Sunday, 6 November 2011

83. "Unclaimed" by Courtney Milan (Read-a-thon 2011)

Publisher: HQN Books
Page count: 432 pages
Date begun: October 22nd, 2011
Date finished: October 22nd, 2011

Unclaimed is the second book in the series of the Turner brothers, the first brother's story was told in Unveiled. While this book can be read completely independently, there is back story about the hero, Mark in the previous book, and his story has more resonance if you start the series at the beginning.

Sir Mark Turner was knighted by Queen Victoria because of the book he wrote encouraging chastity. He is London's most sought after bachelor, and followed by misty eyed young maidens and eager reporters everywhere he goes. Sick of the attention, and the impression everyone has of him, Mark seeks refuge in the village where he grew up.

Jessica Farleigh is a courtesan, and desperately wants enough money to free herself from ever having to charm another patron. When a former lover offers to pay her to tarnish Sir Mark's reputation, she's happy to oblige, but she's on a strict time limit. What she thought was going to be simple, as all the men she's ever encountered were huge hypocrites, turns out to be quite the challenge. Sir Mark doesn't just preach chastity for gentlemen, he believes his own teachings. Yet he is instantly smitten with Jessica, believing her to be a widow fallen on hard times, and enjoys how vastly different from the prim, young virgins who normally get paraded in front of him.

While a virgin, and believing a man should control his desires, Mark doesn't deny the attraction he feels towards Jessica. He freely admits that he lusts for her, he just doesn't intend to act on any of the desires he feels. He's a good and honest and principled man and a very interesting hero in a romance. Jessica starts out detesting Mark, who seems to have everything handed to him on a platter, yet as she gets to know him, she realizes the reasons for his principles, and having to seduce him and discredit him in order to gain her own freedom and happiness gets harder and harder.

While not quite as engrossing as Unveiled, Unclaimed is still a very enjoyable read, and I like that Milan takes the time to really flesh out her characters. They're not just stock characters, they are complex and multi-faceted and all her characters TALK to each other. So many romances are hampered by situations that seem easily resolved if the main characters just communicated more, and that's never the case here. Milan's next book is about the third Turner brother, intriguingly named Smite, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

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