Adrian Hunter has concealed his identity and posed as a servant to assist his powerful uncle. He’s on the verge of obtaining the information he needs when circumstances spiral out of his control. He’s caught alone with a woman he scarcely knows. When they’re discovered in this compromising circumstance, he’s forced to marry her at gunpoint. Luckily, his uncle should be able to obtain an annulment. All Adrian has to do is complete his mission…and not consummate the marriage, no matter how enticing the bride may be.
Lady Camilla Worth has never expected much out of life—not since her father was convicted of treason and she was passed from family to family. A marriage, no matter how unfortunate the circumstances under which it was contracted, should mean stability. It’s unfortunate that her groom doesn’t agree. But Camilla has made the best of worse circumstances. She is determined to make her marriage work. All she has to do is seduce her reluctant husband.
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.
I so, so wanted to love After the Wedding by one of my all-time favorite authors, Courtney Milan, but, sadly, I left the book feeling disappointed and vaguely upset.
I know Courtney Milan has much more in her than this story. Her Brothers Sinister series gave me so much life, and I credit her with my love of historical romance. However, this book felt like Courtney Milan was checked out.
On the surface, the book seemed a bit like The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, one of my favorite books of 2017. We get a bisexual heroine, a biracial hero, and an adventure story, of sorts, in a historical setting. However, After the Wedding didn't have nearly the same level of excitement and didn't even come close to capturing my attention in the same way.
I found the characters to be almost one note, their defining characteristics drilled into our heads with repetition over and over again. Yes, Camilla is hopeful and wishes to be loved. Yes, Adrian is too trusting. I just couldn't help finding them to be one-dimensional. The internal monologues from Camilla felt like the same thing over and over again. And I couldn't feel the chemistry between them at all. The love just wasn't there for me.
And I don't know if it's just me, but I found the plot to be confusing and muddled. The beginning had me scratching my head, then we flash back in time and start over. Okay... But then the plot involved some complicated scheme that I didn't quite get and that never fully engaged me.
Finally, I want to mention a bit about the diversity in this book, which I loved. I am a reader of queer romance and I love increased representation in historical romance. I also loved that we got a biracial, black male MC. However, I was surprised at how open both the female MC and a side character were about their sexuality. It felt like a wholly modern detail, as everyone was only the barest of acquaintances at that point. I would have thought that in a historical romance, the characters would have used a lot more discretion. I really applaud Courtney Milan for giving us representation, but I didn't feel like the way it was introduced fit with the time period at all.
I'm giving this book 2-stars because I think it did a few things well, but mostly I felt like it was lacking. I just KNOW Courtney Milan can do amazing things with words, and I think I was just expecting so much more.
I just couldn't get into this story. It just went on and on and on.
The heroine drove me crazy- so much introspection, basically revolving around the words please love me, even though I am not worthy of love which she projected at every single person she encountered. She had been diminished to such a point that she had lost all sense of self. She was convinced she did not deserve love and accepted it. (Frankly, I started to feel like she didn't deserve it either!) It was awful. I certainly felt sorry for her. And cringed at the same time. I was embarrassed for her. She took ages to grow, and her bottom-of-the-barrel expectations only rose at the very end.
The hero was way too NICE. Always ready to forgive and let everyone have another chance, no matter how many times that person had disappointed him. He was just a bit sad and pathetic.
I feel so mean when I write this, however, while I applaud the intention behind the story (that no matter what life throws at you, remain positive and optimistic and believe the best of everybody) there comes a time when that turns into foolish gullibility and self-destructive naiveté.
Me - after reading this book.
I just could not connect to the MCs and am so disappointed, because I am a CM fan. It was great to have an interracial couple- not enough of those in HR- but did they have to be such bloody doormats? I liked Grayson, the hero's brother, much more- confident man with a healthy dose of scepticism and common sense. Hope she writes a book about him.
I really, really wanted to like this, but I felt it missed the mark. Logically I don't understand the situation we find our heroine in at the start, particularly as regards her siblings’ abandonment, whatever latter explanations were then provided.
The words of her adult elder sister, to a then 12 year old kid, were remarkably cruel and unrealistic. In addition we spent way too long on our heroine’s inner monologue of self-hate. It was incessant.
The male lead also tended to blather on ad nauseam about how much she deserved True Love, and just as a general note they were both annoyingly immature.
I am not sure why the character ages were set so low, perhaps to justify their asinine behavior where many alternative far more logical paths existed. A biracial male lead was a point of interest but not enough to hold these tatters together.
The quality of writing seemed more along the rambling repetitious Stephanie Laurens style rather than that of this author’s usual high standard. I swear I will bore my eyes out if I have to read the words “a slow falling in love”ever again.
Those words were sprinkled generously every few pages like we were incapable of remembering that ever so precious goal of these two young’uns. Bless their hearts.
In sum though, I suppose my main issue was a female lead who didn’t like herself, and never convincingly learned to without outside validation.
Whatever small, baby step actions she took at the last minute to convince us otherwise. I can’t waste my time liking someone who themselves can’t be bothered.
I am sure I can’t imagine the work that went into creating this book, but as a reader I was disappointed. If this is your first Milan definitely check some of her older gems out, the writer had some real life stuff happening so this book was a hodgepodge of scattered writing over a few years where perhaps proper planning and design fell to the wayside.
If you’ve not read her ever. Don’t start here. In fact maybe don’t read this at all. You need to already have built up some author loyalty and love to tackle this quagmire.
I’m a big fan of Courtney Milan’s – her Brothers Sinisterseries is comprised of six of the finest historical romances written in the last decade or so (sorry, but I don't count Talk Sweetly to Me among their number), and hers are books I always recommend to people who want to read entertaining, character-driven historical romances that are well-grounded in actual history and which don’t blithely ignore the inherent inequalities and prejudices of the eras in which they are set.
We’ve waited a couple of years for a new full-length novel from Ms. Milan. After the Wedding is the second book in her Worth Saga which is currently projected to be eight books and which will largely take place outside British shores. This is great news for those of us who have frequently wished for more historicals that take place away from the rarefied atmosphere of Georgian or Victorian London, and with that, comes the promise of more diverse characters and stories, both of which are welcome prospects.
I will admit, however, that I wasn’t wild about the first two books in the series, Once Upon a Marquessand the novella, Her Every Wish. I felt the romances were rather underdeveloped in both; and in the novel in particular, as though the author had rather lost sight of the fact that it was supposed to be a romance amid the sheer ‘busy-ness’ of the book as a whole. I didn’t connect with the protagonists and, more importantly didn’t feel they had much of a connection to each other, which isn’t a good place for any romance to find itself in. Still, the premise of After the Wedding – a (literal) shotgun wedding – reeled me in (arranged/forced marriage stories are my catnip) so I pounced on it, hoping that perhaps those earlier novels had been anomalies and that this one would once again provide the richly developed, engaging characters and stories I have found in the author’s previous work.
Sadly, that didn’t happen.
