Monday, March 5, 2012

Unlocked (A Novella) by Courtney Milan

Publisher's Blurb:  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...

Unlocked is a novella of about 28,000 words (about 111 printed pages).

Review:  This was my first Courtney Milan book, and I can definitely see what all the fuss is about!  Her writing is sparkling and witty, with characters I quickly came to love.  Although the story is set in 1840, the theme of bullying and its consequences is timeless.  Elaine was so severely ridiculed and cruelly teased by Evan and his cousin Diana during her first season ten years ago, that she has become a pariah of society, existing on the fringes.  Essentially the popular kids ganged up to torture a single girl, and all their mindless lemming asshat groupies copied them, causing Elaine to be treated with mockery and disdain.  In all the years since Evan left (after becoming so ashamed of his rotten behavior toward the woman he secretly had feelings for), Elaine has transformed from a vibrant girl who openly enjoyed laughing and life to a quiet woman who hides behind bland colored gowns and stays in the corners.
When Evan returns to England after a decade of wallowing in self-pity for his actions (and mountaineering which taught him lessons in the true value of people and friendship), he is resolute in apologizing and making amends to Elaine.  But Elaine is pissed and has no intention of taking anymore abuse.  She does not trust Evan's apology, and certainly doesn't believe his offer of friendship.
I really loved Elaine.  She had been beat down at a young age, but was not going to stay down.  She maintained her self-respect, her dignity and her sense of self in spite of how she was treated.  Although her outward behavior allowed her to blend in and hide, she was strong and tough inside, never allowing anyone to see her break down.  Evan's genuine attempts at friendship eventually win her over, and her affections, but her trust is much harder to earn.  Which is as it should be after his past behavior.  I couldn't stop reading until I knew how Evan earned Elaine's trust.

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