tw: miscarriage, suicide
I honestly don't know if this rating is fair. I went into this book with exceedingly high expectations and I may be rating it as such because it didn't fulfil those expectations...
Sebastian and Violet were favourite characters of mine from the previous books in the series, I couldn't wait to read their book! I loved the way they interacted and I really, really hoped they would end up together.
When I learned this book would feature their romance and even better: shine light upon the role of women in science and how their contributions (to this day!) are misattributed, stolen, or ignored - was just too good to be true!
The thing with this book is that it tried to do too much.
The whole plot regarding Violet being the main scientist behind Sebastian's discoveries, and how society would deal with it, as well as what toil that brought to their relationship would be more than enough for the book to work. Add to that Violet's unfortunate marriage, and Sebastian's reputation as rake and, though admittedly already a bit too heavy on the drama, it would have still worked wonderfully.
But that wasn't enough, apparently...
Not only had Violet been in an abusive marriage, suffering miscarriage after miscarriage just so her callous husband could have an heir, she had to have come from a severely dysfunctional family: an emotionally neglectful father who discarded her when she didn't work as his lucky charm (what an absurd story line...) and then committed suicide, an emotionally distant mother with a very rigid set of rules of conduct which her daughters had to adhere to, a manipulative and abusive sister who cared nothing for her and thought only of her place in society...
Then we have Sebastian, who loved Violet since he was 5 years old and never imposed upon her because he knew she wasn't ready or interested and, as he masterfully worded it:
“I realized years ago,” Sebastian said, “that having you as a friend wasn’t second prize. It wasn’t something to chafe against. It was an honor.”
(Which is a lesson for all the "friendzoned" crybabies out there.) And who struggled to be taken seriously despite his reputation as a rake and a joker. But that wasn't enough, no. He had to blame himself for his sister's accident/possible suicide, he had to keep trying to gain the approval of a brother who was so adamantly adverse to giving any encouragement that he was basically a caricature instead of a character.
It was too much. Way too much drama, page after page, after page. And for the life of me I didn't see the point! The basic plot was so amazing and entertaining on its own! Why spoil it with soap-opera trappings?! (show spoiler)
Still, for me, a 3 star rating is not a bad rating. Courtney Milan can write - even if there was too much drama, I couldn't stop reading. And I did like the relationship between Violet and Sebastian, and Sebastian's patience and willingness to be just a friend because he truly loved her and love isn't selfish.
The scientific aspect of it chafed a bit, mostly because when discussing the misattribution of credit for scientific discoveries it makes me side-eye a bit when discoveries are awarded to a fictional character, but it did bring this issue to the attention of people who may not have been aware of it, so points for that.
Also, much love for the final dedication:
"For Rosalind Franklin, whose name we know.
For Anna Clausen, whom I discovered while writing this book.
For every woman whose name has disappeared without recognition.
This book is for you."