Our hero, Adrian Hunter, is the son of a widowed duke’s daughter and a black abolitionist; he is one of five brothers, three of whom perished fighting in the American Civil War. He’s good-looking, clever, compassionate and well-to-do; his one source of discontent is that his mother’s brother, Bishop Denmore, has never publicly acknowledged their familial relationship. The bishop took Adrian into his household when he was a boy, where he acted as his uncle’s page, and then, once grown, as his secretary, but nobody knew he was anything other than a servant. Still, the man’s frequent expressions of affection for his ‘favourite sister’ give Adrian hope that one day, the bishop will own him as his nephew, and it seems that day is imminent when Denmore asks Adrian for a favour. He wants Adrian to pose as a valet in order to enter the household of his rival, Bishop Lassiter, whom Denmore suspects of something underhand. Adrian will gather evidence which the bishop will use to expose Lassiter and then Denmore will acknowledge Adrian. It’s clear from the outset that’s never going to happen – and it’s hard to credit that Adrian, whom we’re supposed to believe is intelligent and a good businessman, could be so credulous.
Anyway. Adrian takes the job as valet and accompanies Lassiter on a visit to one of his cronies, Rector Miles, which is where he encounters Camilla Winters, one of the housemaids. She’s pretty and inclined to flirtation, which Adrian thinks might work to his advantage if she knows anything useful – but before he can find out, they are set up to be discovered alone together and forced to marry. Clearly the intention has been to discredit one or both of them – but why?
We know that Camilla Winters is in fact Camilla Worth, younger sister of Judith, heroine of Once Upon a Marquess. Their father, the Earl of Linney, had been executed for treason and their eldest brother, Anthony, has disappeared; Judith and her younger siblings, Theresa and Benedict, lived, until recently, in very straitened circumstances, and it was this life on the edge of poverty that Camilla wanted to escape when, aged, twelve, she decided to go to live with their uncle. She might not have her family, but she would have plenty of new dresses and lemon tarts. Judith, for whom family is incredibly important, was angry and upset and said some very nasty things, Camilla left, and they haven’t seen each other since. Unfortunately for Camilla, things didn’t work out with her uncle and over the past nine years she has been passed from pillar to post, working as a companion to an elderly lady, then descending lower in the pecking order to become a domestic servant. Humbled and cowed, she now works for Rector Miles for half-wages, which is all she’s worth on account of her sins, but through it all, she’s been sustained by one thing – hope. Hope that one day, she will be loved, one day someone will choose her for her own sake.
Adrian is lovely – a thoroughly decent, kind man who takes his responsibilities seriously and wants to do his best for everyone around him. The trouble is that at times he’s perhaps a little bit too good to be true – so much so, in fact, that he’s at risk of crossing the line between ‘understanding and forgiving’ and ‘gullible’. Camilla, however, proved to be a major stumbling block, with her repetitive, ‘woe-is-me-I-just-want-to-be-loved’ introspective navel gazing – and her contradictory self-flagellation and ruthless optimism. And I just couldn’t buy the situation she’s in when we first meet her. She decided to leave her family home when she was twelve and then, when her life started to fall apart, never attempted to contact her siblings. It made no sense to me, regardless of the fact we’re told Judith told her never to come back; if you literally have nowhere else to go, you would at least make the attempt, wouldn’t you?
The romance, while it does have moments of tenderness and humour, is ultimately lacklustre. Adrian and Camilla spend a decent amount of time together on the page, but not much of that time is spent actually building their relationship and there isn’t a great deal of chemistry between them. When one of them realised they were in love, it came so much out of the blue that I was actually startled, and although their mutual honesty is refreshing, Camilla is such a one-note character that it was impossible to become invested in her. She thinks she doesn’t deserve love because she abandoned her family in favour of a regular supply of lemon tarts – and if I never again read the words “long, slow falling-in-love”, it’ll be too soon.
There’s a lot going on in After the Wedding. We’ve got a mixed-race hero, a heroine who has had romantic feelings for another woman, the rich, powerful men of the church being exposed as the petty hypocrites they are (and the casual racism of Adrian’s uncle is truly disgusting), the eternal struggle of women not to be oppressed, a woman of the upper classes having fallen on hard times to become a maid, and probably other things I either missed or can’t recall. And as with the earlier books, the romance feels as though it’s been squashed to make room.
The novel is well-written, and the author’s way with words continues to impress. But while it’s technically accomplished, the story lacks heart (for want of a better term) and ultimately falls flat. I am sure there are many readers out there who will find more to enjoy in After the Wedding than I did, but much as it pains me to say it, I was sorely disappointed.
Courtney Milan is a good HR writer and she also has a great social conscience. Her active participation in the #MeToo movement is admirable, as is her stance on various social issues with regard to race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. I'm with her all the way.
So that's great. I'm all for being open-minded, open-armed, and inclusive. I'm even trying to be open-minded and tolerant about all of that being inserted not very subtly into a romance novel. Here we have a taste of just about every social issue. (1) There's a biracial hero (mother white, father black) looking for acceptance in a white man's world; (2) There's a heroine who is bisexual (actually she seems merely to have dabbled in bisexuality, IMO) and who has fallen from upper-class status to now being a maid; (3) There are rich and powerful men of the church showing their true selfish, intolerant selves; (4) There's the eternal struggle of women to not be oppressed by men; (5) There are characters of various races and ethnicities and social levels to be found. And there's probably more but I got tired of looking for "woke" stuff and can't remember.
Somehow, it seems to me that an author truly wishing to deal with a social issue would be better off to choose one and develop it in depth, rather than giving the readers a superficial tasting menu of many. But the good part about all this is that it's all inserted into a mostly charming and romantic story. There are many humorous incidents, many romantic ones and many that tug at the heartstrings.
Camilla, the heroine (and perhaps my least favorite character) is the prodigal sister of the Worth family which was first introduced in ONCE UPON A MARQUESS. After the disgrace of their father, the Earl of Worth, she chose to leave the other siblings and live with their rich uncle. No longer with him, she's come down in the world and is struggling. She's also, strangely enough, hopeful, always hopeful, that some day she will be really, really loved, even though she feels she probably doesn't deserve to be.
All the while she internally and endlessly ruminates about this on page after page, I kept hearing Linda Ronstadt singing her 1970s cover to that 1960s Everley Brothers' song "When Will I Be Loved?" Yes, I know I'm dating myself with that mention, but to all you young'uns who don't know, the lyrics are "I've been cheated, been mistreated. When will I be loved? I've been put down, I've been pushed 'round. When will I be loved?" All this sung to a bouncy, upbeat (hopeful) melody.
Then there's lovely hero Adrian, son of a duke's daughter and a black abolitionist. He's one of 4 brothers. His 3 older brothers fought in the U.S. Civil War and two of them lost their lives. Adrian, as the youngest, stayed in England to help run the family pottery business. He feels a touch of survivor's guilt but manages to be an optimistic, sunny individual, eternally hoping for acceptance from his mother's upper-class white family and also waiting to meet his perfect soulmate, whom he will choose to marry (as his mother and father did).
