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Turner #1.5


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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…

111 pages, ebook

First published May 26, 2011

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About the author

Courtney Milan

66 books5,169 followers
Courtney Milan writes books about carriages, corsets, and smartwatches. Her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. She is a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller.

Courtney pens a weekly newsletter about tea, books, and basically anything and everything else. Sign up for it here: https://bit.ly/CourtneysTea

Before she started writing romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.

Courtney is represented by Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 909 reviews
Profile Image for UniquelyMoi ~ BlithelyBookish.
1,166 reviews1,581 followers
December 28, 2015

Because even wallflowers fight back…


This might be the best novella I’ve ever read. It was such an emotional story, one that had me in tears one minute and laughing the next. It’s a story filled with hurt and sadness, hope and happiness, forgiveness and love.

Years earlier a callow, cruel Evan Carlton, Earl of Westfeld and his cousin, Diane, ruined a young woman’s debut into society, and pretty much turned Lady Elaine Warren into a pariah. She lost any hope of marrying well, and as if it weren’t enough, Diane continued the tormenting and teasing long after Evan fled England, unable to face Elaine and the pain he’d caused her. But now he's back, and determined to make things right!

I wasn’t sure if I could forgive Evan for the devastation he’d caused Elaine all those years before, but Ms. Milan created such a powerful story with believably human and perfectly imperfect characters, that I couldn't help but fall in love with him and cheer for his and Elaine’s happily ever after.

Note - Unlocked is book 1.5 of the Turner series, and a novella of 28,000 words, or about 111 pages. It's worth well more than the $.99 pricetag.
January 12, 2012
Unlocked is a fantastic short novel about a man who faces his past, and earns the love, trust, and forgiveness of the one woman he always wanted but was afraid to go after honorably, to break out of the mode of society's expectations for him.

I totally identified with Elaine. I was picked on incessantly growing up. No matter what I did, it was the focus of ridicule in school. I followed her plan of attack and withdrew into myself, pretending like it didn't matter. If you pretend like it doesn't matter, after a while, you can deal with it and keep your composure. The prey animal that runs gets chased by the predator. Ms. Milan was spot on with her psychology in this story. It felt therapeutic to me, that she could hit at the heart of such an issue that many of us experienced, and do it so well in the context of a love story. Although I could never imagine falling in love with one of my adolescent tormenters and settling into a HEA, she made it plausible, because she showed that Evan was just a man, a man who was too scared to be real and to be stand out from the crowd in a good way. I completely fell in love with Evan, for his honest desire and efforts to make amends and to be a better man. That took so much courage, more courage than climbing a mountain. Sometimes you have to go away to grow, and he did that, and came back to fulfill his destiny. And what a man he became. Also, Elaine showed courage. She was afraid to trust Evan, to believe he had changed. He proved that he had, and she took that leap of faith when it counted. And leapt right into his arms.

Courtney Milan clearly puts a lot of thought and heart into her stories, and that's why they resonate with me. She writes about men and women who I want to see happy, to see fall in love. They aren't cardboard, samey characters. They feel distinct and real to me. I liked that Evan is somewhat awkward and afraid but works past his fear. I like that Elaine has been a social failure with a mother who is so brilliant she doesn't fit into society. She gets the passionate aspects right too. They belong there, very organic to the story's development, showing the bond between the characters, so that I hold my breath with expectation. For a die-hard historical romance novel lover, it's been a bit depressing to see an endless ocean of new books out there with few that actually move me that way romance used to. I'm glad that I have Courtney Milan's books to do that for me. It feels good to be excited about reading historical romance again. Short but sweet, Unlocked is a delightful treat for the historical romantic. I highly recommend it.

Thanks for encouraging me to pull this off the pile, MrsJ!
Profile Image for Daniella.
256 reviews520 followers
January 28, 2016
I am a changed woman. I have seen the error of my ways.

Why, oh, why did I ever criticize Courtney Milan's writing in A Kiss For Midwinter? Maybe I read it wrong. Maybe I had a momentary lapse in judgment. Maybe an alien from Mars who hated amazing writing took over my brain and spitefully wrote that review.

Because there is no way in hell that Courtney Milan's writing could be anything but great.

Wow. Unlocked was such an enjoyable read. My attention was captured from the first chapter to the last, so much so that I never stopped until I finished it. No bathroom breaks. No food breaks. Nothing. I just sat there, and read like my life depended on it.

I can't even remember when I was so engrossed in a story like that. Recently, I've been having such bad luck at books that I randomly break out in song and/or dance the macarena when things get boring. But I never had this problem with Unlocked. Like I said, I was hooked.

The pacing was just perfect. The hero and the heroine were amazing. And that says something, because I'm probably the biggest asshole-hater ever. You see, Evan used to be this jerk who picked on Elaine just to get her attention, causing her to be ostracized. To be fair, he never intended for things to spiral out of control, but yeah, he was still a big ol' motherfucker. So why did I call him amazing? Because he really redeemed himself. He groveled and pleaded and did whatever he could to gain Elaine's trust, and even a staunch asshole-hater like me was swayed. A herculean feat, I tell you.

