Tag Archives: Courtney Milan

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan
Historical romance released by Courtney Milan on September 22, 2020

The Duke Who Didn't by Courtney Milan book coverMiss Chloe Fong has plans for her life, lists for her days, and absolutely no time for nonsense. Three years ago, she told her childhood sweetheart that he could talk to her once he planned to be serious. He disappeared that very night.

Except now he’s back. Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, has returned to the tiny village he once visited with the hope of wooing Chloe. In his defense, it took him years of attempting to be serious to realize that the endeavor was incompatible with his personality.

All he has to do is convince Chloe to make room for a mischievous trickster in her life, then disclose that in all the years they’ve known each other, he’s failed to mention his real name, his title… and the minor fact that he owns her entire village.

Only one thing can go wrong: Everything.

There’s a lot I want to say about this book, and I probably won’t cover it all, but I want to first say I liked it. I think you will too.​ ​So this is how I (it) started with The Duke Who Didn’t: this book is ridiculous in the best possible way. Lighthearted and fun. A delightful confection of a book. (I was about 30% in?​ when I wrote that.​) And then just before 50% there was a literal jaw dropping moment and I had to put the book down. Just to take a few moments. Honestly I should probably sit and think about this story more, but then I’ll get too in my head and afraid I’ll mess up what I ought to or need to say … (which would actually be very fitting with these characters) – so I’ll just go with what’s off the top of my head now and let it go.​ (Although I wrote that bit two days ago.) There were definitely laugh out loud moments, and a lot to enjoy. I don’t want to get it wrong, but it’s my review so there “is no wrong.” Let’s go. ​

Continue reading

Mini Interview with Courtney Milan

[Aidee here!] Courtney Milan generously answered some questions I had following the release of her most recent novel, After the Wedding. I have not yet read this book, and this mini-interview contains no spoilers. After the Wedding is the second full-length novel in the Worth Saga, which begins with Once Upon a Marquess. Milan writes historical and contemporary romances; the Worth Saga is her current historical series. What I enjoy most about Milan’s books is the humor and the way she subverts common tropes. Without further ado, here is the mini-interview!

First, I’d like to know how you think authors can change romance’s centering of England in the historical genre, aside from not setting the story in England?

Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan Book CoverHistoricals used to range the whole wide world and I think one of the reasons this stopped is because people very awkwardly realized that there were massive issues with unproblematically glamorizing certain portions of the past. Like there used to be a whole genre of southern historical romance novels that just…glossed over the issues with slavery? Yeah. Or the entire spectrum of historical titles involving stereotypical Native Americans, sometimes with racial slurs in the actual titles? Eeeeek. It seems almost horrific to me that those exist, and yet there were probably hundreds, if not thousands, published over the years. Continue reading

Review: Hamilton’s Battalion by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole

Aidee’s review of Hamilton’s Battalion by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole
Historical romance anthology released on October 17, 2017

Book CoverLove in the time of Hamilton…

On October 14, 1781, Alexander Hamilton led a daring assault on Yorktown’s defenses and won a decisive victory in America’s fight for independence. Decades later, when Eliza Hamilton collected his soldiers’ stories, she discovered that while the war was won at Yorktown, the battle for love took place on many fronts…

PROMISED LAND by Rose Lerner

Donning men’s clothing, Rachel left her life behind to fight the British as Corporal Ezra Jacobs—but life catches up with a vengeance when she arrests an old love as a Loyalist spy.

At first she thinks Nathan Mendelson hasn’t changed one bit: he’s annoying, he talks too much, he sticks his handsome nose where it doesn’t belong, and he’s self-righteously indignant just because Rachel might have faked her own death a little. She’ll be lucky if he doesn’t spill her secret to the entire Continental Army.

Then Nathan shares a secret of his own, one that changes everything…

THE PURSUIT OF… by Courtney Milan

What do a Black American soldier, invalided out at Yorktown, and a British officer who deserted his post have in common? Quite a bit, actually.
•They attempted to kill each other the first time they met.
• They’re liable to try again at some point in the five-hundred mile journey that they’re inexplicably sharing.
• They are not falling in love with each other.
• They are not falling in love with each other.
• They are… Oh, no.


Mercy Stiel knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks.

When Andromeda Broadnax shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.

Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her world view, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it’s not enough.