He meets Camilla, who is working as a maid at the home of a rector, when he, posing as a valet, is sent by his uncle, a church bishop, to gather information on a rival church official. Just do this one last thing for me, says his uncle, and then I will really, really acknowledge you and your brother as part of our ducal family.
Naturally things aren't going to work as planned. Before Adrian has any success at gathering intel for his uncle, he and Camilla are set up to be found in a compromising situation and are forced at gunpoint to marry. And then they are sent in disgrace out of the rector's home. Obviously, Adrian, member of a well-to-do family, has somewhere to go so he takes his sort-of-wife Camilla with him, only until they can get an annulment. They can't stay married. They did not voluntarily choose each other.
He requests help from his bishop uncle for this annulment. But not so fast, says said uncle. You still don't have that info I sent you to gather. Get that and then we'll see. By now, you're getting the picture about what kind of guy this uncle is, right?
And so on and so forth. Camilla all hopeful to be chosen as someone worthy of love and not feeling worthy of love or the family she deserted. Adrian all hopeful about choosing that perfect person to love and also about being accepted by the family that disowned his mother. I got that. Huge desires to be loved and accepted.
Along the way to the HEA we readers are often entertained by various interesting, well-drawn secondary characters and little side stories. I'd go so far as to say this was often a charming, heartwarming tale, when it wasn't on that almost endless loop about hope, love, and acceptance. This is better than Worth Saga #1. That one was endlessly tedious and precious and for the birds.
There are many pieces here to cause strife and conflict, too many. As a result, the romance was underwhelming. I rated this 3.5ish stars, but it is difficult to rate because it is unique. Because there were some lovely moments and phrases to quote. Because I would love more historical romances journey these topics, just with a little more finesse and focus on the romance. What this really lacked was good character development. We were told how the characters felt rather than experience it with them. It didn’t help me connect with the characters. Despite all the themes, what we knew of the characters thoughts and feelings were repetitive. I am interested in the coming books in the series. I am invested enough in the saga to continue, so I am not ready to give up on it.
I think the main characters here would have worked better in a less convoluted story. Adrian and Camilla “deserved” a better love story, one with more joy and tangible feels. I am not going into too much detail. There are already some great reviews doing this, and I don’t have any more to add at the moment.
*I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
“I could not have been more lucky in my choice of women to not be married to” he said.
A road romance that lacked in the romance/chemistry between couple and a bit of a tangled plot. The middle sagged a bit and as this was where our couple spent the most time together and was supposed to shine, it definitely hurt my enjoyment.
They are forced to marry and the hero spends the majority of the story thinking annulment and I know that is supposed to be the angst, him falling in love subconsciously or what have you but I never felt this and as a consequence, they ended up lacking chemistry.
Hero was a very trusting, honest to a fault, and gentle man; I almost wonder if Milan consciously had him lean heavily in this direction as a contrast to usual aggressive black male more typically portrayed. I warred with myself if my personal like of more assertive or gruff heroes colored my liking of Adrian or if Milan ended up making him very benign. Which, I guess, nothing wrong with benign but in my fiction reading tastes, it makes them a bit boring.
Heroine got locked into showcasing pretty much only one aspect of her personality, the desire and need to be chosen; would have liked to have seen more of her. The fight she had with her sister that kept them separated also felt a bit overdone, she really would never had tried to contact Judith?
The whole story just felt a little directionless and a bit listless. There are of course wonderful Milan moments and characters, which I'm not sure I fully agree with some reviews that say there were too many issues tackled in this. The varied and diverse cast of characters didn't feel like Milan inserting issues, they just felt like characters. The woman gregariously stating her favoritism for women over men, who was a complete stranger to Adrian and Camilla, felt a bit out of place but out and proud had to start with someone.
Overall, the Milan magic was missing for me with this one, Camilla wasn't a standout heroine, the romance was lacking, and the plot with warring Reverends and Bishops was tangled. Looking forward to Adrian's brother Captain Grayson (dare I hope for some sweet high seas action??) in the next book and Camilla's sister Theresa as she searches for her half-sister (more high seas action??) in a future installment.
APRIL 2018: HERE I AM, EMBRACING AND LOVING ROMANCE LIFE, IT WAS LIT just to address shortly the writing, some moments in the beginning were bit off with a lot of repeating but then it was a nice flow, with very good lines and the portrayal of both Camilla and Adrian were so good (i did not feel like i had read versions of these characters before, i enjoyed discovering them and loving them... speaking of the love theme and the love discourse in this, it was just incredible YES TO ROMANCE MAKING YOU REFLECT UPON LOVE WITH GOOD PROPER INPUTS). the story was very good, well constructed, well paced and with an amazing job of various points of views all going very well together! AND NOW THE BEST PART... THE WORTH SIBLINGS WERE SO GOOD RIP MY HEART. benedict and theresa are just so sweet and adorable, this army of two makes me so emo... and the bits about anthony and judith HAHAHAHA PLEASE COURTNEY DON'T MAKE ME WAIT AN ETERNITY FOR THEM (HONESTLY I JUST WANT MORE OF THEM... I WANT A WHOLE BOOK JUST ABOUT THEM)... also so little of christian, that dear boy i have missed him... BUT BACK TO THE POINT THE WORTH FAMILY REUNION... I CRIED. also Grayson and Adrian... god i love this family saga so much and i love all the proper historical/political/world adventures it has the potential to bring... i am just AMAZED (and really want book three now)
march 2018: PREPARE YOURSELF FOR 24TH OF APRIL!! WOOP WOOP i don't know who is still excited about this except for my romance girls, lisa and liv BUT HELL haven't we shown patience for this one
fevruary 2018: the update is 'best guess: 2018' i am honestly pathetically sad, this book is never going to happen right.............. the anthony's book will only exist in my wildest dreams............... (i hope courtney is alright and is not going through anything harsh or horrible though)
october 2017: IF ALL GOES TO PLAN, LESS THAN TWO MONTHS BEFORE WE CAN DIE OF EXCITEMENT BUYING IT OFF ITUNES AND THEREFORE NEVER ACTUALLY READING IT
september 2017: there's an actual date?? confirmed by courtney?? i might not die before reading this book, god save my soul
july 2017: hahahahaha still no update whatsoever i bet i'll actually be actually 84 before i have the chance to read anthony's book
may 2017: guess what lads.... still no update.... april 2017: will a day pass without me thinking that i need a judith x anthony update? who knows, i certainly don't april 2017: will i still be alive when this comes out?? who knows
february 2017: my last 'review' was from january 2016 and it's now february 2017, will i still be alive to read about anthony, that's the question??? (@ courtney: my most beloved i trust you with my heart BUT I NEED SOME ANTHONY IN MY LIFE RN)
january 2016 : i've waited long enough GIMME ME MY ANTHONY NOW
I often find that Milan's characters are a teensy bit nice for my tastes (not that I require everyone to be an asshole). However, her writing is good and she fleshes out her characters enough that they're not boring.
In this book, I particularly liked the way Milan included things that aren't normally present in in historical romance.
