From the BLURB:
A perpetual wallflower destined for spinsterhood, Lady Elaine Warren is resigned to her position in society. So when Evan Carlton, the powerful, popular Earl of Westfeld, singles her out upon his return to England, she knows what it means. Her former tormenter is up to his old tricks, and she’s his intended victim. This time, though, the earl is going to discover that wallflowers can fight back.
Evan has come to regret his cruel, callow past. At first, he only wants to make up for past wrongs. But when Elaine throws his initial apology in his face, he finds himself wanting more. And this time, what torments him might be love…
Lady Elaine Warren had the makings of a debutante star when she first entered London society. She was beautiful and vivacious, a head-strong conversationalist with verve and wit to spare . . . until she laughed. Perhaps it was the sort of character flaw the ton could overlook, had it not been for Evan Carlton, Earl of Westfeld and his cousin, Lady Cosgrove.
Having likened the sound of Elaine’s laugh to an indecent act between a pig and a horse, Evan’s spiteful words eviscerated Elaine’s prospects. She was haunted by jeers and snide remarks for the rest of her season. She swallowed her laughter, became a wallflower and never married . . .
Years later and Elaine is a young woman complacent in her spinsterhood. Evan Carlton has been away mountaineering in places unknown, and Lady Cosgrove still whispers callous remarks about Elaine’s neighing laughter at every opportunity.
And then Evan returns, with apologies on his tongue and a secret in his heart that will change Elaine’s entire opinion of her childhood tormentor.
‘Unlocked’ is a new novella from historical romance writer, Courtney Milan, and book #1.5 in her 'Turner' series.
Unbelievably, this is my first ever Courtney Milan read, which is just atrocious! Now I know what I have been missing out on from this wonderful romance writer.
Elaine Warren had a young adulthood that all readers can sympathize with. She was bullied. Horribly and unfairly, Elaine was targeted for her charismatic laughter and made to feel ashamed of a natural compulsion. Years later and Elaine’s most ardent tormentor is back in London and burning with the need to make things right. I loved the basis of this historical romance – it’s like ‘Mean Girls’ in corsets. The plot origins are at once entirely relatable, yet perfectly suited to the ton’s gossip-filled ballrooms.
I especially loved the fact that ‘Unlocked’ works around the idea that ‘you only hurt the ones you love’ and the old belief that a boy will only pull the pigtails of the girl he secretly likes. That’s the sort of relationship Evan and Elaine had. Although Evan’s cousin, Lady Diana Cosgrove, took her vengeful teasing a touch too far for Evan’s liking;
He protected her. She protected him. Together, they’d been unstoppable.Truly, someone should have stopped them.He shook his head. “We’re not children any longer. There’s no need for this.”She set her hand on his wrist. “You’ve been gone, Evan. You don’t remember what London society is like. They’re wolves out here, and it’s devour or be devoured in turn. If you don’t grasp your place in society, you’ll have it torn from you. Just like your Lady Elaine.”
I thought Evan was a lovely hero. He’s remorseful and repentant, haunted by the actions of his younger self. He has been away from London for quite a few years, mountaineering all over the globe . . . this may seem like a rather outlandish background for an Earl to have, but Milan works his mountaineering experiences into the story beautifully.
Evan and Elaine have a wonderful built-in love/hate tension. When Elaine first sees Evan again after so many years, she is almost viscerally scared of him – remembering the past pain he inflicted on her. So Evan has to really work to win her over – first in friendship, and then as something more;
She was within arm’s reach. He exhaled. “Do not trifle with me.”“Is it trifling for me to say that I enjoy your company?”“I’ll be your friend in daylight. I’ll treat you as a comrade at every gas-lit ballroom. But alone, under moonlight, I’ll not pretend that I want you for anything but mine.”She didn’t say anything. She simply looked up into his eyes.
‘Unlocked’ was a quick little read, and an absolute steal on Amazon Kindle for 99¢! This was my first encounter with the lovely Courtney Milan, but ‘Unlocked’ ensured it would not be my last.