Anthologies are strange creatures, in that they’re collections of novellas or short stories, loosely bound by a theme—sometimes. They’re great for seeing snippets of an author’s writing, although, shorter stories being what they are—namely, not a novel—they can be inaccurate representations of what an author can do. But fear not! I’m here to tell you, in case you haven’t heard it from someone else, that Hamilton’s Battalion is the bee’s knees, the cat’s meow, the dark chocolate of anthologies. (Okay, maybe not dark chocolate, but definitely a really fine dessert of your choice.) All three novellas stick to the theme in the blurb, and they’re wonderful in their own ways. This is, also, quite possibly the most diverse collection of characters I’ve seen in a month, at least. Continue reading

SAPAHM Guest: Courtney Milan Shares a “Teaser Tuesday Exclusive” Vignette of Adam Fucking Reynolds

Hi friends!!! As you see we’ve got Courtney Milan here today! Well … kinda. Instead of writing a post post … I mentioned to her today also happens to be a “Teaser Tuesday” spot … and what with the popularity of Trade Me … and Adam especially, she decided to send me this scene. Adam is the father of the hero in Trade Me – Blake Reynolds. It’s not exactly like father like son. However, for some, the father stole the show. Trade Me is the second NA book I’ve read – and 82% of it was because of the teaser Courtney posted that included Adam Reynolds. If you haven’t read Trade Me yet, you can find out more about the Cyclone series here, and Adam’s upcoming book here.

Fair warning, if the subject wasn’t enough of a clue, Adam does not care about clean language. He does not believe in the “you’re better than that” when it comes to not swearing. (And really – why would anyone? >.>) So without further ado … a little peek into a day with and working for A.F.R. Continue reading

Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

Don’t you think I forgot about Teaser Tuesday! Cuz I didn’t! I had asked Courtney Milan to provide an excerpt, but she did me one better! She got one from Sonali Dev – so really here’s Courtney (her continuation – I wanted to separate this out because shew – this excerpt!)

Luckily, I asked Sonali if I could give you a teaser, and she was nice enough to send one along. So here it is:

A Bollywood AffairMili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.

There was a knock on the door. “Who is it?”

“Room Service.” Mili’s husky voice punched him square in the gut. His heartbeat sped up. The blood rushing through his veins sped up. Even his breathing sped up like some teenybopper coming face-to-face with her crush. All those damned pushups down the toilet.

He pulled the door open a crack. Whatever droll line he was going to throw at her died on his tongue. She was wearing a turquoise sari. Her hair cascaded around her shoulders, spiral ribbons falling all the way to her exposed waist. Someone had outlined her eyes in smoky kohl. Her irises glittered like gemstones. So what? They always glittered.

She pushed the door and squeezed past him into the room.

“Come on in,” he growled, much like the wild beast raging in his chest.

“You’re in a dressing gown.” She was standing too close to him. The passage leading into the room was narrow. Too narrow.

He could smell her once he got past the blast of perfume. “What did Ridhi spray you with, a hose?” Without meaning to, he leaned in to smell her. Great, she’d turned him into a lecher, that’s what she’d done.

She stepped away. “Oh, good, you remember Ridhi. My best friend. The one whose wedding you drove four hours for.”

“I didn’t drive four hours for Ridhi.” He tried to hold her gaze, but she looked away, that damned flush swept up her cheeks, maroon and pink tinting the deepest caramel, like a rose that needed its own name.

She took a breath, raised those glittering onyxes, and met his gaze. A head-on collision. “I’m sorry, Samir. Can’t we put that behind us and go back to being friends?”


“Okay, so don’t be friends. But get dressed. The wedding ceremony is less than an hour away. We have to get back to Ridhi’s house.”

“I’m not going to the wedding.”

“Okay. But I have to be at the wedding. And you have to take me.” Now her eyes went all pleading. If she joined her palms he was throwing her out.

“How did you get here?”

“I made Ranvir drop me off.”

“Then make him pick you up.” It’s the least Pillsbury Doughboy could do for her.

“Samir, can you get dressed, please?” She pressed her hands together and he cursed.

“I already answered that.”

“Listen, you owe me. Come on.”

“I owe you? For what, for lying to me?”

“I did not lie to you.” She looked around the room and found the magazine lying on the bed. “I protected you. From that witch. It wasn’t easy. She’s scary.”

“Right.” But he was stupid enough to smile. She took full advantage and blasted him with all one-twenty watts of her smile. And he wanted to kiss her sneaky lips so bad, he had to step away and push into the mirrored closet behind him. “You should not have come here, Mili. You don’t just walk into some man’s hotel room like this.”