But what I loved the most was the fact that their transformation from enemies to lovers was done so naturally. Courtney Milan could have made it easier for her; she could have made Elaine fall for Evan early on in the book, , but she didn't. She really took pains building up the relationship, and I really appreciated that.

I've read so many enemies to lovers books that failed, because the writers were too impatient to get the ball rolling. They didn't understand that this particular trope shouldn't be rushed, that redemption takes time. But Courtney Milan understood. And she delivered.

Okay, I think I've fangirled enough. TL;DR: If you haven't read this yet, read it. Period.
Profile Image for Vintage.
2,368 reviews421 followers
August 12, 2021
This is such a difficult book to read as the hero is the heroine’s nightmarish villain from the past. He doesn’t arm-twist or slut shame but something far worse. He ridicules the heroine he secretly crushes on for her laugh, and the names and bullying are picked up by their peers. The bullying is so disgusting and cruel the hero leaves to mountain climb as a means to escape his feelings of shame. It’s years later (ten I think) and he’s back in society. The heroine cringes when she sees him as she fears he will start up where he left off.

The hero has changed, but unfortunately his evil, horrible, viperous cousin Diana hasn’t stopped the bullying and wants her partner back so she’ll have someone to smirk at when they hit the target. It’s very hard to read and makes liking the hero’s pretty tough despite attempts to make amends. I get anxious every time I read this as I just want to reach through the pages and do something dastardly to the evil one.

A novella with a satisfying ending with the huge exception that Diana doesn’t die a horrible and painful death.
Profile Image for Lauren.
1,090 reviews74 followers
May 4, 2022
Read: 5/4/22
1.5 stars rounded 2 stars for not being completely horrible.

This book is the reason I hate novellas! The author's story was rushed and crammed with too much material. I also downright hated the story!

The H, with the villians, made fun of this poor girl for 11 years. The H was in love with her @19 years old but didn't want anybody know, so he made fun of her laugh. Apparently, he was a 10 year old trapped in a 19 year old body. He can't live with what he did so he leaves for 10 years. Now, he is back to make amends. A little late IMO!

The h was the only saving grace in this book. She kept her head high and never let anybody know how hurt she really was. In reality, I found it a little ridiculous that no one wanted to marry a beautiful titled woman bc of her laugh. I also thought the h forgave the H too quickly.

The author wanted to compare the ton to high-schoolers. It just didn't work! Though, I think a high-schooler would enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Laura.
Author 15 books593 followers
March 25, 2013
review posted on Demon Lover's Books & More


I first heard about this book on twitter. Jane Litte (yes, THE Jane, the one from Dear Author) was saying how wonderful it was. And as I hustled over to allromanceebooks.com to buy it, Jane did the coolest thing ever-she bought 20 copies of the ebook and gifted it to the first 20 responders from twitter. I was lucky enough to be one of those 20.

That being said, Courtney Milan is a new author to me. With the cruel actions of the hero, I honestly thought he'd be hard to like, but Courtney Milan made a believer out of me rather quickly.

The hero, Evan, was a jerk to the heroine, Elaine, during her coming out. He was the typical little boy who pulled the pigtails of the pretty girl he liked. But with him being 19, and Elaine being 17, he was much crueler than just tugging her hair. By page 13 I had tears in my eyes for what had happened to Elaine. Lady Elaine is gorgeous. But, Elaine has a loud laugh. The kind of laugh that reminds me of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Loud, vivacious, and maybe even a snort. Evan began with the laugh. And it spiraled out of control from there. She was taunted and made fun of by everyone. Everyone. She gradually withdrew into herself. And ten years later, when Evan returns from mountaineering on the Continent, he tries to apologize. Watching him gain her trust, watching him teach her to hold her head high, watching her shed the wallflower label with the grace of a ballerina, it was beautiful.

This novella will not be my last by her. I've already checked out her backlist and will be purchasing in a bit.

Anyone who loves a good wallflower romance will love this one.

Anyone who loves to see the hero humbled by love, will want to read this.

Anyone who wants a book that runs the gamut of emotions, will enjoy this book.

And anyone who loves romance will love this book.

How can you not?

Profile Image for Dina.
1,324 reviews1,184 followers
June 3, 2011
Review to come later... In the meantime, here's my favorite line in the book:

"Over the years, everyone stumbles. That's why I'll be here for you — and you'll be there for me. I don't expect perfection. I want you, and you're a thousand times better."
Profile Image for willaful.
1,155 reviews371 followers
November 7, 2011
I bought this with some trepidation, not having liked the previous Milan book I tried. However, I absolutely love her intelligent blog posts (http://www.courtneymilan.com/rambling...) and commentary, and a dollar didn't seem much to spend to say thank you. I was so glad I took the small chance.

