Courtney Milan, $0.99
Historical Romance, 2011
Unlocked marks Courtney Milan’s stepping of her toes into the murky waters of independent publishing. It’s a $0.99 novella, one of the thousands currently flooding the electronic market, but this is a novella by a romance author who has made a pretty impressive splash in the genre despite her being relatively new on the scene. Taking away the hype accompanying this novella, how does it fare?
First, the synopsis. Evan Carlton, the Earl of Westfeld, makes a return to the London scene after an absence of ten years, having inherited the title and all that comes along with after the recent death of his father. To his dismay, he realizes that, in many ways, our heroine Elaine Warren is still suffering from being the butt of the cruel jokes he has thoughtlessly lobbied at her ten years ago. Back then, he liked Elaine too much for his own good, so like any other stupid boy who pulls the pigtails of the girl that catches his fancy, he dogs her and turns her into the punchline of his savage jokes and mockery. Since he was the darling of the Ton back then, you can imagine how much Elaine suffered as a result.
This time around, Evan would want nothing more than to somehow make amends for what he did to Elaine. Life can be funny – now he also finds himself trying very hard to stop others from continuing the cruel games he’d started on Elaine ten years ago. Will they permanently ruin his chances of patching things up with Elaine?
This is a cleanly written and easily digestible story, and it has no problems capturing and holding my attention from the first page to last. The thing is, this is a novella. While it is understandable that the relationship develops at an accelerated pace, I personally feel that this story needs more pages to be developed more believably. I have a hard time imagining myself falling in love with someone who made a year of my life a public circus of constant humiliation, no matter how handsome he may be, and therefore I have a hard time buying Elaine’s feelings for Evan. I also have a bit of a problem buying Evan’s so-called love for Elaine. Is it really love or a need for atonement? Because of how short this story is, I never get a satisfying answer to that question.
Do I like this story? Well, it’s okay. But Unlocked would have worked better as a full-length novel, as the novella format only allows it to be halfway baked and nowhere near as great as it could have been.