1) black hero (and other characters of color) 2) bi heroine (and the brief appearance of other non-straight characters) 3) the notion that "comfort is a cage." Some of the characters find their lifestyle stifling and actually do something about it
I did find the thoughts of the characters, particularly Camilla, to be a bit repetitive at times in the first quarter of the book. Oftentimes Milan's heroines are much more interesting to me than her heroes, but here I liked that Adrian oversaw a plate factory (? I can't think of what they called it lol). It was a nice look at another aspect of the times, rather than just fancy houses and balls and propriety. I look forward to Theresa's book, and other books in the series with characters that don't fit the usual HR mold.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review.
I was underwhelmed by the first book in this series when it was published in 2015, and to be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by this one, although it's a definite improvement. My main complaint with Once Upon a Marquess was that it was too scattered, and the main characters individually and as a couple suffered for it. I also thought their chemistry was a little forced. Both of those complaints were non-existent for me, here. And where I found little sister Theresa an annoyance in the first book, honestly she was my favorite part of this one. (I am very much looking forward to the further adventures of Theresa and .
At first I was really into this book, which follows Camilla Worth, who at the age of twelve left her siblings after the dramatic events that shattered their family to go live with their uncle, because she didn't want to starve, and she liked the promises he was making to her (pretty gowns and lemon tarts and such). Despite her sister's warnings that he didn't love her and wouldn't care for her, Camilla went. Said uncle was worthless, and soon shuffled her off to a cousin, not passing on letters from or to Camilla, and as she kept getting shuffled, she fell further down the social ladder, losing track of her family and they of her, which is where we find her, working as a maid in a rectory on half wages, at the sufferance of the asshat Rector Miles. Actually, the book opens as Rector Miles performs a wedding ceremony for Camilla and her prospective husband, Adrian Hunter, at literal gunpoint. It's shenanigans.
Adrian Hunter is a biracial man in a very white England. He does have some advantages, though, which he is very aware of. His mother is the daughter of a duke (disinherited. of course, after she married that black abolitionist; how disgraceful), and his father a wealthy tradesman, who inherited a business from his uncles, who now live in America (see the novella: In Pursuit Of . . .). Adrian is one of only two surviving brothers, the others having died in the American Civil War. His mother tasked him at fifteen to stay behind and shepherd the family business, which he now runs successfully. But an uncle on his mother's side, who is a Bishop in the Church of England, has tasked him with gaining information to discredit a rival. Adrian has always hoped that his uncle's professed private love for Adrian will become public some day, when the old man will acknowledge Adrian and his family as his relatives, something he holds over Adrian's head. But Adrian is naïve and hopeful, and continues to believe the best of his uncle, so he agrees to disguise himself as a valet in order to get dirt on the rival.
Then, Adrian and Camilla meet. Camilla and Adrian flirt. Camilla and Adrian are locked in a room together, and then forced to marry at gunpoint, a status to which Adrian vehemently objects. They go about trying to get an annulment.
Intellectually, this book works very well for me. Camilla is starved for affection and human kindness, and sees this wedding as gift. She almost wishes Adrian would just accept it, and even though he may never really love her, at least she would have a home, and some stability. But Adrian is adamant; he will not have a wife who he did not consent to marry. If he has a wife, he will choose her, and she will choose him. They become partners in trying not to be married anymore.
Ms. Milan had a hard time writing this book. It took her almost three years. A lot of that had to do with some real life circumstances. I can't find the link right now, but a couple months back she shared some of her struggles to write during all of this, and realized she was blocked because she had changed and her writing hadn't. She was used to writing about people who had secrets from one another, and she didn't want to do that anymore. There was a moment in this book where I thought, this, this was the moment that had to change. At every possible moment in this book where your usual romance novel characters would conceal something from one another, to be revealed at some future cathartic moment, but in the meantime causing angst and confusion, they instead are open and tell one another everything. Camilla straight out tells Adrian she would prefer to stay married, and she knows she has the power to make it happen--all she need do is say a couple of words to the right people and an annulment would become impossible--but she won't, because she respects Adrian's wishes. The two have good chemistry, and see each other for who they are. It is the circumstances clashing with their beliefs and feelings that make for the conflict here.
My problem here, and why I'm not giving this a full four stars, or even four and a half, is Camilla. Half the time, I found her delightful. When she was talking to Adrian or other people, or learning about ecclesiastical law (don't ask), or making jokes or flirting, or basically doing anything at all, she was fun. But whenever the story retreated into her head, and it was just Camilla thinking about things, I found myself irritated by her inner monologue. It was so repetitive! The word "hope" is used approximately 6,000 times, and it was nice the first couple times, but after that it lost all its power. She kept saying the same things over and over as well, the same phrases, the same vague memories. It was basically a terrible case of show don't tell failing. But I think Ms. Milan wrote herself into a corner, and this was the result. Part of Camilla's problem is that she refuses to look back on her past and really remember what has happened to her, out of self-preservation. Instead, we just get small flashes of it, over and over. I would have gladly traded the plot point of Camilla learning to look back if it meant we didn't get all that vague, emotionally overwrought POV. Adrian and Theresa also get POVs, and the story just flew along when I was in their heads.
Hopefully now Ms. Milan has found her writing groove again, we'll have the third book sooner than we had this one. It's going to be about Adrian's brother, Grayson, who is a bit of a firecracker.
ETA: I somehow forgot to note: the female main character in this book is bisexual (without using that word) and has had both male and female lovers before the start of this book (I believe not at the same time).
This would likely have been a book close to five stars but for one specific issue: the way things were set up, it felt like the book didn't really "start" until something like the 77% mark. Why? Because book 1 ended with Camilla, the star of this book here, going to Judith (the star of book 1) to ask for help with a marriage. This book here then opens with a scene showing Camilla marrying a man named Adrian. Which, at the time, I figured was . . . okay, we can go back that far from where book 1 ended. Then . . . the book went further back in time, weeks for Adrian, and days for Camilla - before the marriage at gun-point. Then the book didn't get "back" to the point book 1 ended until the 77% mark. So.
The wealthy and high-titled Worth family imploded when the father and eldest brother were found to have committed treason. The father was executed and the brother was banished (or however that is termed - sent to Australia). That wealth mentioned earlier was stripped from the family. And that is where the series started. Book 1 saw the eldest daughter, roughly 17 when the treason trial occurred, and family change occurred, rise up out of poverty. Book 1.5 saw one of Judith's poor friends find happiness, though that is a side story that does not need to be read unless someone wishes to read it. Book 2 follows the second eldest daughter, Camilla, as she suffers greatly.
The wealthy and successful Hunter family found both of that wealth and success from business. They've also faced certain misfortunate circumstances - three of the five Hunter sons died "in the war", and the fourth suffers certain issues from that war. Book 2, though, follows that other son, Adrian. Adrain, from a young age, 15?, was put in charge of the family plate business.
