I’m going to dive right in with the spoilers folks so don’t read on unless you want to know what’s what.
In The Suffragette Scandal we’re introduced to the lone male writer at the Women’s Free Press, one Stephen Shaughnessy, author of the outrageously hilarious satirical advice column, Ask a Man. Despite the small part he plays in that fabulous novel, it’s clear he’s just waiting for his own romance to begin. Given Stephen’s charm, wit and genuinely warm personality, I was curious to discover what sort of woman Milan had in store for him.
Enter Miss Rose Sweetly: mathematician, astronomer, and all around brilliant lady. At just 20 years old she’s the fabulously talented “computer” for a well-known astronomer. Rose is my favorite kind of heroine. She’s brainy, kind, responsible and just perfect for the sort of lighthearted fun and scandal Stephen brings. But my favorite aspect of this novella was Milan’s choice to make Rose black. Racial and ethnic diversity is not something I see a lot of in Victorian romance and this was a fantastic change of pace.
In addition to the surprisingly tender-rather-than-steamy romance between Rose and Stephen, there’s a very real layer of racial bigotry (in the form of the horrid doctor who refuses to treat Rose’s sister Patricia when she goes into labor) and the more subtle undercurrents of confronting white privilege, which Stephen ultimately does.
That’s not to say that the romance isn’t hot.
Because it is!
Stephen is just what you want him to be: gorgeous, rakish, disarming, noble and totally head over heels in love with an intelligent, sexy lady in spectacles. His pursuit of Rose is all about HER rather than what he wants from her and it’s ridiculously attractive. When they finally get down to business I let out the most embarrassed girl-giggle when Rose finally utters to a very naked Stephen: “Stephen Shaughnessy, Actual Man.”
IT WAS KILLER!
For that line ALONE, Ms. Milan, my hat is off to you.