Unlocked (Turner, #1.6) - Courtney Milan
I have a wee bit of a girl crush on Courtney Milan. So it's really odd that this is the first story of hers I have read. Okay, not really as I haven't been into historical romance before. I downloaded this for free on Amazon, though I haven't read the first in the series, and thank goodness, really.Lady Elaine Warren has spent the last ten Seasons as the laughing stock of London society. She has taken the brunt of the taunts and mocking from Evan Carlton, Earl of Westfeld and his cousin Diana, Lady Cosgrove. After ten years of torment Lady Elaine is timid, not respected, and looking at the prospect of spending her life alone. Westfeld fled after that first Season and has returned to find the ruin he left behind as Lady Cosgrove and the rest of society continued their nasty campaign in his absence. Westfeld has changed and wishes to right his wrongs and maybe have the chance with Lady Elaine he ruined all those years ago. The question is, will she be able to forgive him and move forward?This story really could (and maybe should) have been a full length book instead of novella. There was a lot more to Elaine and Evan's relationship that could have been explored. Especially during the nine month jump in the middle. Still, these were probably the most fleshed out characters I have read in a novella. I was already feeling for them within the first couple of chapters. The reader completely understands what Evan and Diana put Elaine through and how it affected her. I hurt for her. While I question forgiveness, we really got a sense of Evan's regret, his desire to make amends, and the way he had changed in his time away from London society. This is where I think this should have been a longer novel. I would have liked to have seen more of him demonstrating how he changed. That he, hopefully, understands how ludicrous his notion of love was at nineteen. I also would have liked to have seen more of his and Elaine's friendship. I love that she didn't make it easy for him. I love that she made him understand what he did to her. The depth of her hurt and psychological damage. I love that they developed an actual relationship based upon actual friendship and mutual respect. That even though I'm not sure I could be 100% sold on forgiving what he did, I still bought what they had together and could support it instead of questioning it. What I would have liked more would have been Elaine overcoming the teasing and still securing her place within society before Evan came back, her pulling herself up on her own, and making him really work for her forgiveness rather than the relatively easy opening of trying to fix the damage he had caused (and reign in his cousin). Though I love what happened with Elaine's mother and 'story time'. I fought with myself on whether to rate this four or five stars. In the end, those few elements that gave me pause and the use of that euphemism (*eye twitch*) has me giving this somewhere slightly above four stars. I'm still not quite sure historical romance is my sub-genre, but I am anxious to read more from Courtney Milan.