The Worth family had been Earls before treason stripped them of their titles (though the women are still called Lady? Oh, right, Judith got Lady back by marrying a Marquess. And I guess the other daughters get that Lady part from that as well? Not sure. Seems unlikely but not sure). The Hunter family? Well, the Hunter part had always been "in the trade", so to speak, making money through business. The Hunter brothers mother, though, had been the daughter of a Duke. So, what happened? Well, being the offspring of the daughter of a Duke does not automatically bring titles and stuff; especially when that half of the family does not acknowledge that their daughter is still alive, or that she has legitimate off-spring. Why this split? Well, marrying someone in the trades probably played some part, though the book stressed a different issue: the Hunters are . . . American. Heh. Okay, I got the impression that the family was originally from New England, but the actual issue being stressed was the part wherein the Hunter family are Black (you know, capital B Black).
As noted previously, the book opens with Adrian and Camilla being forced to marry at gun-point (did I actually mention all that yet? Well, I do recall that I noted the book opening with marriage). But how'd they get to that point? Reasons. Adrian was there because his uncle, a Bishop, asked Adrian for a favor. Adrian, who has striven all his life to get the Bishop to acknowledge his side of the family (the Bishop being his mother's brother, not his father's brother), agrees to do the favor. Which involves becoming a different Bishop's valet. To spy on that bishop. Which directly lead to the forced marriage.
Camilla was there because, from the age of . . . 15? Possibly 13, Camilla has slide from possibly good existence to horrible existence. Being passed from one person to another until she arrived in the house of a Rector. Working for him on half-pay. For reasons. She's 20 at the start of the book, by the way, if I recall correctly.
Except for a brief point at the beginning of the book that showed Adrian as a piss-poor valet, and Camilla as a servant in the Rector house (Adrian and the bishop were visiting the Rector), most of the book followed Adrian and Camilla as they attempted to get an annulment.
As I noted oh so long ago, this probably would have been a five star book. Because I did like what I read. I did like the people playing their parts in this book. I just didn't like how . . . well, it's my own fault. I knew book 1 ended a certain way, and I didn't feel as if the action that I cared about could start until after I got back up to the end of book 1. Which happened at the 77% mark in book 2. Mind you, I don't mind series that have books that take place, mostly, at the same time, heck, I just read a trilogy in which all three books took place at the same time, and I enjoyed it. The problem I had was how book 1 ended in a way.... I'm repeating myself. Eh.
I buddy-read this with my good friend Rashika. I'm glad I did it because I wouldn't have survived reading this book alone.
Anyway, it started off slow for me, I wish I was wowed from the beginning but I wasn't until probably almost halfway through the book? But the ending was great. Kinda screamed. Kinda cried. I was just a total mess from the ending.
Courtney Milan slays me with her female characters every time. She just nailed it. Camilla Worth... How do I even begin to explain Camilla Worth and how much I love her? Have I ever loved a Milan heroine as much as I love Camilla Worth? For some reason I can't come up with names right now because CAMILLA. How I love her so, how I love her spirit and strength, and the fact that she is just a ray of sunshine, and how she could find hope in the bleakest situations. Her lows are my lows; I hurt for her a lot, especially when she recalled being passed on from people to people, all the while hoping that someone would just want her but at the same time believing that she deserved to be alone and unloved because once upon a time, she traded her family for pretty gowns and good food. I felt her pain in my gut. Ugh I just want to hug her and never let go.
Adrian, I love him too but I admit I was focusing on Camilla 89% of the time.
Anyway, since I cannot sentence anymore let me just do this in bullet points:
- Adrian teasing Camilla and calling her a tiger just ENDED MY ENTIRE EXISTENCE
- THE TIGERS. ON THE PLATES.
- THE TART SCENE.
- I totally fell in love with Grayson Hunter at first sight and I hereby claim him, he is my husband now-
- Theresa and Benedict Worth, my children, my precious children, smart children-
- The PLOT TWIST. Ughhhhh daddy Worth was a rat bastard.
If Courtney took another 2 years to release the sequel I might just die-
This is one of those titles that I don't really want to review because I feel horrible that I didn't like it more.
Courtney Milan writes outstanding historical romances (to date, The Duchess Deal has not been topped, in my opinion). Milan's historicals are inevitably unique and thoughtful. So, I am surprised that After the Wedding missed the mark for me.
Camilla Worth is a lady with a capital "L"; however, she is working as a maid because of scandal and her own self-loathing. For me, the reasons given for Camilla's exile from the family were weak and ultimately overly complicated. While I enjoyed her romance with Adrian, I couldn't help but feel like something was missing in the development of their relationship. There were so many elements to the plot in After the Wedding that I struggled to maintain an interest in the overall narrative. It's inevitable that Cam and Adrian were going to be together, but that journey to the happily ever after felt way too long and I never fully bought into either character's reasons for resisting the relationship. Yes, the ultimate resolution was sweet, but perhaps a bit too heavy handed, in the sense that it delivers a strong message to readers.
I really, really wanted to love After the Wedding and I just didn't. The story was just okay for me. I feel horrible - but I suppose you can love every book by an author. Here's hoping the next book in the series is more my style.
I was very kindly granted an ARC of this book in return for an unbiased review. I had already pre-ordered the book when I was given the ARC. The book is on sale now, and I recommend that you buy it.
This is the second novel in The Worth Saga. While it might work fine as a stand alone book, I would recommend beginning with the first book in the series, Once Upon a Marquess, to get a better idea of whom all the various supporting characters from Camilla's family are.
Lady Camilla Worth was twelve when her father and oldest brother were convicted of treason and her family lost their money and social standing. Her father committed suicide in prison, her brother Anthony was transported to Australia, but there was a big storm and a shipwreck on the way and he is believed to have died on the journey. A family friend offered to take in the remaining Worth siblings, with the exception of Camilla's younger sister, Theresa (who could most kindly be described as difficult). Judith, the eldest remaining Worth, promptly refused, and when Camilla wanted to stay, because she wanted "pretty dresses and lemon cakes", very harsh words were had, then Judith took her other two siblings and left. Camilla has never been able to forget Judith's angry words, and sadly didn't get to stay with their "uncle" for many weeks before he shipped her off to some friends, unable to care for a moody young girl. Camilla never gets to stay in one place for very long, getting sent on whenever she is deemed too difficult or whomever she ended up serving (usually unpaid) died and after eight years, believes she is being punished for having chosen material comfort over love all those years ago. Now she's working for a pittance for a minister who claims he's saving her soul. This is where she meets, and is married at gunpoint to Adrian.
Adrian Hunter is the grandson of a duke. His mother married a black abolitionist, and as a result, some of her family don't really want to acknowledge her or her family. Three of Adrian's brothers died fighting in the American Civil War, so now he's desperate to prove himself in some way and one of the ways in which he tries to do that is by getting his uncle, Bishop Denmore, to publicly support Adrian and his remaining brother. His uncle just needs a teeny tiny little favour first - which involves Adrian posing as a valet for a rival bishop, and finding proof of said man's corruption. Once he obtains this proof, Denmore promises to openly acknowledge his nephews and sister. Adrian is not a very good valet and before he has any chance of finding anything incriminating, he finds himself married at gunpoint to Camilla, a flirtatious housemaid in the house Bishop Lassiter is visiting.
