This is a 99 cent eBook that was for a brief time over the end of last year, free, so I pounced on the chance to try this new-to-me Romance author.
Read an excerpt of Unlocked here
My Thoughts: This story begins at a ballroom. Evan Carlton is back from abroad and can see firsthand what he has done to Lady Elaine. While his cousin still snickers and pokes fun, Evan has gained a lot of maturity in his ten years away, and watching Lady Elaine, he bitterly regrets his past and her current exclusion from society. For her part, Lady Elaine thinks that Evan’s return is a personal nightmare and wonders what other games he has planned for her. He was the worst tormentor of them all, and she had made herself sick because of him.
This is a story where the hero has clearly wronged the heroine, but the excitement of reading it is all the raw emotion that the past stirs in both characters when they meet again in the present. The narrative hints at the person Evan was as Elaine reacts and his cousin Diana gleefully resumes their old habits, and the person he is, as he tries to tell them both that he is different. At the same time, we also glimpse Elaine’s state of mind – her worrying over the guest list at the party, her shock that it is not as “safe” as she wanted because Evan and his cousin are there, and her determination to laugh her awful laugh to show that they have not won. I adored the tension of the first few pages as Evan tries to apologize, and Elaine suspects everything he does is a trick. Of course, running through all their interactions is an undercurrent of attraction that Evan is only too aware of, and Elaine interprets as something else. Evan has to make a dramatic gesture in order to get any trust.
I loved the first half of this story, which dealt with Evan’s return and his first attempts with Lady Elaine. I found their every interaction charged with Evan’s longing and Elaine’s wariness, and it was delicious reading to see what Evan does to try to get past Elaine’s walls. I’m one of those people who loves the slow build-up of a relationship over time. Evan and Elaine’s interactions were just charged with unresolved emotions and I was eager to see them gradually understand one another. Unfortunately, in a novella, there is no time for gradual relational development and this story takes a short-cut. It novella skips ahead in time after the premise has been laid out. The second half of the book has these two in a new, better phase in their relationship, although Evan secretly holds hope for more. The story continues from their in the way you would expect.
Overall: If you are a fan of unrequited love and heroes who have to prove themselves, this novella fits the bill. It showcases the juiciest parts of the romance (first meeting, a bit of drama, and a happy ending) and a lot of people will love Unlocked for it. But… the relationship journey is my favorite part, and I wish that part in the story wasn’t fast-forwarded, especially after the emotional undercurrents at the beginning. I didn’t take to the second half of this novella the way I took to the first after that. On the other hand, a novella is only so long. 99 cents is a bargain for what you get here.
Courtney Milan has published books through HQN, and Unlocked looks to be her first self-published effort (although I see a couple more since).
Buy: Amazon (kindle) | B&N (eBook)
Dear Author – A
Smexy Books – A
Cheeky Reads – “an amazing story”
Book Girl of Mur y Castell – “Wonderful”
Pearl’s World of Romance – 8.6 (Great)
One Good Book Deserves Another – 5 stars (out of 5)
Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books – “I wouldn’t say it’s the best thing I’ve ever read, but it is a nice romantic escape”
Genrereviews – 4 pints of blood (out of 5)