Author: Courtney Milan
Publisher: Amazon Digital
Reading Level: 18+
May Contain Spoilers
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.
When I saw both Jane from Dear Author and Sarah from Smart Bitches raving about this ebook, I decided to give it a read. A novella, the purchase price is only 99 cents. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon, my trip to the zoo had been canceled, so I thought – what the heck. There are certainly worse ways to spend time than discovering new books and authors to enjoy.
Despite it’s short length of just over 100 pages, Unlocked does a great job setting the groundwork for a powerful and surprisingly emotional read. I am not embarrassed to admit that it had me sobbing at one point, when Evan publically apologizes to Elaine for his horrible and hurtful behavior, and asks for her forgiveness. While I don’t know that I could have forgiven him for condemning me to over ten years of misery, I certainly believed that he was remorseful, and I wanted to forgive him. Elaine is too wounded and distrustful at this point to accept his apology, and she still thinks that maybe, just maybe, he is only doing this to set her up for another fall. The Evan of the past was a complete cad, so her reluctance is more than understandable.
I loved the raw emotions that this story explored. Elaine is a complex character who has had to deal with being publicity snubbed and mocked for a decade. Her first season, which is supposed to be a celebration of attaining adulthood, was a nightmare of ridicule and humiliation. All because Evan didn’t have the courage to be true to himself. Once the mockery begins, there is no end to it, and every little thing about Elaine and her mother are picked apart and put under public scrutiny. Elaine’s mother is a genius, given to enthusiastic discourse about comets and mathematics. As most of her peers possessed the intelligence of a rock, her mother, too, was singled out for public mockery. This relationship felt so real to me; while Elaine loved her mother dearly, there were times when she also hated how oblivious she was to their social circumstances. For as brilliant as her mother was, she was socially inept.
Evan has returned to England after the death of his father, and he dreads falling back into the old routine of frivolous parties and gatherings. He hopes desperately that things have changed in the last ten years, that his odious behavior had been forgotten. Accompanied by his cousin, Diana, he discovers much to his dismay that little has changed, and Lady Elaine is still burdened with his cruel nickname – Lady Equine. Diana takes malicious delight making Elaine’s public life miserable, and she expects Evan to jump right back on the bullying wagon that he once steered so skillfully. Only Evan doesn’t want to play anymore. Evan has grown up. Evan has discovered what a horrendous mistake he has made, and instead begs for Elaine’s forgiveness.
I liked that Elaine didn’t instantly forgive Evan for his brutish behavior. I liked that she eyed his proclamations with suspicion. I liked that she made him work for his redemption. What I didn’t like was that she never told Diana to bugger off, polite society or no.
This is one of the first novellas that I have read, and I enjoyed it very much. There was more depth than I expected, and the HEA was satisfying. I believed that Elaine had forgiven Evan for tormenting her that one, dreadful season. I believed that Evan was truly remorseful. I also believed that while they both love each other, there will still be trust issues that they need to address, and that Elaine’s love wasn’t given blindly. The only reason I didn’t give this story an A is because Diana never got the kick in the pants that she so dearly deserved.
Review copy purchased from Amazon