even think about it in the beginning - but I felt that the novella ended up more about the prejudice that Rose's older sister was facing with that a$$hole of a doctor.

Also, I never got that vibe of Stephen being a rake in the previous book; so for him to be described that in this novella felt weird. The story probably needed a full-length novel. I thought their banters were fabulous (even if my eyes glazed over the math description *laugh*) though...
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,789 reviews960 followers
July 28, 2016
I wanted more. That's my big issue with this novella. I wanted more information on Rose's background. I wanted appearances by the other Brothers Sinister. This book didn't feel part of that universe at all. That said, I enjoyed Milan touching about race relations in the 1800s and throwing some mathematical and astronomy our way via the heroine.

Rose Sweetly does her best to keep Stephen Shaughnessy out of her mind. He has a reputation from the articles he writes, and Rose knows her duty is to marry one of the men her family has their eyes on for her. As a black woman she doesn't have the luxury to be flirted with or ruined. I loved the fact that Rose has such an interest in mathematics and astronomy and even though she tries not to, has fallen for Stephen. I found her relationship with her sister interesting and wish we had more details concerning their parents than what we got.

I wasn't a huge fan of Stephen at first. Especially because he's focused on seducing Rose. Then all of a sudden he gains depth and is in love with her (the story really needed to be longer) which did give me whiplash a bit.

We don't get much time to develop secondary characters in this and as I said, I was disappointed with the lack of appearances by the other characters in this book. I thought the doctor was an ass, but didn't really get why the character didn't just switch doctors. I saw the racism thing coming a mile away. It wasn't exactly subtle.

The writing is top notch and there was a flow hiccup towards the end and that was about it.

The ending was okay, but once again I just needed a bit more since the HEA felt a little too pat for me.
Profile Image for Sofia.
1,179 reviews212 followers
January 7, 2015

A nice short, not as fully developed as her longer work or as her The Governess Affair.

What this reminded me most of was me taking my eight year old son to see the transit of Venus across the sun back in 2004 at the telescope set out in Sliema. Nice memories. This story infact recounts the same transit of Venus which happened before the 2004 one that is on 6th Dec 1882. Plus it also opened my eyes about the existence of 'computers'.

More on the transit here.

BR with Ingela

Profile Image for Iliada.
741 reviews195 followers
November 1, 2015
3 reasons for the 3-star rating:

1. This is a novella.
2. The heroine was a bit annoying, especially towards the end, when she kept blaming Stephen for merely wanting to seduce her instead of marrying her, while all along it was her who was afraid to trust him and take the next step.
3. Stephen is too good for words. He deserved a full-length novel of his own.
Profile Image for Lexxi Kitty.
2,013 reviews436 followers
June 18, 2018
Stephen Shaughnessy, who appeared in the prior Brothers Sinister work as someone needing to be saved (though somewhat barely making an appearance in the story), stars in this shorter work. With him in the starring role is Rose Sweetly. I’m fairly certain Rose hasn’t appeared in this series up to now. Both have POV’s.

Stephen, as those who might remember from the prior book, is a newspaper columnist with a column titled ‘Ask a Man’. This story here adds 4 novels to his writing career. To add to his relatively disreputable reputation, gained, I mean, from being ‘the man’ columnist for a women’s newspaper, is the part where he’s Irish, Catholic, and known to be something of a ladies man. The player reputation (aka Rake), is probably the easiest for him to ‘handle’, normally. Irish? Catholic? Writes for a women’s paper? In 1882, London, those three things are negatives.

“My father was a stable master,” he told her. “My mother was a seamstress. I’ve done very well for myself, but don’t imagine that I’m one of those gentlemen who look down on you.”

Stephen meets Rose through the odd little accident of living next to her. About two doors down. Actually, to be exact, he lives two doors down from Patricia, Rose’s pregnant married sister. This is why Rose is there – to ‘take care of’ Patricia while her husband, a Naval Doctor, is on assignment.

Stephen, from the first, is intrigued by Rose. Rose, for her part, is flustered by Stephen. Also, there are certain reasons for not wanting his attention. Which I’ll get to later.

