Unlocked (Courtney Milan, Turner Novella)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Milan is a talented writer… but the main problem here is twofold. One, because it’s a novella, the characters and plotlines all feel really underdeveloped. You have glimpses of characters that could be really interesting, and the start of a plot that could be good… but no more. Two, because it’s one of those they’ve-known-each-other-for-years pairings, the action of “falling in love” (at least for the hero) happens outside of (specifically before) the book, which means that we’re seeing more the aftermath of things than the core action in many ways. I’d skip this one and go straight to Milan’s full-length work Unclaimed, which was fantastic.

Greater Detail:
Evan Carlton has just returned from a decade abroad. During that time, he’s matured and become a skilled mountaineer; however, the reader finds out that before he left (at the tender age of nineteen), he made a laughingstock of Lady Elaine Warren. He mocked her laugh (so that she became known as Lady Equine), he mocked everything about her until everyone in his social circle (which was everyone, since he was so popular) teased her mercilessly. She became a spinster, and an outcast.

Of course, because this is a romance, we find out that the only reason he teased her was because he was secretly in love with her, and wanted her to notice him.

So… I have a few problems with this premise. Beyond the fact that the whole thing is just underdeveloped because it’s a novella… it just feels kind of insubstantial. Though the writing is clear and the characters are mostly interesting, it’s just hard to wrap my head around the fact that the central conflict is that they’re kind of perfect for each other, but that he made her a laughingstock by trying to get her attention. I mean, Milan definitely is good at dramatizing everything, and there are a lot of kind of public apologies as our hero tries to make it up to the heroine, but we never get to see why he was so attracted to her in the first place (he gives a couple sentences as an explanation, but really? he fell in love that hard? and then stayed true for a decade?) And it’s hard to really believe why she eventually forgives him…

It’s a light and airy novella, and not at all poorly written, but I don’t know if it was worth the dollar I spent on it… which is saying something…

Comparisons to Other Authors:
If we were talking about her longer works, like Unclaimed, I would say she’s similar to Lisa Kleypas in terms of character development, but this one is more similar to other add-on books, like A Wallflower Christmas, or the Julia Quinn’s Whistledown Papers… it’s just kind of underdeveloped.

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