“You’re not just some man. You’re Samir.” She pushed the cascading mass of curls off her face with both hands and he knew it was going to bounce right back.

“Okay, somewhere in there is a compliment.”

“Of course it’s a compliment. I feel safe with you. You’re my friend. I know you will never hurt me. The list is endless.”

Yeah, an endless pile of crap. He didn’t feel safe with her. He didn’t want to be just her friend. And he knew he was going to hurt her shitless. “So this is my married friend come to get me. Nothing more.”

She nodded and her hair slid back around her face. “Nothing more.”

He dropped his robe.

At least five shades of red rushed up her cheeks. “What are you doing?” It was no more than a squeak, but he was impressed she got the words out.

“I’m changing like you asked me to, why?” He had pulled on boxers earlier, but the rest of him was as bare as the day he was born. He turned away and threw open the closet with both arms, no point having those back muscles if he couldn’t put them to good use when he needed to. He took his time pulling pants out of the closet. Then an even longer time bending over and pulling them on. He’d been a model for almost a decade. She had no idea whom she was messing with.

She made an incoherent sound behind him, something between a choke and a groan.

So good! I can’t wait to read this.

APAHM Feature: Courtney Milan

I’m at the airport – and I temporarily have wifi – so hopefully I’ll be able to fill in posts. Here we go with today’s originally scheduled programming. The badass superstar Courtney Milan. Really she needs no introduction. Although if you guys have any tips on how I might attempt to wow her (or at least not underwhelm her) I’d appreciate them – cuz I’m going to be seeing her! 🙂

So with that er >.> intro – here’s Courtney!
Courtney MilanHi everyone. I’m an author. I happen to be hapa (my mother is Chinese), but I don’t want to talk about me today. Or my books. I want to talk about what I’m reading.

This year, I’ve been making an effort to diversify my reading. The thing is, I thought I was trying to do that in the past. I really did. I told myself that I was open to reading anything that came my way. I made a conscious effort to try and buy books that I knew were written by an author of color. But I went back through my “read” list for 2013, and my attempt to be open meant that less than 10% of my books were written by authors of color.

I realized that I can’t wait for a book to jump in front of my face. If I want to read diverse books, I’m going to have to actively search out authors of color. So in 2014, I’m reading one author of color for every book I read by a white author.

So, today, in honor of APAHM, I want to talk about some of the awesome books I’ve read that were written by Asian authors so far this year.

* Alisha Rai’s Bedroom Games series, going from Play with Me to Risk and Reward and ending with Bet on Me. What I love about these books is that they take the same couple and see them through different stages of their relationship–from first love to tentative commitment through the happily ever after. But Alisha Rai does this without using emotional manipulation or cliffhanger endings. Every book is satisfying. Each book brings the hero and heroine closer together. There’s a lot of conflict in these books–but I never felt that the couple was “backsliding” into their old ways that you thought they’d fixed up.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo* Zen Cho’s The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. This is a wonderful historical romance between a Malaysian (but I believe ethnically Chinese) woman and an Indian man. It’s based on Jane Eyre–but a version of Jane Eyre where Jane doesn’t end up with Rochester, and when St. John offers to take her to India, it’s not to colonize and proselytize, it’s because it’s his home. I don’t know how to describe this book but it made me want to jump up and down and push this book into other people’s hands. Read it, read it, read it!

* Suleikha Snyder’s Bollywood and the Beast. Every good Beauty and the Beast tale features two people who are both outsiders in their own way, but react to their exclusion in ways that serve as a foil for each other. This book is a wonderful Beauty and the Beast story. I identified so much with Rocky/Rakhee–her hard work, which was so often dismissed by others, her feeling that she didn’t really fit any place. I just felt so protective of her.

Claiming the Duchess* Did you know that Sherry Thomas has a new novella out? Claiming the Duchess is absolutely free, and it’s delightful. More than that, it’s an epistolary novella filled with her trademark wit. I can’t say much without giving out spoilers, but it was so, so lovely. So good that it made me reread her Fitzhugh Trilogy. Again.