In addition to being a helper for her sister, 20 year old Rose actually has a job, a paying job. She’s a computer. A term I’d first heard when I read that nonfiction book that later became a movie I still haven’t seen (referring here to Hidden Figures). A computer is someone hired to do the mathematical calculations for a scientist. They are the kind who tends to be able to do advanced math in their heads. Rose works as a computer for an astronomer.

Right, so, the reasons why Rose doesn’t really wish to receive Stephen’s attention. Many reasons, like how Stephen has that rake reputation and the like. Mostly, though, there’s the part where Stephen, in addition to being Irish, Catholic, etc. etc., is white. Rose, you see, is not. White. She has dark skin, you see, black skin. As does her sister and her sister’s doctor husband (the author notes at the end make mention of things like this – one of the interesting tidbits, to me, was how, by 1882, ‘Britain had probably trained at least as many black doctors as there were dukes.’ And yet, so many historical fiction romances works seem fixated on matching up people with dukes – and yet I almost never see black doctors in historical romances – almost as in never, except here where the husband of a main character’s sister is one, though he makes only a very brief appearance in this novel).

Right, so – much of the book involves a growing attraction between the two main characters, mixed with Rose’s awareness of her position and what the result might be of a union with Stephen (Black, Irish, Catholic children running around).

I liked the story, for the most part. I liked the characters. Story was kind of short, though.

Rating: 3.77

June 17 2018
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,320 reviews283 followers
January 1, 2019
A cute and funny but unfortunately sightly too shallow and unexplored novella. The modem (though I'm sure they aren't just modern at all)parallels (guessing intentional, but no more in author's note on it) for physicians and those in medicine not taking black women's pain and symptoms seriously is well done.
Profile Image for Talia Hibbert.
Author 31 books29.4k followers
November 26, 2017
This is one of the best romances I've read in a LONG while! It was just... So... Romantic?! There is really no other word for it?! I feel also that this book and the characters and situations within are a great example for anyone thinking about writing historical English romance featuring black women. Because it's something I'm desperate to see and rarely do, probably as most people just don't understand how Black Brits existed throughout history. Also, I absolutely loved the character of Rose, and I found her brilliant mind and astronomical interests fascinating. I could really gush about this book all day. I love Courtney Milan!
Profile Image for Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~.
1,631 reviews112 followers
January 17, 2021
The final story in the Brothers Sinister series centers on Stephen Shaughnessy, who has the barest of connections ever to the core three Brothers Sinister - he writes the "Actual Man" column for Free's newspaper, and Free is Oliver's half-sister. So really, no relation at all. Stephen's a carefree chap, but I didn't get the sense from the last book that he was an unrepentant lady's man. Oh, no, don't get me wrong. He doesn't pursue all those women he sleeps with. They pursue him. So it's okay. *rolls eyes* (Really, he’s a giant goober, lol.)

Here he's paired up with Rose Sweetly, who we've never met previously. She's staying with her pregnant sister, Patricia, whose doctor husband is off on tour with the British army. Rose also works with an astronomer as his computer - this being back when computers were people, mostly women, who did the mathematics for scientists. Rose is indeed sweet, dedicated to her job and astronomy and her sister - and keeping a proper public profile. Because you see, she's black, and that comes with a whole heap of issues when dealing with middle-class life in Victorian England.

There is some effort to detail what sorts of challenges Rose and her sister face, but this is just really too short to delve into them much. Most of it centered around her sister's pregnancy and the raging d-bag of a doctor she has to put up with.

Rose is insistent throughout nearly the whole novella to keep her attraction to Stephen under wraps because she knows how easily and quickly her reputation could be destroyed by mere association with Stephen. Most of her concern seems to be based on Stephen's reputation as a lady's man, with no consideration to her own social and racial issues. It almost seems as if Ms. Milan was unaware of the stereotype about WOC being overly promiscuous and wanton, that Rose would already be fighting against that stigma in her every interactions with men, much less one who is known to be a player. It felt a little superficial.