Camilla just wants someone, anyone, to love her or even like her. She hasn't had anywhere to call home for so long and never had any responses to the letters she sent her family, so she assumes they still want nothing to do with her. While she is rather taken aback by being forced to marry a near-stranger, she's also briefly hopeful that at least she'll finally have someone - a hope that dies when Adrian insists they need to get an annulment. Ms Milan is really good at writing characters whose suffering break your heart, and Camilla's loneliness and hopes for belonging are truly heart-wrenching. Unbeknownst to Camilla, however, her family haven't actually given up on her. Her sister Judith and her new husband have spent massive resources trying to track her down, only to fail, and her younger siblings, Benedict and Theresa, are determined to find Camilla, as a gift for Judith. While Theresa may have annoyed the crap out of me in Once Upon a Marquess, she's so much better written in this book, and I am very much looking forward to seeing where her story goes in future books.
I felt a lot more for Camilla than for Adrian in this book, but that's probably also because of my anxiety and being left without anyone is literally one of the biggest fears I have, so our poor heroine having suffered abandonment after abandonment, without ever giving up that last sliver of hope really got to me. The main theme of this book is the importance of consent and choice and how no one should have to settle, but be allowed to choose who they spend their lives with. Adrian wants their marriage annulled because he wants what his parents had, a slow falling in love and a mutual choosing of each other. As the story progresses, Camilla comes to realise that even though she loves Adrian, she also deserves someone who chose HER, whose fondest wish is to share their life with hers. It's not her fault that she's been abandoned so many times and it's simply bad luck and a series of unfortunate circumstances that's caused her to be so harshly punished for a moment of youthful bad judgement.
There is a need for added diversity in romance and Ms Milan has proven before that historical England really wasn't as white-washed as a lot of books would like you to think it is. In this book, we get a bisexual heroine marrying a biracial hero, while there is a large cast of diverse supporting characters from a number of countries and cultures making a difference, without it ever seeming forced or like she's trying to prove some sort of point. Adrian's brother is going to be the hero of the next book, if I'm to believe Ms. Milan's website and this will be the last book in the Worth Saga set in England. She's moving the action into the big wider world instead.
I'm sorry if this review is disjointed and a bit incoherent. I'm desperately behind on my reviews as my now four month old little boy is spending more of his days awake and demanding a lot more of my attention. My brain goes a bit muddled, and this was the best I could do under the circumstances. TL, DR - this is a moving and engaging romance, well worth your time, and you should consider buying it. I'm already looking forward to seeing what the next book holds, and hope the wait for it will not be as long as for this one.
Judging a book by its cover: I keep looking at this cover and trying to understand what in the world is going on. There's the strangely yellow sky, the random field of red flowers (poppies maybe?) and our poor cover model, obviously supposed to portray Camilla, with some sort of hazy lace tablecloth stuck to her head at an implausible angle. There's the voluminous purple ballgown the woman is wearing (resembling nothing like I recall Camilla wearing at any point in the book - certainly NOT when she is being forced to marry), but it's the awful veil that gets me every time. I've seen a lot of bad book covers over the years, this is near the top.
"After the Wedding isn't like other Historical romances I've read. Not that it lacks the usual romantic stuffs in HR genre. For me, there are just enough romance in it but rather, the plot includes some points that HR romances don't usually have.
The characters are diverse and very likeable. The MCs, Camilla and Adrian, were both regular people, not some dukes and socialite Lady, though Adrian has some connections. That alone is something I'm not used to in this genre, but I liked it because it's very refreshing. I love that the author made the characters this way. It made them unique in so many ways in comparison to other HR MCs. Adrian, by the way, is a POC which is amazing. Also I love the relationship between Cam and Adrian. Yeah, they started not seemingly like husband and Wife, not even really friends. But that made the development of the romance amazing. I like it how this couple resolved REAL conflicts instead of petty angst and resentments. I think they avoided those stuffs because they're too honest with each other. They tell each other what's wrong and what's not. And that made the plot unique as well. I know forced-marriage or marriage-before-love is already cliched but the clicheness end there. Adrian and Camilla's real struggle comes from their own current states; Camilla finding a place/person to stay and Adrian as a POC, and though throughout they are somehow helping each other, it is apparent that not one of them is really dependent to the other, showing their maturity. And I found myself sad for these two as I read their story.
The only reason I only gave it 3.75 stars is it started a little slow and the first chapters are almost like much info dumps. But it's worth it to keep reading as it got better. From the moment they were married, the pace, though not that fast, it didn't drag too. It was okay. Also I found some repetitions of infos throughout the narration. Like one info was already mentioned and then the next chapter it's mentioned again or sometimes they're on same chapter. It would be okay to repeat an info as long as it's mentioned one in a dialogue and the other is in narration but if it's both in narration and narrated by the same person, well...anyway, I think it could've been edited and so make the book shorter.
It didn't bother me that much really, and surely won't bother other readers, but well, I just noticed it and hoping next time I won't notice it again in this author's work. BECAUSE, I'm planning to read more from this author. I mean, it's obvious she's a good writer and put unique characters alive. I like her style. :) :)
*I received an arc from the publishers thru Netgalley. Thank you. :)
On the one hand, the writing, as always, was brilliant and beautiful. The story itself was also great. I was left with so many emotions, about so many parts and characters.
But not many emotions about the romance itself. Which is where my problem lies with this book. I never really felt like the romance got off the ground, let alone grew into a satisfying HEA. The two didn’t spend much time together, and even less time – barely any, really – building that romance in any way. Much of the book was spent on each of their own internal struggles and external conflicts that they were dealing with. And while I loved those parts, too, the downfall is I didn’t really see their romance between all of that. Or at least, not nearly as much as I would have liked.
This is a slow, low burn. Only one sex scene, later in the book, and it’s very brief and vague and just meh, to be quite honest. Points for both the hero and heroine getting a masturbation scene. Though, again, brief and vague and more focused on what they were feeling/thinking while they got off rather than what they were going to get off. But that’s fine – the low heat is not the reason for the overall rating!
So here’s what I loved: the emotions I was hit with from seeing Camilia struggle with not feeling loved or wanted, as well as the emotions from seeing Adrian deal with his horrible, selfish (and racist) uncle. Oh, my heart hurt for both of them! I also loved the little moments when Adrian would try to tell her she deserved so much more, so much love. Him comparing her to a tiger. The discussion about a never-ending supply of lemon tarts (which also tied into the “you deserve so much” convo). I loved the characters introduced here and can’t wait to read the rest of the series, to see the other siblings get their HEAs.
As I said: mixed feelings on this one. All of the emotions and amazing quotes – many that I needed to hear just as much as Camilia did . . . – those parts were all 4 stars, easily. But the romance itself was more like a 3, barely. I wanted more time with them actually getting to know one another and falling in love on page, and I just didn’t get it.
That being said, I still very much recommend this one, and Milan’s work in general.
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I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I can't tell you how excited I was to see this book releasing. I've literally waited years for this! And to the point that I can't say I remember much from the Worth family or the first book in particular. I wish I would've had some time to do a quick re-read and refresh. However, rest assured if you're like me you can go into this book and slowly things will fall into place.