This novella was special, partially because it has such an original plotline and partially because it's (reasonably) plausible historical fiction that speaks so strongly to concerns we have right now. I'm actually currently having an online conversation with people I went to junior high with that fits right in with the themes of bullying, remorse, trust and forgiveness explored here. It's also deeply emotional and touching as a romance. I loved it.

(P.S. I just read this post by Milan about self-publishing, which makes me even happier that I shelled out the buck: http://dearauthor.com/features/letter...)

ETA: Reread 11/7/11

Profile Image for Mandi.
2,299 reviews722 followers
May 30, 2011
Favorite Quote: “If I’m to list the things I want, I want to own your quiet possession,” he continued, “and drive the wariness from your eyes.”

Do you remember when you were young and a kid would pick on you or tease you and your parents would say – oh, that’s just because deep down, he or she really likes you? This is Lady Elaine’s life – except she has to endure it as an adult, in the eyes of the ton. Elaine has quite a laugh – some say it sounds like a horse with a pig’s snort and they have nicknamed her Lady Equine. Evan Carlton, the Earl of Westfield pretty much knew he was in love with Elaine the first time he met her. But he was immature, and didn’t want anyone to know he was in love, so he made fun of her. He teased her and he made her feel small, and embarrassed. After awhile, his entire group of friends would turn and say hurtful things to Elaine, Evan felt bad. Really bad. He fled England to travel abroad. He became a mountaineer and learned the true value of friendship.

Ten years later, he is back in England, and at a house party, in the presence of Elaine. Now he wants to make amends, but he has much ground to cover. A mere apology is not going to make all those hurtful years go away. The teasing is actually still occurring from many in the ton, and Evan can’t believe he was ever a part of it. So he decides to become friends with her. And it is a wonderful journey to read.

Unlocked is a novella by Courtney Milan that is an amazing read. It affected me so much, I just want to read it over and over again. Elaine immediately cringes inward when she sees Evan at the party. She lives her life always planning how to stay out of everyone’s way. Wearing pale, muted dresses or she takes notice in the décor so it doesn’t look like she wants to dance. But once the teasing starts, she uses laugher as her defense.

Her laugh had been the cause of their torment all those years ago. And so when Elaine laughed without holding back, she sent them a message.

You cannot break me. You cannot hurt me. You cannot even made me notice you.

But she does hurt. And she does break. I also find it very intriguing that her mother is a social outcast. Extremely intelligent in mathematics and science, she is slow in other parts of her life. She doesn’t get sarcasm. She thinks if people are laughing they are happy, not laughing at her. So not only is Elaine the butt of jokes, but her mother even more so. And Elaine gets embarrassed for her mother. And her mother is not there to understand the insults both of them receive. It is this constant circle that exhausts Elaine to no end.

For as much pain as Evan has caused, there is still attraction. But when Evan starts to make amends, the trust is so slow to build. Elaine wants to be embraced, but in the back of her mind, she thinks he is just setting her up for ridicule in the next few minutes. I love how hard he has to work to get to a place where a romance can develop. This is a pretty short story and about halfway through we jump ahead nine months – which makes their basis for a friendship and eventual romance very believable.

Unlocked show us such exquisite pain from both the hero and the heroine. It is a really beautiful story of acceptance, forgiveness and of course, love.

(And it’s only $.99)

Rating: A
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,843 reviews5,558 followers
September 1, 2016

*3.5 stars, rounded down for the narration*

I listened to this book in audio format, and though I actually thought that the narrator did a nice job acting out the story, his voice was a real stumbling block for me. I looked up the age of the narrator, Simon Prebble, and he is in his mid 70s. He sounds like he is in his mid-70s. While most other reviewers love his narration of this story, I thought he sounded much too old for the MC, and his female voices were just ancient sounding.

In terms of the story, I always love Courtney Milan, and I think she did a great job with this one. It's so hard to tell a complete story in novella format, and while I wish this was longer, I still enjoyed the story a great deal. I'm really obsessed with the Turner series, and I was so curious about Lady Elaine, so I felt deeply satisfied by reading about her HEA.

I liked this one, so the 3.5 stars is a solid rating from me. With a different narrator, I think this would have easily been 4 stars.
Profile Image for Starr (AKA Starrfish) Rivers.
908 reviews267 followers
December 26, 2018
Oh my goodness, I'm going to be devouring Courtney Milan books over the holidays!

I absolutely love every single book in the Turner series! This novella is perfect despite the brevity.

A man who loved a woman when he was too young to be mature enough to handle it, made fun of her and made her a laughing stock of society. The young man (despite being 19 which is really a little too old to be making fun of women bc he's infatuated) nevertheless reminded me of my Highschool days.