Anyway, Stephen's a fun guy and Rose is an earnest young woman. We spend more time with Rose's POV than with Stephen's, so it was hard sometimes to guess his reaction to things. I did love his attempts to flirt with bad math puns, and that he took the time to learn more about her interests. I especially liked that he didn't even hesitate to help her sister after Rose rejected him.

But...I don't know. This is sort of the same issue I had with A Kiss for Midwinter and I'm going to try to keep it from getting rambly. Okay, that got a little rambly, and I'm not sure it made much sense, but there you go.

So as I said, this needed to be longer to make me really buy this resolution and this pairing, cute as they were together.
Profile Image for Susana.
988 reviews247 followers
February 2, 2015
2.5 Stars

TW's: Racism

I decided to start reading this novel mainly because it features a character that first(?) appeared on the previous book of the series, "The Suffragette Scandal", namely one Stephen Shaughnessy who in that book was the target of a villain.

Stephen writes a column for Free's _Frederica's _ newspaper. He's the man behind the "actual man" column, in a time when propriety was still much alive:

“I’m Stephen Shaughnessy,” he said. “Actual Man.”

Stephen has all the elements to be a great character. The thing is, besides what we already know about his past _ something to which we became familiar with in the previous book _ in this novella, there isn't all that much characterization...
Apparently he acquired a bit of a reputation as a rake, and that's about it.

He is compassionate, and seems to have become somewhat smitten with Miss Rose since the moment he saw her, because that's how "insta" love works, lol.

Here's an example of his compassionate nature ( the lady in question had been forcefully institutionalized because she had refused to marry a cousin):

"Dear Not Mad,
Normally I approach my columns with a certain amount of jocularity. (Never tell this to my readers; they would never believe it.) But your situation has moved me to seriousness. You must work yourself up to your desires, bit by bit. Before you can dance on your uncle’s grave (I assume this to be on your list), you must first visit it and stand upon the grass. On the next visit, be sure to tap your toe and hum a ditty. Before you know it, you’ll be waltzing in the cemetery.
Should you need a dancing partner, consider yours truly.
Stephen Shaughnessy
Actual Man"

He's a good man, and I am sure that he'll be a great partner to Rose, I just can't help wishing that their story had been made into a full length novel.

Rose is a black woman, she and her family are used to all forms of racism and prejudice.
She has managed however to rise somewhat above her station, because she has a brilliant mind. She's an assumed nerd when it comes to mathematics, and you can see how much these two are meant to one another, because instead of running away every time Rose starts rambling about anything mathematically related, Stephen becomes even more smitten with her!

“You, I wager, do not dream timid dreams. You walk with your head in the clouds.”
“Oh, no. The clouds are in the troposphere. My thoughts lie well beyond the mesosphere.”

In fact, she manages to pull him into the geek/nerdy side of "tangents and parallels" and...*runs away screaming*

“That wasn’t difficult? There were sines. And arctangents. I didn’t think any problem should be thought easy if it involved arctangents.”

Math! :/

All I can say is that there is a little too much info about it! *Okay, I still have nightmares with geometry and trigonometry* so I may be a little biased.

The writing however is perfect as always.
Once again the author gives voice to characters who normally aren't given one in this sort of literary genre.

In the end I just wished that their romance hadn't felt so "insta", because I like both characters, and I really think they make one of the cutest geek(est) otp couples ever!

But this is a novella, so one has to compromise somewhat, I guess :) and in the end it does have its positives for the diversity it brings to the novel genre.

Profile Image for LPJ.
572 reviews30 followers
August 22, 2014
Rose Sweetly is a Victorian heroine like no other. She's a genius and she's nerdy, which makes her awesome, and she's also black. And our favorite Actual Man, Stephen Shaughnessy, is utterly taken with her. So much so, he devises a way to spend more time with her under the guise of researching a novel. Since Rose is a genius, she sees through his ruse, and though he's pretty dreamy, his reputation as a ladies man, and her need to watch out for men who'll treat her badly because of her race, put them somewhat at odds.

The story is lovely. It's not *about* race -- any proper young lady of the time would have been scandalized by an association with Stephen, but Rose's place in society was so much more precarious due to her race. The movie Belle covers similar ground. Does this guy like me because he thinks I'm easy and he can ruin me without a care, or does he really *see* me?

