Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On Justice: A Review of Unraveled by Courtney Milan

With Unraveled, we come to the end of Courtney Milan's very enjoyable Turner trilogy. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If your a historical romance fan, you need to try these books.

The hero of Unraveled is Smite, the middle Turner brother. Smite is a magistrate (more or less a judge) who believes in justice above all things. When Miranda walks into his courtroom with the obvious intention of lying to him, Smite is naturally infuriated. Then, as circumstances force him to get to know her better, Smite realizes that he desires Miranda--both her body and her companionship--as he has never experienced before. Since Miranda is in dire financial straights and some trouble besides, Smite proposes an efficient solution--that she serve as his mistress for one month.

Positive Comments:

Milan has a talent for writing characters that are brilliantly unique, but still feel like real people. Everything about Smite, from his rough childhood to his self-isolating existence, became real to me as I read this book. I liked Miranda as well. While not quite as vivid a character, she still seemed like a person that I would want to be friends with. All of the Turners give that impression--they're just a little odd, they barely fit into society, but they're basically decent people. In fact, they're probably better people than most of the "regular" people around them.

The relationship between Miranda and Smite is very romantic, while still being grounded in grim reality. Their love doesn't fix everything. It doesn't, for example, heal Smite of all the darkness in his soul left over from living with an insane mother and then being homeless. He still has nightmares and things that trigger bad memories and panic attacks. Miranda accepts all of this and just goes with the flow. To me, that's beautiful.

I liked the way this book presented and explored the concepts of crime and justice. Those aren't themes that I'm used to seeing in an historical romance, so it was nice to visit some new ideas. You get the intellectual side of things--where Smite argues with himself about his duty and what it means to serve justice. You also get the practical, action driven side, which is the source of the book's climax. It's a good balance, and it definitely kept my brain engaged in the story.

Critical Comments

Anything negative that I can come up with about this book is going to sound like nitpicking, so forgive me. I'll keep it brief.

I was just a touch taken aback by how readily Miranda agreed to the mistress deal. But, to be fair, she had plenty of motivation to agree. Not only did she need Smite's money and assistance, she was also attracted to him in any case, and she admitted that she likes living on the edge. So it's not out of character. I just didn't expect it.

With Mark's book, I complained that Mark was almost too understanding of Jessica's flaws and mistakes. Same goes here, with Smite. Given his values, he was almost too ready to shrug off the many things Miranda had done to get by throughout her life.

Finally, the justice/vigilante portion of the plot is, perhaps, a little distracting. Again, I liked it. But, if you like your romance novels to be all about the romance, you might find this boring or annoying.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. Read it by itself, read it as part of the trilogy, it really doesn't matter. This is top quality historical romance. 4.5 stars.

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