Rating: 5 Stars
Length: 1429 Locations
Emotional and Thorough Novella
Evan Carlton, Earl of Westfeld, deeply regrets his bullying past and the emotional wounds he inflicted on Lady Elaine Warren. At nineteen, he had been drawn to her vibrant laughter and effervescent personality, but was awkward with his affection, and to get her attention, he needled her, picked on her, pointed out her flaws. His contemporaries, members of a waspish high society, thought him hilarious and fell on her like a pack of wolves, pushing her, embarrassing her, attacking relentlessly.
When he realized how far the abuse he started went, he tried to stop it, but he watched in horror as Lady Elaine became more and more reticent, more withdrawn, until she no longer laughed, or smiled, and a chilling disconnected politeness had replaced her effervescence. He left England as a result, and after a decade has finally returned to the soil of his birth, still riddled with guilt for damage he caused a woman he admired...a woman he still loves.
For ten years Lady Elaine has kept her spine straight and her back pressed tight against the wall, mingling in society as her family position dictated, but trying to avoid the vicious harpies of the ton as much as possible. Then the source of all her pain steps back into her life after ten years and starts spouting lies shaped like apologies and regret. Believing him would be the height of folly. Trusting him is beyond her capabilities. He can't undo the damage he's done. Ever.
Milan's Unlocked is the most thorough, comprehensive novella I've read to date. I was amazed by the depth and breadth of the story, and impressed by the intensity of emotion it encompasses. It's not even a terribly long novella, yet the character development was complete, the plot robust, and the romance a sweeping and heart-gripping journey that defies the limiting parameters of its length.
Evan's backstory was intense, his emotions genuine, his actions in the past reprehensible but the ammends he tries to make are touching and inspire respect. The wounds Elaine carries are realistic, her actions believable, her frustrations, the scars on her heart and soul ultimately sympathetic. There was so much emotion imbued into these characters and a stunning amount of development given to the journey from pain into forgiveness and love.
This very well crafted novella is one of the best I've ever read, and it provides incontrovertible proof that a story doesn't have to be long to be well rounded and completely entertaining. Fans of romance would do well to give this one a try, and as I'm not a particularly large fan of historical romance, I can state with authority that it satisfies even beyond genre preferences. Very well done and a must read.