Boys are just so horrid when they like a girl!! Esp. the popular ones who don't want to appear vulnerable and care too much how others in their popular group think of them. Totally resonated!


And what he did to beg her forgiveness. He made me totally fall in love with him. Evan is SUCH a good man! Trust Ms. Milan to write to-die-for Heroes!

I love this book!
Profile Image for Baba  .
859 reviews3,810 followers
May 10, 2012
Full review now posted

"I had hoped you wanted to say that," he whispered into her ear. "Now might I repeat it louder?" He took her mouth again. She tasted of cinnamon. She yielded in his arms as he drew her closer. His hands crept up her side, and found nothing but soft fabric and softer flesh underneath.

Whispers…I'm a little bit disappointed. May I say it louder? I'm a little bit disappointed. Unlocked didn't captivate me.

For such a short novella there were just too many characters involved. In hindsight I wanted more quality time for H/h. Sadly, I have to admit that the plot was a bit boring, too. I got it that Evan hurt Elaine. I really did. But. Her thoughts revolved around this one single issue. He hurt her. She was afraid of getting hurt again. She did not trust him. Over and over again. Again, it was mentioned numerous times how she's been hurt by many different people. With that said, at a certain point of the story it was just too much. It felt tedious. Needless to say that I didn't particularly like the heroine.

The dialogue was ok, no more, no less. Well, when I'm reading a CM book, I want to be swept off my feet. Hence, when you get used to something exceptional, then it's difficult to take a step down to average land. It is what it is. Unlocked was pretty average and could not live up to my high expectations. I'm looking forward to reading Unveiled though, and I truly hope it'll be another outstanding read.

On a personal note
I'm delighted that the author mentioned Switzerland and the Matterhorn. It's a beautiful Swiss mountain and pretty famous.

Profile Image for ♡Karlyn P♡.
605 reviews1,205 followers
June 4, 2011
Wow, loved it. Thank you to everyone who recommended this gem.

A great enemies-to-lovers historical novella.

Some favorite quotes:
Profile Image for Debby *BabyDee*.
1,137 reviews58 followers
May 12, 2022
I love Courtney Milan's somewhat unorthodox stories and way of written. This was a very enjoyable read although some things should have been said a lot sooner than 19 years. The H/h are likeable characters and individuals having to overcome hatred ways. Glad they learned to trust and fall in love to a very HEA.
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,238 reviews265 followers
September 16, 2019
The beginning of this just didn't work for me. The trust test was outrageous, 19 is too old for bullying because of love, and again it felt oddly inconsistent. The back half of this book saved it, but unfortunately it was short so it was difficult for me to let go of the early reading experience. While my investment in Lady Elaine was somewhat immediate, that was very much to the detriment of me rooting for Evan. Yes he was sweet and had all the reasons, but his upstaging and stories grated on me, telling me it just wasn't enough for him to recover to my good graces. For me, this was oddly reminiscent of many of the negative reviews I've seen of The Hating Game, which I love. There just want TIME to convince me, though this is a powerfully well done novella.

And that cover is atrocious.
Profile Image for MelissaB.
722 reviews316 followers
May 31, 2011
Really good short story about a heroine who was bullied by the hero and his friends 10 years before. He just came back after the 10 year absence and is trying to apologize and make it up to her. Very nice story! Check it out, it's only 99 cents on Kindle and well worth the money, it was emotional and sweet!
Profile Image for Zero.
407 reviews19 followers
January 26, 2023
From the moment that Evan met Elaine he was enthralled by her. But he was a very dumb 17-year-old and he showed his interest by teasing her, which eventually became verbal harassment by him and his friends (because he didn't want anyone to realize the true nature of his feelings). He eventually was so ashamed of his actions, that he left the country for 10 years, and only returned when family obligations made it necessary.

Elaine has dealt with harassment of others by shrinking into herself for protection. When she sees Evan again after he returns to the country, she thinks that he must be the same awful person that he was. When she sees that he is not the same as he was and he apologizes to her for his actions (and he confessed to his feelings for her), she agrees to try to be friends.

The story then jumps ahead nine months.

This novella had some sweet parts, but too rushed for me to completely enjoy. I lost interest for a few days somewhere in the middle, but decided to go back to finished it.
Profile Image for Sharon.
505 reviews257 followers
January 14, 2018
Here are some of my thoughts:
• Elaine seemed so silly and superficial (but ultimately nice) in the previous book, and I’m glad to like her more here.
• The romance is a conflicting one. Bullying is such a sensitive topic, and I can only imagine how hard it would be to both forgive and love someone who has bullied you before. However, I can recognize Evan’s maturity now and his shame at what he has done. So I do believe him redeemable.
• Aw. Elaine’s relationship with her mother is really sweet and endearing. I love how protective she is of her mother and how genuinely innocent and optimist her mother is. Bravo to her when she is finally recognized for her intelligence.

