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, who's 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.
There are many ways for a woman to be empowered and not all of them include having sex. Very few of them do actually. But here we are again with a woman giving up her principles and giving into hormones whereas the man doesn't have to compromise at all - the Sandra Dee effect, if you will. There's no reason that sex scene couldn't have been in an epilogue after they were married, you know? Not to mention that French letters were hardly equivalent to modern-day condoms but are treated in these stories as if they're fool-proof when really they're just better than nothing. And I'm not saying that Rose should have conducted herself in any specific way because of idiotic stereotypes, far from it, but given her characterization up to that point, coupled with her exhaustion and emotional vulnerability from being up all night with her laboring sister, did make this a little weird for me. It didn't feel intimate at all to me, but felt more like it's just what the story demanded, so it happened.
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.