AFTER THE WEDDING is the story of Camilla Worth. She's the middle Worth sister and when her father was accused of treason she decided to go live with her uncle who promised her dresses and lemon tarts after the ruin of her family. Her older sister Judith told by doing that she would be refusing their love and couldn't come back. For years, much after the disappointment of being rejected a short while later by her uncle, she's been bouncing from home to home and working for half price to just survive. And that's all about to change when she's forced to marry Adrian Hunter at gunpoint after a misunderstanding. Now they must work together to get an annulment and that includes not consummating their fake marriage.
The premise of this book was so fun and interesting. I love how Courtney Milan's stories usually are full of smart plots and characters. In this case, while Camilla is brilliant at some things, she's also not so bright about life choices. In a way I liked that about her character because it make her a bit more human. A little broken. Adrian was a perfect match for her in so many ways and I loved how they defied the odds even at the end. Theirs is not a traditional story and I'm glad there's a little less traditional HEA then imagining all their problems go away and they can fit into society.
But what's keeping me from giving this book a higher rating was the pacing of the story. I found it hard to get in a reading groove in the first half of this book. It dragged a bit even as I was enjoying the story and I found myself putting this down easily. But after the halfway point it picks up speed and we are back enthralled in the story that Ms. Milan knows how to weave. I wished that would've been the same for the whole book.
Nevertheless, I am so anxious for more books about the Worth siblings! So many possibilities with these broken characters that have gone through so much. I hope we don't have years to wait, but if that's the case, I'll still do so gladly.
*ARC provided by author Reviewed by Francesca❤ ♡ Don't want to miss any of our posts? Subscribe to our blog by email! ♡ ❤
So, I read this one a week or so ago and haven’t really thought of what to say in review. On the plus side I’m happy to hear more about the Worths and especially Camilla who was lost to the family as of the last book. On the minus side, this one didn’t touch me as much as some others. I think it’s because the first half of the book had way too much repetition of Camilla’s low self esteem mantras. I’d say the author failed to convince me that any rational person would go years without trying to reach their siblings, especially as their life was undergoing catastrophic deterioration. That made no sense to me. Hats off to the author for introducing a bi-racial couple into the story. The best part of the book was the future story alluded to with Theresa and her grandma-in-law. They are an interesting pair of characters. If you get a chance to read about them in the short, short story, Bank Notes, I’d highly recommend it.
So I thought but was going to re read this book but ended up skimming it instead. Understandable, since it's both kinda repetitive and slow-paced (which is not necessarily bad) and emotionally heavy (which is good, but not always when I'm dealing with emotional shit IRL) while also having a whole bunch of scenes which made me cry AGAIN so...
I am very interested to see where Courtney Milan takes the story of an English Aristocrat family who have lukewarm (at best; downright treasonous in other cases) feelings about the English aristocracy? I can usually suspend my disbelief when I'm reading stories set in Regency/Victorian England, setting it in a non imperialist AU of some sort. But it does get tiring sometimes, and a series which addresses the very real consequences of imperialist policies on marginalized communities in the era is... new. The closest analogue I can think of are Naomi Novik's Temeraire books, which gradually evolved from patriotic fantasy into low-key imperialism critique. (Which was both a hell of a ride and kinda hilarious.)
"Not being lawfully wedded to you has been a singular honor."
Look, there are books which make me cry, and books which make me cry when I am writing the damned review because so many emotions.
It took a particular sort of perverse obstinacy to fall in love at first sight. It took absolute pig-headedness to do it again and again. To imagine affection from nothing and then hope for it repeatedly.
Camilla Winters has been a maid for a long time, due to circumstances and bad (more accurately ill-informed, and also- she was twelve) choices. She's somewhat beaten down, a lot self-doubting, starved of human kindness and is as a result something of a needy emotional mess. She bends like a flower to the nearest human being to treat her as a person, and as few instances of kindness from the handsome valet of a guest is enough to make her spin fantasies of him you know-actually preferring to have her around rather than not.
All of which sort of comes crashing down on her head once she's forced to marry an obviously resisting Adrian Hunter at gunpoint.
"There will be no wedding," he said, because he intended on being a person even if they didn't see him as one.
Adrian is unhappy- he was here to spy/valet on Uncle's behalf so his Uncle would finally think it worthwhile to acknowledge the wayward sister who married an African-American man for love, as well as their remaining offspring. This was supposed to be a week's worth of sneaking around and talking to people, not something that would result in a lifetime commitment. He's sympathetic to Camilla's pathetic mental state, but what he really wants to do is make sure that they both deny their marriage at every turn, which is the only chance they have for legal grounds of annulment. He tells Camilla that this is not what marriage is supposed to be like, they both deserve better and they deserve to be chosen, not forced. Camilla is... conflicted about this- she has nobody to turn to and nowhere to go. Her "freedom" comes with the very real specter of ruin, with prostitution likely being her best bet.
"It says a lot about you, that your way of serving yourself was to tell me I was worthwhile... We're all self-serving, it's just a matter of what we do to others in service of ourselves."
What follows is long, slow-burning affection between Camilla and Adrian. Camilla struggles to remind herself that Adrian did not consent to this marriage, that any fantasies she harbors, and desires she has, are reactions to kindness when she's been starved of it for so long. Adrian has to remind himself that Camilla is broken and beaten down, and how her state of mind is such that even offering the smallest bit of affection or showing the smallest part of his growing attraction to her would be tantamount to emotional coercion. It's beautiful to watch how Adrian's care, coupled with the friendship and kindness of more people she meets along the way, eventually shores up Camilla's mental state enough to a position where you breathe a sigh of relief and think that "okay it's better. she knows she's a person and she knows she's worthy of love now."
The story between Adrian and Camilla is adorable, and the tiger plates were just- GAH. But I have to admit that the story of Camilla's siblings, continued over from the first book, had me in tears far more often. Judith's desperation to find her sister (which was most of the plot of book 1 of the series) contrasts painfully with Camilla's certain knowledge that she was abandoned, and that she deserved to have been abandoned. Theresa and her desperation to make Judith happy instead of upset for once- that entire scene had me in tears. And Benedict's relationship with Theresa was the sweetest. I love that they formed their own private army, and I love Theresa's shameless manipulation of Benedict. It was glorious. It was so very SIBLINGS.
"But I love you, I love you, I love you. There is no alternative. There has been no waking in a world where I did anything but miss you."
//I'm going to go off and bawl for some more time.
Courtney Milan’s one of my favorite authors, even though I only read her for the first time last year. Her romances are daring, original, vibrant, bantery, and incredibly clever. She takes risks and doesn’t do what’s typical for the genre very often. That’s probably one of the benefits of her self-publishing, actually. Some of her books don’t work out as well, because that’s why risks are risks, but when they do, they’re sheer perfection. Bless her for books like After the Wedding.
Because I want any excuse to read Courtney Milan, I requested After the Wedding without having read the first book in the series yet. That’s probably not something a blogger should do, but what fun is life if you only do what you should, amirite?