Overall, it’s nice. I definitely feel for Elaine, and the romance turns out to be rather sweet. 3 stars

Things that you might want to know (WARNING: Spoilers below)
Happy/satisfying ending?
Love triangle? Cheating? Angst level? Other things to note?
Favorite scenes?
Profile Image for Geri Reads.
1,232 reviews2,026 followers
August 20, 2013
4 solid stars!!

This is my first Courtney Milan read, and I must say, she did not disappoint. Unlocked reminded me of Bully, albeit the HR version. I enjoyed Bully, so it was no surprise I enjoyed this one as well.

Elaine Stockhurst had been the object of the ton's ridicule ever since she came out to society years ago. She was different, you see and attracts an unhealthy attention due to her laugh and her, ahem, generous bosoms. Elaine has long accepted her place in society by making herself as invisible as possible. But when her number one tormentor, Evan Westfield came back to town and started being nice to her, she immediately became suspicious. After all, he tormented her for years and basically made her a pariah.

But Evan was a changed man. His travels around the world mellowed him and he regretted making Elaine's life hell and wanted to make up for it. You see, Evan, for a long time, has harbored deep feelings for Elaine but his plan to make her noticed him backfired and he ended up bullying her instead. So years after those humiliating first season, Evan was ready to make amends, but will Elaine ever trust him again?

I highly recommend this little novella for those who have a hankering for a well-written historical romance book. It's sweet, short, with lovable main characters and interesting secondary characters. ♥

Profile Image for Pamela Shropshire.
1,292 reviews58 followers
November 1, 2017
Now THIS is how you write a story of redemption! Even though it was a novella, it had better character development and angst than many full length novels I've read.

Years earlier, Evan, Lord Westfield, was attracted to Lady Elaine (best friend of Lady Margaret from book 1) but he behaved very, very immaturely and stupidly. He, along with his cousin, Lady Diana, hurt her deeply. Evan finally realized what he had done and didn't see how he could make it right, so he ran away. Now he's back in London for the season and he hates that Lady Elaine's spirit is almost completely crushed.

Elaine hates Westfield and his cousin for what they did to her, but even more, for how Lady Diana has treated Elaine's mother. Lady Stockton is a badass mathematician and astronomer - I ADORE her - Lady Diana mocks her and Lady Stockton is unaware of the mockery. When Evan starts being nice to Elaine and her mother, she doesn't trust him for one minute. She knows that nothing he could ever do could make up for the pain he caused and she can never, ever, EVAH forgive him.

I love how Evan responds. It's just the best thing. If you haven't read this book - or if you haven't read Courtney Milan, you need to rectify that immediately.
Profile Image for Preeti ♥︎ Her Bookshelves.
1,274 reviews20 followers
January 16, 2018
I have read book #1 in this series, which was an okay read and so I wasn’t so keen on the rest of the books.
But I’m glad I stumbled on this one by chance. For the spectacular grovel if nothing else.

A very angsty and intriguing premise – a heartless young man makes a laughing stock of a young deb who’s lovely looking but not in the conformed accepted way. Her social life becomes intolerable as she becomes the butt of everyone’s joke and the labels stick so much so that she rarely gets acknowledged by her real name.
Ten years on, the man returns from an extended foreign trip – mature and much wiser. He tries to make amends only to be rebuffed by her. She’s lost her spontaneity long ago but her defenses are now more honed.

He feels regret and shame on his role in making her the perpetual wallflower.
But it’s more than that as the real reason behind his inexcusable behavior is revealed. Like that boy who pulls a girls pigtails at school. I know not everyone likes this particular analogy but his remorse is real and deep – and not so recent.
He gets down to befriend and gently woo her and that’s the rest of the story. Although the gentleness and measured tone also made for a bit of a tepid reading thereon!

I so love her gentle, befuddled but genius mother – an amateur astronomer. That’s a novel characterization! The h despairs of her mother’s obliviousness to the ton making fun of the mother-daughter duo and how how she couldn't see through her daughter’s brittle façade to the deep hurt inside, but the mother saw the one thing – the core thing - no one else was able to see!
Profile Image for Cheesecake.
2,667 reviews357 followers
August 29, 2020
I was reading another novel by this author and got a wee bit bored. So I came back to this one and appreciated it all the more, second time 'round. I do hate when the hero is too soft on the 'bee with an itch' out of misplaced 'gentlemaness' and unwarranted compassion. Well it's terribly moral to think of her as a regular person who could mend her ways... as he had. (irreverent 'snort'). Other the fact that I hate novels where 10 years are wasted, this is a great little read. He's more of a beta than an alpha, but I love that. I married a beta, and frankly, beta's are sweeter!

