Pub Date: May 30, 2011
Length: novella (approx 28,000 words or 111 pages)
FTC: Purchased myself
I'm sure most of you have heard the buzz about this book. Not because of the novella itself, but because of the publishing back story: this is a self-published book. And since we have been trained for years to equate self-published with crappy books, the fact that a traditionally published author would go that route is news. What's even better news is that this novella is indistinguishable from the traditionally published material I've read from Ms. Milan. Except, perhaps, the quality is far superior to the sloppy formatting often found in NY pubbed ebooks.
Courtney Milan's Unlocked is a perfect example of a shorter romance done right. I read somewhere (a blog interview perhaps?) that Milan writes a short completely differently from a full length novel. And it shows!
While not skimping on the characters or emotions, Milan crams a lot of information in this slim story. And she does it skillfully employing something I wish other writers would do: implied passage of time. Months pass in these 111 pages, but Milan doesn't make the mistake of telling us all about them. She simply jumps forward. And by adding that time element, she adds depth to the relationship between the hero and heroine. She gives the reader some plausibility that these two have had the time to work out some forgiveness. Even if the reader doesn't get to listen in to those months of conversations. It takes the 'abrupt' out of an attitude change and allows continued suspension of disbelief.
Redemption stories are particularly hard to pull off in a short format. Instead of two strangers, you have two people who have a deep and not particularly good history. The need for groveling is a given, but too much can weigh the story down.
What makes this work for me is that Evan is remorseful from the very beginning. He's appalled at what his immature self caused. And was unaware of how deeply he had wounded Elaine. Once he reenters society, he doesn't fall back into old habits. Even further, he says something to others who haven't stopped tormenting Elaine. And when they won't stop, he finds a way to shield her from the worst of their machinations. He owns his misdeeds and then does everything in his power to make things better.
I can't think of anything I would change about this story. Not a single thing.
My Grade: A
(At 99 cents, this is a bargain!)
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…