I dispatched Once Upon a Marquess and Her Every Wish in no time. They’re not my favorite Milan, but they do highlight what I love so dearly about her as an author. They’re both massively quirky and about women pursuing careers above romance. Once Upon a Marquess is probably the quirkiest romance novel I’ve ever read, full of silly banter, ridiculous role play (and not of the sexual variety), and puns. It was at times puzzling, but it was never boring or cliched. Her Every Wish has an interracial romance, though I do wish we’d been along from when they first met, but it’s cute and another good example of what makes Milan such a powerful author.
In After the Wedding, everything came together into one of those books that I absolutely, thoroughly love. At the end of Once Upon a Marquess, lost sister Camilla appears at the door, married and in need of help. After the Wedding rewinds back to just before the wedding and plays events out to that moment and a bit beyond. I was a bit thrown for a loop by that initially, but it works really well because so little was known about Camilla’s whereabouts.
Camilla ends up wedded to Adrian Hunter, the half-black, legitimate son to a duke’s daughter and an abolitionist, after they are locked in a room together for unclear nefarious purposes. Adrian initially seems cold and hard, leaving his new bride behind and walking at speed away from her, but the story quickly comes out. In search for his uncle’s approval and acknowledgment of his family as relations, he reluctantly agreed to pose as a valet to suss out a rival Bishop’s ill deeds, only to end up married because of this ill-considered favor.
Adrian and Camilla end up working together to try to find a way out of the marriage and to figure out what the evil-doers were up to, even as they both begin to wish they could stay together. They’re both such pure and kind souls, and they have such a fantastic connection, one based in friendship and teamwork, not physicality, though they are obviously both attracted to one another. Due to the rules of forced marriages, they can only annul if they don’t tell anyone they are husband and wife and do not consummate their union. This lets the sexual tension build deliciously.
As usual, the whole cast is charming. Adrian’s grumpy and jaded brother Grayson, sarcastic and loving, immediately became one of my favorite people, and I sure hope there’s a romance for him too. Camilla’s siblings, Tessa and Benedict have POVs throughout, and they’re charming and accidentally effective thieves. Though usually this trading of POVs wouldn’t work in a romance novel, they’re so cute that it totally doesn’t feel like an annoying distraction from the actual romance in this case. And then there’s Grayson’s family’s pottery, which is this amazing diverse little Eden; I hope Milan sets some more books and novellas there because I love it so.
The plot’s strong, and I love the resolution. The ending isn’t full perfection, but it’s powerful and realistic. Adrian grows and learns to escape a toxic relationship. Camilla learns to value herself again and that she deserves love, a difficult lesson after her childhood. Milan doesn’t play things out the way most romance novelists would, and that’s why I love this book so damn much.
ETA: This book is on sale right now on Amazon; if you're wondering whether it can be read as a stand-alone, it definitely can, and if you're looking for a historical romance fix, this is a good choice!
I read this book courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is the second main installment in the Worth family saga - a story (apparently soon!) spanning continents, multiple siblings, a variety of crimes and a large and diverse cast. This volume focuses on Camilla - the prodigal sister who left the family in the wake of her father's execution for treason to live in comfort with an unkind uncle. Suffice to say, things didn't quite go according to plan, and nine years later she finds herself poor and somewhat ruined, living under an assumed name as a servant - until she is forcibly married off to Adrian, pretending to be a valet, but in truth, the heir to a large family business and the secret (Black) nephew of a scheming bishop. Now, after the wedding the two of them must find a way to make the best of their situation. Preferably - by consciously uncoupling, since they're not a couple in the first place. Or must they?
It's been quite a wait for me for this novel, but yes, it's all worth it (pardon the pun). Courtney Milan does it again: she weaves a romance that is so much more than a love story. I loved Camilla - she reminded me of Anne Shirley, with a twist. The same desperate need to be loved and cherished, hope and imagination, but a far less idealised world and less idealised psychological portrayal of the repercussions this might bring. I loved Adrian, kind and loving and clever - he wasn't as interesting as Camilla, admittedly, but he was a great romantic protagonist.
The plot avoids so many obvious choices and instead allows the protagonists to be honest and faithful to each other in a truly unusual way for a genre that thrives on secrets and misunderstandings. This could have led to lack of tension in a lesser book, but was rendered fresh and exciting in Milan's capable hands. I loved the way she constructed the plot here.
This is also a very timely book, engaging honestly with the #MeToo moment without being preachy or becoming dated. It takes on a very difficult issue (though I don't mean to imply it's a book about rape - it's about power and abuse, but more broadly) and does it justice. And its characters fight for justice and dignity for those denied it, and it makes them all the more interesting and complex.
In addition - while the romance is obviously an important element of a romance novel, I must say the secondary characters and storylines are even better than the romantic plot between the two protagonists. I can't *wait* to read a book about Grayson, Theresa and even Benedict (as well as spoilers). These characters and subplots, for all the little space that is devoted to them, were fully-rounded and fascinating. I loved the humour, too - the encounter with the wealthy widow in particular. I was also happy to see a reference to Milan characters from Hamilton's Battalion: A Trio of Romances, Henry and John.
The book comes out tomorrow. Do yourself a favour and if you like historical romance - give it a try (with or without the previous volumes), and if you don't like historical romance - well, it's still a great read.
(I'll be posting about this on my blog and if I end up adding more there, I'll edit this to post a link.) Review here.
Mini-review: Okay how did I miss hearing that the gal in this one was bi/pan? Yay lovely surprise! Overall, this was a funny and sweet queer-friendly interracial historical M/F romance, and I'm so glad I read it despite having said "no thanks" to the first book in this series.
I would like to start by saying how utterly decent it is to have a racially diverse meld of main characters in a historical setting. I thought that effect was refreshing and so necessary in a staid genre that is only recently breaking out of it’s vanilla mold, pun intended.
Courtney Milan is a skilled writer who can turn a phrase with elegance and a philosophical cast. Not only does her writing own distinction, she creates an accurate, realistic setting while pearls of history blend expertly with the fictional storyline.
There were trace moments of redundant inner monologues that repeatedly swelled throughout the chapters, and this added to the dragging moments of the story. However, the fervor and passion of the characters helped the plodding storyline along.
The characters were developed, obsessive creatures looking for acceptance and love in an astringent society, and Milan delivered on that promise.
I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Gushed about this book a bit on twitter today so I’ll just repeat myself here. Thoroughly feminist to the bone. This book is about consent, choices, and having agency. There are also intersections with race and class. There are lovely family moments with both Adrian and his brother and the Worth siblings—I think it works as a standalone but you may understand Camilla’s family more if you read the first book. It’s a slow burn and they really are friends for a good portion of the book, but I was so captivated by what Milan put out there. That we deserve to be loved, that we deserve choices, that consent is important. This is why I love her writing so much. While this series doesn’t match the BS for me, I’m happy to see her back writing diverse historical romance.
is there one thing in this book that didn’t make me cry? the answer is no. you name it, it’s on the list. i love everyone so much and know for a fact i will be crying for every single book of this series thanks for your time good day to all