Profile Image for Juliana Philippa.
995 reviews912 followers
March 12, 2023
[4.25 stars After writing the review below, I decided to change my mind again and am increasing the rating from 4 to 4.5. Upon third reading, changed rating to 4.25 stars]

Read this in 2011 and gave it 3.5 stars, but after reading Book 1 in this series, Unveiled , I decided to try it again, especially since I couldn't remember any of it. Am so glad I did, because I enjoyed it much more this time around. Loved the main characters, had great secondary ones, numerous sigh- and quote-worthy portions, and was really surprisingly tender and emotional. The hero really did socially torture the heroine, and you feel her pain and her strength, very vividly. You also feel his sorrow and guilt, and how much he wants to try and make up for what he did.

I would probably give it 4.5 or maybe even 5 stars if it wasn't for one super little thing, but that really made me feel like we were missing out. We start the book at a country house party in July 1840, where Evan Carlton, Earl of Westfield, has come back after 10 years away from England, and essentially tries to make up for the way he made Lady Elaine Warren's life miserable 10 years ago. All lovely, won't go into details, but then about halfway through we skip to 9 months down the line where they've basically formed a type of friendship, and I really, REALLY wish we had been given snapshots of how that occurred.

It's very believable, so it didn't take away from the authenticity of their connection, but it did make me feel like there was this big chunk missing, like someone had come and deleted the whole mid-section of the book. Yes it's a novella, but it's already such a short novella that a few interactions over the course of those 9 months could definitely still have been included. It's so fun to watch Evan and Elaine together; I wanted more!

Bottom Line. Definitely read, and although yes, it is part of a series, it definitely does not have to be read in order. Elaine and one of the other characters make brief appearances in Unveiled, but that's it.

Quote. So many great ones, so I had to choose a few:
There was a savagery to his smile, and a darkness in his eyes when he watched her. He was in love with her. And it hurt him.

He was nothing but a deep abyss of want, and only she could fill him. He didn't want to turn at the sound of her voice. If he simply stared into the hydrangea for long enough ... then he would be a coward. He turned to face the woman who could bring him to his knees.

"I'll be you friend in daylight. I'll treat you as a comrade in every gas-lit ballroom. But alone, under moonlight, I'll not pretend that I want you for anything but mine."
716 reviews298 followers
December 12, 2017
To begin with, I must say I really appreciate Courtney Milan's writing ability and have enjoyed her previous novels very much. For some reason, this novella is not my favorite work of hers and it's probably because of those 10 years of suffering of the heroine here.

10 years is a decade. 10 years is one tenth of a century. 10 years is the time it takes for a newborn to grow enough to enter 5th Grade at school. And it shouldn't take 10 years for hero Evan to face up to his big mistake. Evan's cousin Diana, his partner-in-crime in the belittling of heroine Elaine, spends these 10 years marrying and producing babies and still continues to mock Elaine, no mellowing with motherhood for Diana here. And our heroine, Elaine: What can I say? She spends these 10 years allowing herself and her mother to be mocked and belittled. She might as well have posted a KICK ME sign on her back.

Go back these 10 years and we have 19-year-old Evan liking Elaine but she doesn't pay much attention to him, so he does the equivalent of pulling her pigtails and calling her carrot-top. (No, she doesn't have orange hair. That's just for saying something.) All his friends and dear cousin Diana take up the clarion call and mock Elaine too. Ashamed of what he is doing to poor Elaine, Evan runs off to climb mountains in Europe for 10 years. His friends and Diana stay behind and continue to make Elaine's life a living hell for those 10 years. Elaine rolls over and plays doormat for 10 years.

Then Evan returns, ten years later. He's ashamed and wants to make amends. He apologizes and starts to defend Elaine and her mother against the mockery of the ton. All of a sudden Elaine loves him. Oh, please. How???? For me, Milan needed to expand more on the relationship of H and h from the time of his return up to the time of their declarations of love for each other. I couldn't quite feel the reason for the love. All of a sudden it's just there. I realize that part of the problem is the short novella length, but some of the many pages spent on the H/h love scene could have been pages better spent, IMO, in showing me how they got to that stage in their relationship.

The idea of this novella is good. Milan writes very nicely. If that 10-year period had been 2, or maybe even 3, I would have liked this story so much more. (Did I by any chance overmention anything about 10 years in this review?)
Profile Image for Janet.
650 reviews12 followers
February 7, 2012
10 years: that number really hit me in the face. Evan and Elaine met in 1830. That same year, Evan left England. He returned in 1838. When he meets Elaine again, at a ball in 1840, it’s been a decade since they’ve seen each other. Long separation … not a trope I love.

Great opening: why is an earl who once “dominated society” feeling uneasy as he enters the ballroom with his cousin Diana? What had he done that made him hate himself? He spots Lady Equine (Lady Elaine Warren) even though she’s easy to overlook because of her colorless, anemic dress. Her hair is tightly pulled back and she’s not married. He met her at 17, she’s now 27. What he remembers from their first encounter -- her mature body, unlike other debutantes and her “long, loud, vital laugh”. He thought she held nothing back – that she planned to enjoy life.

