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Unbelievably, I’ve never read a Courtney Milan book, even though I’ve seen plenty of positive feedback with regards to her work.

I came across Unlocked when I was looking at some recommends on Amazon, and as it was only £0.86p, I thought I might as well give it a go.

Well, what can I say, Unlocked grabbed hold of me from the first paragraph, and wouldn’t let go until I’d read the very last word.

Here’s the 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…

Have you ever read a book where your heart literally felt like it was breaking from the start? A book that virtually had you on the verge of tears all the way through? A book that transcended the stereotypes of its genre? Well I have to tell you, Unlocked was that book.

The Story

Basically Evan Carlton, the Earl of Westfield noticed Lady Elaine Warren during her first Season in London, and he very much liked what he saw. She was a bright, cheery, vivacious, beautiful girl, a girl whom he wanted to get to know very much. But how to make her notice him? Most young men might have asked her to dance, perhaps even complimented her on her attire, however youthful pride and perhaps the fear of rejection led to Evan taking a different route.

Rather than declaring his feelings in a more traditional manner, he started mocking her in front of his friends. This girl he’d secretly admired from afar became a source of fun-making. His penchant for publicly embarrassing her was soon upheld by his friends, and they too started finding things about her to point and laugh at. They made fun of her loud laugh, her way of dressing, her mannerisms, they made fun of everything about her. This continued for the entire Season, until that carefree girl disappeared, and a woman who was afraid of the limelight, preferring the shadows, stood in her place instead.

Evan realising what he’d done to her, ran away, rather than facing up to his own shameful behaviour. Unfortunately for Elaine, the damage was done, and Evan’s circle of friends merely continued the jeers and taunts after his departure. Evan’s own cousin, Diana – Lady Cosgrove, being the main instigator.

Elaine eventually learned to blend into the crowd, hardly daring to breathe lest she call undue attention to herself, because she knew that this was when the jeers and snide comments would commence.

Evan’s laughing butterfly had turned unto herself, and endeavoured to do everything she could to make herself invisible to the world.

The Earl of Westfield eventually returns, determined to make amends for his past treatment of a girl who he’d fallen in love with, if only he had realised it at the time. The problem was that by this time, Elaine had been subjected to so much public humiliation and mental cruelty that trust was a word that she no longer believed in.

My Verdict

I loved Elaine, I really did. She was the quintessential steel magnolia. Throughout her ten year ordeal at the hands of her tormentors, she held her head high in public, even as her confidence, her self-esteem and her enjoyment of life had been systematically eroded by the cruel jibes and hideous insults that often came her way. Had Diana and her accomplices only aimed their poisonous darts at Elaine, she could have borne the pain of being an outsider, but often times, Elaine’s eccentric, yet gifted mother was also the butt of their jokes, due to her pursuit of a pastime that was deemed to be unsuitable for a woman at that time. Elaine was fiercely protective of her mother, and couldn’t bear for her to experience even a moment of distress or uncertainty. Unfortunately for Elaine, as gifted as her mother was in the ways of astronomy and sciences, when it came to her social environment, she was woefully oblivious, something that pained Elaine no end. The following excerpt perfectly illustrates this:

“For just about everything else…while her mother was not stupid, she could be remarkably oblivious. A more attentive mother might have looked at Elaine and seen a daughter who had failed to find a husband after eleven Seasons. Any other parent would have realised that Elaine was a social failure. But Elaine’s mother looked at her daughter and saw perfection.”

Although Evan’s regret and his remorse was heartfelt upon his return, I understood Elaine’s refusal to believe that his intentions were pure. Anybody who’d been isolated as much as she had, would have probably felt the same. There was a scene in the book that brought her true ordeal into the light for both Evan, and myself as the reader:

He reached over to take her hand. The contact was inadequate – after last night’s intimacy, the mere feel of glove-onglove seemed confining. She didn’t respond to his caress. But at least she didn’t push him away.