* Amber Lin’s Giving it Up. When romances touch on sexual assault, they very often tend towards the stranger-danger sort of thing–some unknown, or barely known person assaulting the heroine. But statistically most rapes aren’t committed by strangers. I have a lot of thoughts about why romances tend to stranger-danger. I think, in part, it’s that the thought of rapes committed by dear friends make us (well, at least me) feel far more vulnerable. We want to believe that our friends would NEVER hurt us; if they do, it’s a double betrayal. This book has a raw honesty to it. If you are at all triggered by rape/sexual assault, this book WILL trigger you. This book has a difficult heroine, a very dark edge, and it delivers all the feels.

* I’m also super-excited about Sonali Dev’s upcoming A Bollywood Affair, a romance between a woman in an arranged marriage (she was married extremely young and she hasn’t seen her husband in 20 years–since she was four, so I assume the marriage hasn’t been consummated) and her husband’s brother who comes to serve her with divorce papers. Gah. That premise! I want to read it RIGHT NOW. But sadly, this is going to be out in October 2014.

For full disclosure, I should mention that I am friends with some of these authors–but I wouldn’t recommend a bad book to you.

I’m actively looking for more authors to read. Have someone to recommend? Let me know in the comments, and I will look them up.

So what recommendations do you have for Courtney? I’m curious too!


Hee. I couldn’t resist the allcaps. I mean, it’s a birthday! Those days are meant for celebration and excess! And yes, it is in fact Courtney Milan‘s birthday today! Whee!

I don’t know if you know, but I love birthdays. It’s some sort of compensating for my own, I’m sure, but that’s fine because it’s sharing the love and celebrating others! In fact, at ALBTALBS it is all about Ms. Milan today! I’m also evil though, because I ask people if they’re willing to guest on their birthdays and put them to work. 😀

Here’s what Courtney had to say.

So Limecello asked me to tell you what I was doing for my birthday.

Answer: I’m finishing the final formatting/proofreading touches on my upcoming book.

This is not something that lends itself to reason or–since I do all of my editing and proofreading on paper–cleanliness. Here, for instance, is what it looked like when I went through the second-to-last draft of the book.

That big stack o’paper you see I just dumped over the edge of my chair onto a convenient holding surface. I will clean it up…somewhat later, to my husband’s chagrin. Maybe next week.

Now, you might wonder what I mean by “convenient holding surface.” Ha! I will show you.

Behold. Don’t worry; there are three levels on the cat tree, and the cat prefers the top. It’s totally okay!

So that’s what I’m doing today: working, getting paper everywhere, and annoying my cat.

(Okay, I’m also going out to lunch with my sister, but whatever.)

And if you’re wondering about the book? That book is The Heiress Effect, the second full-length book in The Brothers Sinister series.

It’s about Jane Fairfield, the most outrageous woman around, and Oliver Marshall, an up-and-coming politician who should have nothing to do with outrageous women..but who just can’t stop himself.

And since you can’t read any of the text in the photos I’ve attached, I thought I’d give you an exclusive snippet:

[Here’s the book blurb to give you some background]

Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing–and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision.

And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.

Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances–and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.

“Miss Fairfield. Miss Johnson. Miss Genevieve.” His words were proper enough, but his gaze lingered on Jane alone.

“Do you like my walking gown?”

His gaze swept up to her bosom, then down to her toes, as palpable as a caress.

“Tell the truth,” she said. “Miss Johnson and Miss Genevieve are in my confidence now.”

“It’s an improvement on screeching horror,” he told her. “It ranks almost as high as sick fascination.” He gave a mock shiver. “But really. Are those vermilion bananas printed on the fabric?”

“Yes. I love it. Look.” Jane held out her pendant, a green enameled monkey with fierce topaz eyes. “See? Isn’t that wonderful?”

He stepped forward and looked obligingly.

Maybe not so obligingly. She was close enough to see his eyes behind his spectacles, dropping not to her pendant but…

Technically, her gown climbed halfway up to her neck. Also technically, all the fabric above her corset was dark lace. Lace with holes.

Nothing showed that wouldn’t have shown in a ball gown, but it still showed, and if someone stood close, pretending to look at a necklace…

He lifted his gaze to her face and gave her an unapologetic smile.

“You’re right. That quite makes the outfit.” He crooked his finger. “Let me see it again.”

The Heiress Effect will be out on July 15th.

So come on! What did you think of the excerpt? Have you read Courtney Milan before? Will you? (You should.) And now, everyone wish Courtney a very happy birthday. And go pre-order her book! The prequel novella to The Heiress Effect, The Governess Affair is free right now, so you should get a copy.

