Review + Giveaway: Unlocked by Courtney Milan

[*NB I wrote this on June 24… but saved it for now. You can see when I finished the novella by my tweet. I was tempted to “!!!!” at Courtney Milan earlier, but couldn’t stop reading until the end.]

Unlocked by Courtney Milan
Historical Romance (Novella) published by Courtney Milan on May 26, 2011

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…

I won Unlocked as part of a twitter giveaway Jane L did a while ago. I heard a lot of hype about it, knew it recently number two in kindle sales. (Congratulations, Ms. Milan!) I wanted the story, and knew I’d read it at some point because I like Courtney Milan’s writing. Even so… even despite wanting to read the story… I remained skeptical. For a while, my bio, while tongue in cheek, yes, had some truth in it, as “I’m that bitch who didn’t like your book.” In that… while it’s not that I dislike most books, I’m just not that blown away by them. Especially the ones that are hyped. Perhaps it’s the cynic in me – and we won’t go into reasons why or theories I might have.

With Unlocked? It floored me.

Unlocked is an amazing novella. I’m really at a loss for words as to how to describe it. Courtney Milan is a great writer. I knew this, and expect good things from her. But here, she’s positively genius in conveying human emotion. I felt for the characters, and understood them perfectly. I got their pain and their struggles. I cried. The story had angst, but not for the sake of drama. It was there because it was necessary and real and how the events unfolded.

It’s a story about redemption, learning to let go, to love yourself, and move on. It’s a story about growth, and human nature, and how people can be terrible and wonderful. In fact, the following is a quote that positively slayed me. It’s Elaine speaking to Evan, after they’re “reunited.”

“But none of that matters. What I see you, I remember that you made me want to drown rather than be myself.”

And I know it doesn’t mean as much taken out of context, but another quote I bookmarked.

“When a man was nineteen, he felt invulnerable – as if nothing could touch him. That stupid belief had been the basis of a great many idiotic things that Evan had done in his life. But this notion that all the hurt he’d caused could simply disappear because he wanted it to – that had been the last childish dream he’d held on to. He let go of it now. What you did when you were young could kill you. It just might take years to do it.”

Elaine and Evan are perfectly matched, although it takes them a long time to see it. They’re both honest, but not. Vulnerable, yet determined to protect themselves. Yet they’re brave in revealing themselves. There’s no reason for me to summarize the story – the blurb does that.

I can only tell you that as I read it, I felt. The ending was lovely, of course, and we all know it’s happy. It’s the perfect mix and a blending of everything you want to see in a book. Ms. Milan even includes subtle humor.

I think what resonated with me so strongly is that Ms. Milan shows in her writing that actions have consequences, whether you mean them or intend them to or not. And a relationship isn’t just about how you perceive things, but how you as a couple view them. It’s so realistic, and things take time, yet the pacing is perfect. There’s no lag, but the story isn’t rushed either. (Although, I do have a complaint of sorts with how it ended. I wish it would have focused on Elaine and Evan, instead of Diana. Here’s the cynicism again… to some it might herald a change in someone who had been solely vicious – a high note to end a story, with human growth and a step towards betterment. To me, it was more like a hook for a next book or new series. I could be mistaken… but I think we’ll see Diana again.)

Nevertheless, the epilogue is quite sweet, and I loved how – and this is more of an aesthetic, but it matters – the cover relates so perfectly with the story. Every part of Unlocked fits together. From the characters, to the plot, to how the book starts – literally with the image on the cover.

I know this is a story I will remember for a long time, and the characters will stay with me. I definitely recommend Unlocked to everyone – even if you don’t normally read historical romances.

Courtney Milan, I have to say – tonight, you got me excited about reading again. Thank you.
Grade: A

Giveaway time! As I enjoyed it so much, one lucky commenter will win her – or his- very own kindle copy of Unlocked. Talk to me – what do you like most about romances, or historicals? Do you focus on the emotions? Is realism or pragmatism important to you?

0 thoughts on “Review + Giveaway: Unlocked by Courtney Milan

  1. Patti W

    Romance novels are my escape from work 50 hours a week and a 3yr old grandson who stays with me when I’m not working. I like a novel that can take me to a real or made up world for a few hours.

  2. wendy nygaard

    i love romance novels of any kind but historicals always blow me away. i love the emotion and the different aspects that are taken into consideration of the time period. plus what girl doesn’t want to be swept of there feet!

  3. Rinib

    The part about historical romances that is most interesting is the realism of the different the setting, and how some things about people are the same. It’s nice to be able to go somewhere different for a while.

  4. Portia Da Costa

    I love romance novels for the emotion, the emotion, the emotion! I adore being swept along in a turbulent romantic journey and then swooning at the happy ending. The best kind of romance for me is a skillful blend of escapism *and* elements of believable reality.

    I don’t read across a wide range of historicals, but I do like Victorian set ones, because it was a period of great social change, and also an era of fascinating contrasts eg. between the life of the rich and the poor, and between a facade of primness and propriety and a hidden world of licentiousness and daring.

    ps. I’ve already read Courtney’s excellent novella! 🙂

  5. gamistress66

    it’s all in the romance — being swept away to another time & place with a new adventure inside each book and knowing in the end it’ll all be happy, but such fun getting to that point to be had 🙂

  6. MichelleKCanada

    I love historicals. I love the time period and the cloths. I love hearing about what is correct and what is not and then I love to read about the protagonists doing what they arent supposed to do. I love the speech and the gentlemenly passion.
    I have never read one of her books but I have always wanted to.
    another_look_book_reviews at hotmail dot ca

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  8. Fedora

    I think it’s still all about the emotions and the couple’s relationship. While I love the setting, I’m not a stickler for accuracy unless it’s distracting me from the story. Plus I was never very good with history, so… that’s not what it’s about for me 🙂

  9. Jeanne Miro

    I love historical romance because they are my “Calgon Moment” – they take me away from the everyday to a place of enchantment. I love the way the authors I read take me into history and let me experience the hardships as well as the romance of the times. They also make me treasure more the freedom and opportunities we take for granted today.

    I love to read of the heartbreak and joys of the characters as well as reflect how I would feel if I had the restrictions placed on me by society at the time.

    My husband and I took a vacation to England and Scotland and from the books I had read we had the opportunity to visit wonderful places “off the beaten track” and not included in a tourist guide. It was wonderful to experience first hand some of the locations and feel an intimate connection to them from reading books by authors that make you feel that you are experierancing being at Almacs, sewing the flower girl on the street or going to see the “marbles” and being awed.

    More than any of the other genres I’ve read I’ve found that historical romance novels draw you into their story and make you experience the story and connect with the characters.

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