“I don’t think it matters what I know of you” she said simply. “Do you know what you did to me?”
He could feel the tips of his ears flush. “I remember.”
“No.” She pulled her hand from his now. “You only saw the public moments. You cannot know.”
Her voice dropped. “You are handsome and wealthy and titled. Perhaps I might someday believe that you are kind too. But let me tell you what I feel when I look at you. In my first year out, two months into the Season, I tasked my maid to tell me a series of jokes. We filled a bath. And every time I laughed my laugh, I told her to duck my head under the water. I hoped I might cure myself.”

He didn’t know what to say to that.

This scene made me sob out loud. I was in bed at the time, and TTG looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.

As well as the heart-rending scenes in this book, there were also many beautiful moments that took my breath away. I wish I could post some of those excerpts on here, but for those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Unlocked, you will delight in uncovering those moments for yourselves later, so I wont spoil them for you.

I have so many words floating around my head to describe how this book made me feel, and honestly none of them seem quite adequate. I had a constant lump in my throat that just wouldn’t go away, and I was literally only ever a tear drop away from bawling like a baby throughout my reading of Unlocked.

Forgiveness, redemption, and unconditional love, three subject matters that are familiar within this genre, however, never has an author managed to mix those ingredients in such a way that this reader felt as if she too were taking the personal journey that the two main protagonists in the book took.

I can’t tell you how much I love a book that makes me feel so much.
That a bunch of words strung together could take me through the myriad of emotions that I experienced during the reading of this book, is truly amazing to me, and I have to commend Ms Milan on a job, brilliantly done, and a book that will linger on in the recesses of my mind for years to come.

You can read an excerpt of Unlocked here, buy the Kindle version at Amazon.com for the brilliant price of $0.99 here, and from Amazon UK here.

Happy reading!


  • Jane
    August 31
    7:08 pm

    I loved it too. I really think it was the pinnacle of her writing, but I also believe that you would like the other books in the Turner series. Milan really celebrates women in her books in a way that I’ve seen few authors do. Chase does it and so does Milan. Like at the end of the book you feel uplifted.


  • Mireya
    August 31
    7:19 pm

    I have to say that, at first, I was not quite convinced by the reviews I read (my taste seldom matches that of the reviewers whose blogs I visit, with the exception of yours, as I’ve found my taste frequently has matched yours). However, when I saw the price I thought “why not”… and boy was I GLAD to do so. I couldn’t agree more with your review and am actually getting the suthor’s backlist, and waiting for her next book. I was also quite impressed with the fact that it is a self-pubbed book and the quality both in terms of story, editing and format surpassed that of many books from big print publishers.



  • willaful
    August 31
    8:02 pm

    Great review! I’m glad the words came together for you.


  • I was also quite impressed with the fact that it is a self-pubbed book

    @Mireya Wait a minute…what? Really, this is a self-pubbed book??? I’m even more impressed!

    Oh Jane, it was such a journey for me reading this book, totally loved it, and I couldn’t help but pump my fist every time she scored a little victory. Fabulous book.

    @Willaful, You’re right tho, it’s so hard to write a review for such a high quality book.


  • What a great review! Unlocked is currently on my TBR list. After reading this review it has climbed a few places.

    Thank you for sharing.


  • Wow…I might finally get an eReader just for this book. >_<


  • eggs
    September 1
    12:06 am

    This was also my first Courtney Milan book, and I loved it too. Historical’s not really my thing, but I enjoy reading her comments on various blogs, so I thought I’d give it a go. Beautiful story with rich characters. loved it!


  • I’m always so happy to see positive reviews of UNLOCKED. I was waiting for yours. 🙂

    I thought the story was brilliant and unique. What I loved most was the intimacy of the conflict and the emotional growth of the characters.

    Elaine had worked hard to become the strong independent woman she was, and she wasn’t about to let herself flop around in old issues she’d already resolved simply because a handsome, charming man graced her horizon. Evan had much to atone for and Elaine made certain he did so–not for revenge but for her own pride.

    A beautiful love story, beautifully told.


  • Mireya
    September 2
    1:23 pm

    @Karen: I know! I found out via Dear Author. This is the link to Jane’s post: http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/courtney-milan-on-self-publishing/

    I can only hope that her future self-published work will be like this novella, and from what I’ve read from her in blogs and comments, I think she does take a lot of pride in her work, so I’d be surprised if her future offerings aren’t as polished as this one is.


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