What happened: Evan gave her a damning, soul-destroying nickname (Lady Equine) and continued to tease her. She began “to slide her eyes over him”. “He had watched her draw in on herself until the vital stuff he’d lusted after had simply faded away.” So he ran away, ashamed. Found maturity in travels and becoming an accomplished mountaineer. Makes a different choice when he returns: he asks her to dance. His cousin assumes he’s going to bait her.

What has Elaine done in 10 years? a) made a few good friends b) waited for society to find new targets of scorn c) finds places to hide in social situations she can’t avoid “This house party was mostly safe—she’d interrogated her mother closely as to the guest list. None of her closest friends had come, but her remaining tormenters were absent. Her mother had wanted to attend to pass the time while her father was off overseeing his estates.” Didn’t care for the mother/daughter relationship, as it was described, because wouldn’t a mother who was also a scientist be a tad more observant? Unless it’s the unobservant scientist trope and how accurate is that? Elaine’s closest friends: why wouldn’t they, during a 10 year time frame, persuade her to dress more attractively? I wondered why she was seemingly so passive about her future. “Unlike Elaine, her mother somehow failed to notice how little she was liked.” OK, get that, but why does she not realize her daughter isn’t liked? Why doesn’t Elaine talk to her mother? Bullying is serious stuff but perhaps it was the amount of time elapsing since the incident?

Evan asks Elaine to dance: she doesn’t run: “realized long ago that running was the worst thing she could do”. Was it? Wasn’t continuing to show up the worst thing? Wondering. Is all her self-esteem bound up in the validation of one cruel man? “She hated that he made her think that the impossible might be attainable.” She feels exposed, humiliated. They trade insults. He’s happy she’s showing some gumption. She shows admirable poise when he tries to apologize. Liked that sense of spine.

Dangerous shoals – Elaine’s mother is being set up for embarrassment. She admits her mother not attentive but my goodness, 11 seasons and no husband? Is that realistic for the time? Moving along, Evan is making amends and warning off his cousin. The explanation for past cruelty by the cousins: their mutual teasing was for mutual protection. Diana realizes her cousin is being chivalric. After dinner Evan talks about climbing, Diana defends the numbers of years he’s been away preparing to climb Mont Blanc. Play on words dragged me out of story … Diana says “…not only rope to consider, but the boots, and the, uh, the special packs, and also the tampons.” “Crampons,” Evan supplied. Were tampons a word in 1840? Was this intended as a wink for the reader? It took me into mistorical* territory: the word tampon was first used in 1848. N.B. The author explained to me offline that the word tampon was used correctly. I've changed my grade because I, the reader, made a mistake about a word (and it threw me off). There are lots of words like that, I suspect, like "shag". In any case, my mistake: my research was too superficial.

Diana deliberately spills wine on Elaine and Evan privately, but not publicly, calls her on her action. There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of amends and thoughtfulness and anger and change. Interesting. Elaine explodes at him, she cries, she confronts, she’s honest with Evan. She enters his room, she ties him up (at his invitation) – really? How does she know how to do such a good knot, with a name even? But what I liked, that she left him tied up. She’s done with being the butt of his jokes and she acknowledges he always watched her bosom and at last, asks herself, why did she worry? FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real. She’s busting through her myths.

I like, “… she’d felt full-blown want”. The danger, that he would make her feel safe, make her believe. Finally, her mother offers to leave and self-sacrificial Elaine refuses the offer. Mother speaks, Evan polite, Diana rude, Evan abases himself in front of everyone and tells the story of how, as a 19 year-old, he was cruel to a young girl. One of the parts of the book I liked, his honesty, that he didn’t make excuses: he owns his behaviour. That’s why he started mountaineering, “because I was too cowardly to come home, apologize, and try to make things right.”

He learns the truth – how she inhaled water into her lungs trying to stop the way she laughed. The torment she endured. She didn’t want to be herself. She offers him friendship. Lovely to read, that she extends hand of friendship. After a wonderful kiss (and Milan, such a good writer, makes you feel all the different elements of it), it's all friendship, all the time.

Nine months later. He rehabilitates her (that annoys me, somewhat). Her success in society "happens" to her. Was no one else in society able to help? What I like: that love takes time; trust takes time; that she needs to stand on her own, to regain her power. But how, by walking into a room wearing dark blue or vibrant red? Is this a cliché or a powerful metaphor?

Liked again how a bad situation, her mother and Elaine’s “vulnerable heart” is reframed. I am unfortunately not surprised though, that it’s a man behind the scenes, pulling levers, calling in favours. A man does that for the woman he loves. Now the woman astronomer from Hanover connection … laying it on a bit but lovely to see mother appreciated. Niggling question: why was Elaine so ignorant of her mother’s scientific worth? But heroes need quests and Evan’s was to have the truth dawn on Elaine … that he is in love with her.

