Unlocked by Courtney Milan

UnlockedFrom the author's website:  "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 love to read other book review blogs, and while Dear Author is not my favorite reviewing site (though it is my favorite book news site), I do find that I love Jane's take on books.  When she posted this highly appreciative review of a Regency romance, I wasn't that intrigued until she pointed out the price.  Swoon, it was a buck.  I downloaded the Kindle app for my iPhone, bought the book, and read it that night.

I've reverted, slightly, from my old love of the Regency, but when I do read it done well, I find I still can't resist it.  Milan does Regency well and she makes a character who should be unforgivable all too human.  Evan is a prize and I don't mean that sarcastically.  We know he was a jerk, and that the reason for his actions was petty, but he looks at his actions and he realizes just how wrong he was.  Additionally, though he knows how horrible he was, as he realizes even further how Elaine feels, he recognizes how much worse it is than even he suspected.  He doesn't expect forgiveness though he requests it.  He works at forgiveness.  Like all people who were once bullied, I love a good groveling scene in which a bullied person gets the abject apology of the bullier, but I even more appreciate that it takes more than just a pathetic apology to get past Evan's actions.

Further, though this is a short novella, time passes.  Love doesn't occur overnight.  Elaine at first accepts Evan's apology, but it takes her time to really understand that he means it.  I wish we had gotten a better look at the time that had passed and their developing friendship (and I suspect I'll be searching out Milan's other full length novels to see if she has other novels about developing friendships), but I simply appreciate that these characters don't come to fully love each other within a week's time.

I will issue a caveat and state that two scenes in the novella made me come out of the reader's high I was on, and they were fairly lengthy scenes so it was quite a ding on the score.  Both scenes dealt with the characters in private and were unrealistic to me, which made me a little sad and pulled me out of the story entirely. 

Everything else about this novel, including Evan's relationship with his cousin and Elaine's relationship with her mother, deserves full scores, however.  Those two relationships in particular deserve some high marks.  Evan's cousin though quite petty and evil also shows a human nature at the end which entertains,.  Elaine's feelings toward her mother are fantastic.  We see there a mother daughter relationship which is fraught with problems even though they love each other and are both good people. 

Great work, Milan!

Verdict:  7.  I was leaning on a six here due to the scenes mentioned briefly above, actually, but the price and the strength of all the relationships.  I can't give it anything less than a seven.  In fact, if you factor in the price, it should probably jump to an 8 or a 9.  If only all self-published works were this good.

ThoughtsA dollar.   If books were normally a dollar or two (e-books or otherwise) I'd probably be living in stacks of books.  In fact, I purposely limit my own visits to used bookstores for this reason.  I'd come home with a pile of books and devour them until I was tired from lack of sleep and my son was whacking my knees with his soccer ball begging, "Play with me!"

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