And you know, because it’s Courtney’s birthday, and I think we should celebrate … a giveaway! It’s been beastly hot, and I love reading “winter” books in hot weather, so I’ll be giving away a copy of A Kiss for Midwinter – yet another companion novella to The Brothers Sinister series!

So go on, be creative with your birthday wishes to Courtney!

Guest Author & A Giveaway: Courtney Milan

Hi everyone! I can barely believe it’s December already… but it is, and today is the first Tuesday of the month so we’ve got our “official guest author” Courtney Milan visiting with us! She told me she wanted to do a kooky author interview so I tried to come up with fitting questions. She decided not to answer four that I sent. I won’t tell you which ones to protect the guilty. 😉 Without further ado, the “Author Interview.” (See? This is a time where calling it an interview fits!)

What’s the neatest or most interesting thing you’ve ever made or built? What’s the most unique/strange silly skill your possess? (This was technically two questions, but I would never nit pick about something like that, would I. *angelface*)
I can fold an origami stegosaurus out of a single square sheet of paper.

How’d you come up with your author name?
Uh… well, I started with the initials “CM” which I had been using to identify myself online. “CM,” for those who are wondering, stands for “Chicken Mafia.” I had to invent a name fairly quickly for myself in a handful of hours over night, so I rushed over to the Census Bureau’s list of names and sorted for the ones that started with “C.” courtneymiles.com was already taken, so I became Courtney Milan.

What’s the first type of alcohol you ever tried to drink?
Embarrassingly enough, wine coolers. Although I did have some liqueur by accident when I was younger. I thought it was disgusting.

If you could have any outfit at all – the PERFECT outfit-  what would be be? Describe it from top to bottom with accessories, materials, colors, etc.
Yoga pants. T-Shirt. I’m pretty psyched if it’s clean and even happier if I didn’t have to do the laundry.

What is the most evil thing you would name a child? Consider our baseline is “Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii.” (and yes, guys, that is a real name. Or it was until the judge in NZ let her change it…)
Consider this: I named three of the heroes in one series after full Bible verses. One of them got stuck with the moniker: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.” (He goes by Mark. It seems safer.)So when you talk about evil things to name kids, I can think of a whole bunch of ’em. (You forgot to tell us which heroes/verses! Inquiring minds want to know ;D!)

Savory snacks and sweet snacks – which is your favorite in both categories? Which do you prefer?
I prefer savory snacks. I can’t think of a sweet snack off the top of my head that I prefer. But I love, love, love the Calbee Snapeas that you can get at Trader Joe’s. They’re like Cheetos, but they masquerade as snow peas and you can pretend they’re good for you even though they cannot possibly be!

Would you ever want one of your books turned into a movie? Why or why not? If it was though – which book would you choose and who would you want to star in it?
Oh, sure! Movies, even bad movies, get lots of people reading your books, and so I wouldn’t turn that down. I have no sense of authorial shame or outrage, so if it works, it works.As for which book–my books (sadly) don’t make great cinema. Although there is a book I am co-writing with someone else right now (don’t expect it to actually ever be finished) that would totally work.

Why are shepherding dogs the best breed? (And how did your dog get his name?)
I’m not going to categorically say that shepherding dogs are the best breed. (Perhaps I should have said one of the best breeds. Either way that’s my opinion. ;)) It’s just that my dog is the best dog (from my point of view, at least), and so at least the best dog out there happens to be a shepherd. But I’m sure there are very good dogs out there who are not shepherds!As for my dog’s name…he came with it. The breeder had already given the dogs names, and he knew (and was responding) to his. Wedidn’t want to upset him any more than we needed, so we just kept his old name.

In Unraveled, I gave Smite a dog that has a shepherd mother (actually, her precursor is what we’d think of as a bearded collie) and a terrier father (a Wheaten terrier). The poor dog, of course, has terrier drive and bearded collie energy. It was fun trying to figure outwhat Ghost would be like.

If you could live anywhere, at any time period, when and where would you choose?
Pretty happy with the here and now, actually. Any other time and I would have been burned as a witch and/or abandoned to the wolves. Although if we could fast-forward to the bit where the economy starts going again, I’dbe much obliged. 🙂

Now is there anything else you want to know about Courtney Milan’s books? You all know I really enjoyed Unlocked. I’m really excited about her new books too. Also, what questions would you ask Ms. Milan in the spirit of crazy outrageous things? She’ll be giving away one copy of Unclaimed. Remember to check back at the blog (not this post) to see if you’ve won!

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?