Another evening. We’re on solid ground: she knows she’s loved, she’s not sure how exactly she feels but she cares, deeply. Love blooms. It’s interesting that he can see beyond them to the idea that he could love someone else, although he of course wants her. Very mature sentiment. With the passage of time he’s savagely unhappy: he doesn’t believe she’ll ever love him. But once she admits to herself she loves him, she acknowledges that she has the power to make him happy and she goes to him. My thoughts? Love will have a way – she’s been waiting long enough. Lovely dialogue – Milan does that so well. And how much satisfaction do we get when we read, “Confident. She was so confident. It was what he’d always hoped for from her—her trust, finally given over to him.” But wait, cousin Diana shows up: can this newly made proposal be saved? *Of course!* I like that Elaine now has responsibility for Evan’s happiness: she has the power to hurt him and she doesn't misuse it.

Finally (and this is very good), Elaine acknowledges that she choose to duck her head underwater, to avoid, to continue to expect the worst. To retreat inside herself. She thinks, “It’s complicated.” I like that notion in a book.

Definitely an enjoyable novella. The presentation is top notch, the price is a steal and many interesting issues are raised. The time frame troubled me as did the heroine’s rather anemic life until the hero reappeared on the scene. A few incidents took me out of the story: a word choice, a heroine who is accomplished at tying knots but I quibble. Milan sets a very high standard.

* Giving credit where credit is due: Janet/Robin from Dear Author coined the mistorical tag.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Liz).
609 reviews393 followers
July 27, 2011
I am, unfortunately, very much able to relate to the character of Elaine. People can be so vicious and cruel to anyone who doesn't look, sound, think, or act as they deem to be within the realm of popularity. It's a very real problem that resonates personally with me, as well as far too many others. And it's an especially relevant topic in today's world where so many young people have been hounded to the point where they take drastic measures. This short story addresses the topic seriously, and in a sensitive manner. There's too much to say on this topic, so I'll move to the story itself. Having had years and years of experiences similar to Elaine's, I could not fathom how the author was going to redeem the hero, Evan, in my eyes. It was going to take some serious doing, and how was that going to happen in a short story?! Well, Courtney Milan pulled it off. Through her writing I was able to feel the change and growth of Evan. I truly believed he could feel what he had put Elaine through, and that he experienced genuine sorrow and pain over it. Oh, if only that could happen in real life. And that is, I'm sorry to say, the only sticking point I had with this story. Normally, I'm easily able to dismiss some of the more far-out plot points in books and just enjoy the story. Maybe because this storyline is personal to me, I had a harder time managing that with this story. It just struck me as a bit naive and idealistic that Evan could evolve as he did. That's sad, I know. It could be simply because I've never experienced that in my own life. It *is* the ideal outcome. It *is* the way the world should work. Too often, though, we don't even come close. All in all, this was a very good story. It was very well written, and it obviously left me with a number of thoughts and feelings. That's always a good sign.
Profile Image for Lady Nilambari Reads HR.
347 reviews67 followers
March 19, 2022
2 Stars

I read this as a part of the anthology Seven Wicked Nights last year, and this review comes almost a year later. I am writing from memory so bear with me.

Quick Review
- This was my first Courtney Milan book.
- I liked her writing style. It was engaging.
- The reason I did not like this is that the hero was the worst kind of a bully to the heroine. So what if he wanted to make amends with her? (That's the story, him apologising and she refusing, and them spending time together because of that, hence, love.)
- His reasons were so spineless. "I didn't really want to bully you, but I did it to fit in with the glam crowd and please my sister (the bitchy lady), so I just went along with them. I did not know my horse joke on you would catch on like wildfire and make your life miserable. I actually liked you.
- What a load of kindergarten crap is that? If a boy pushes you, he likes you. And this constitutes a romance? Okay, she forgave him, her choice, but I did not like it, even with the grovelling.
- Sorry, a bully is a bully. Thoughts are great, but actions and choices matter even more.

My Recommendation
I dropped Milan from my TBR after this. Somehow it popped up on my radar, and I thought to dash off a quick review. Hmmm, maybe it's time to see Milan's other works, do some due diligence, and pick a suitable title to read.
Profile Image for TJ.
2,645 reviews153 followers
October 5, 2011
This is one of the best novellas I have had the pleasure of reading - EVER! Usually I shy away from the shorts because they just can't seem to successfully carry an interesting and thorough plot while allowing for character development in such a short period . Not so with "Unlocked", in it Ms. Milan hit every single point dead on.

The story is creative and unique (if there is such a thing in HR by now), the character development is pitch perfect. Starting with a wallflower who has been tortuously teased, shunned and made fun of at the hands of one man and his friends and that man who, after years away, returns to right the wrong he has committed against the young lady. It is both believable and emotional. The characters growth is beautifully written while not undermining the plot. All this in 111 pages! A M A Z I N G!

*For those clean readers, there is one steamy scene near the end*
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