The insidious nature of racism makes it so things that are simple for others are tinged by this veil of uncertainty. I've certainly have countless experiences where I'm wondering, is that waitress/salesperson/whomever racist or just an asshole? Are we sitting in the table next to the kitchen and bathroom because this section needed filling, or is it a statement? These are questions many people of color can't avoid and white people never have to even think about. Rose and her sister give the benefit of the doubt to a certain character whose actions obviously come from a place of disdain and prejudice. But they choose to interpret it as mere rudeness, likely as a coping mechanism, until the truth is unavoidable.

I admit, I'm fascinated by the lives of black people during this time period in England. How *were* they treated? How did they survive at all? Did they live in constant fear like post Civil War blacks in America? Were there lynch mobs? An analog to the KKK? I honestly don't even know if England had a version of Jim Crow or not.

But like I said, this aspect did not comprise the largest part of the story by far - just the part I was most interested in for obvious reasons. The characters themselves were masterfully done and the love story well played.

Courtney Milan is at the top of her game here and I'm sad to see the Brothers Sinister series end.
Profile Image for Quinn.
690 reviews58 followers
May 13, 2015
Historical Romance 101 was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had regarding this blog, and one of the benefits is discovering new historical romances. When Amanda mentioned Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan in one of her HistRom101 posts, I immediately went to Amazon and downloaded it. This turned out to be an excellent decision because I LOVED Talk Sweetly to Me, and it will not be the last Courtney Milan book I read.

Talk Sweetly to Me is a novella done right! The two protagonists of this novel are just wonderful and I fell for them straight away. Rose is the sweetest young woman. She’s a mathematical genius (really she is), and she helps out an astronomer with his calculations. She’s staying with her sister, because her sister is very pregnant and her sister’s husband is away. And that’s where she meets Stephen.

Stephen is a writer, and he writes pretty sensational stuff. They say he’s a flirt, but he’s always really nice to Rose. Stephen actually really likes Rose and wants to be with her. Rose also really likes Stephen, but she has concerns. First, of course, is that he has a bit of a reputation. But there is a bigger concern for her, and that is that Rose is black, and Stephen is white.

Watching these two slowly (well sort of slowly, this is a novella after all) get together is wonderful. I think Milan did such a wonderful of dealing with the issue of race during the Victoria period, but not getting too heavy, either. It was just done so well.

There were some seriously swoony moments in this, but I especially loved the moment when Stephen found a way for Rose to watch The Transit of Venus. My heart sighed with happiness here. If you’re a fan of historical romance, or if you’re looking for a good book to start, Talk Sweetly to Me is the perfect place!
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,765 reviews1,766 followers
November 26, 2015
This last book in the Brothers Sinister series was cute, but a definite let-down after the last two books, which were practically perfect. I really liked both main characters, and they had some really cute banter, but honestly the main thing that earns this three stars instead of four is that the dude kept telling the lady to "talk Sweetly" to him, which was cute the first time (because her last name is Sweetly, and she talks about math and science all the time), but every time after that, I just kept rolling my eyes. Glad I read it, but glad I didn't buy. Checked it out from the library. And that's really the way to go if you can.
Profile Image for namericanwordcat.
2,442 reviews414 followers
August 25, 2014
I tend to need to pace out my reading of Courtney Milan's work. She intoxicants me. I get drunk. Her books are so rich that I must take small bites.

This novella is her usual amazing fare.

An English woman of African decent who is a mathematical genius and her Irish Catholic nieghbor (a writer by trade) fall in love.

Wit, astronomy, dedication to family, prejudice, opportunity, charm and and sheer attraction come together in a perfect romance.

Come gaze at this star.
Profile Image for Linda (un)Conventional Bookworms.
2,735 reviews333 followers
February 26, 2019
4.5 stars
Talk Sweetly to me had a different feel than the other novels. There was just as much romance, but a little less action. The main characters were lovely, especially Stephen! Of course, Ms. Sweetly was really something too - but the way he managed to see how important women were in society made him awesome!
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