If anyone else had written this book I wouldn't have noticed the flaws. It's still a good book, but Milan has set the bar pretty high, so I was very aware when things went wrong.
Minerva Lane goes by the name Wilhelmina Pursling. She has a huge secret in her past, Minerva Lane having been destroyed in society rather than just ruined, and it would be disastrous for her true identity to become public. So she has spent her life incognito in the care of her "aunts". She dresses like a mouse, she acts like a mouse, she does everything possible to fade into the background.
Robert Blaisdale, the Duke of Clermont, is the product of a loveless marriage containing a destructive level of acrimony. He's known friendship (with his half-brother -- the result of Robert's father's rape of a governess) and he's known sycophancy, but he doesn't feel like anyone's ever loved him or can love him. His parents certainly didn't seem to.
So sets the premise. The story doesn't take place in London (for the most part) and the romance is full of wit and sweet, poignant moments. There's a lack of honesty at some points, but, as usual with Milan, those moments are dealt with organically and tend not to escalate in that engineered direction.
The story is really very nice and I loved the two main characters. They were fun and funny and -- eventually -- sexy. I was rooting for them the whole way.
So what went wrong? The last few scenes were a real disappointment. I'm not sure why Milan did it this way, but there was a climax that was so clunky and out of character it didn't make sense at all. I mean ... the cows were out of the barn on that particular issue so what's the big deal? It was confusing more than effective in an emotional way. So it was like reading a Courtney Milan book with an ending that any other historical romance author might have chosen to write. The situation should have been handled differently, IMO, in a manner that jibes with Milan's usual adherence to consistent patterns of behavior for her protagonists.
But the epilogue is sweet -- although it felt a little bit rushed, to be honest.
All that said, I highly recommend Courtney Milan as a historical romance writer. She's really my favorite in the genre right now and it actually says a lot that this kind of contrivance would even bother me. It's just that it's so strange that it would occur in a Milan book. She's made it harder for other historical romance novelists, that's for sure, but she's also made it hard for herself. My expectations are very high.