Book Review

Unlocked by Courtney Milan


Title: Unlocked
Author: Courtney Milan
Publication Info: Courtney Milan 2011
ISBN: 9781937248000
Genre: Historical: European

Book CoverI’m taking a break from my weekend with the Hubby (it’s our anniversary weekend, and I made him promise to stay off the computer so I have to as well. NOBODY BREAK ANYTHING IN HERE, PLEASE!) to tell you two things:

1. You should buy this novella immediately.

2. SIDENOTE: If you buy it from AllRomance, you will get a 50% rebate on this book – and anything else you purchased. Remember those Fictionwise micropay dollars we had in bucketloads? Like that, only with romance, and a better selection, and really good customer support. (Disclosure: AllRomance sponsors the book club. But I would pimp them anyway because when I goof up a digital purchase, they are never like, ‘FOR GOD’S SAKE SARAH’ and they help me quickly.) 50% rebate on everything you purchase now through 11:59 pm 5/30/11 US/Central Savings Time.

From AllRomance: “This is a rebate, not a discount. Full price is paid at the point of purchase and the rebate is delivered in the form of eBook Bucks to the user’s account. We know there is often concern that discounting negatively impacts author/publisher payments. Since the book is not being discounted, authors/publishers will receive normal commissions based on the full price of the book. We’re absorbing the cost of this promotion.”

Yeah, and I’m absorbing the cost to my credit card.

Back to Unlocked. I may have to resort to all caps to talk about this novella. For real. Here’s a list of reasons why you should buy this RIGHT NOW.

1. It’s a three-day holiday weekend in the US. Chances are you are tired of people and want some quiet. Take this book, which is digital so you can put it on your smartphone or your reader or your laptop, and go hide and go read it. It’s a present to yourself. The third day of a three-day weekend can be tough. This novella is restorative like a two hour massage and foot rub with one of those really awesome tingly scalp treatments thrown in. 

2. Why do I like this novella? Because Courtney Milan rocks the novella format. HARD. This story is emotional, wrenching, beautiful, touching, and incredibly rich – and a novella so you get the whole experience of a romance in a shorter format.

3. Plot summary? Ok, fine: Evan Carlton made Lady Elaine Warren’s life miserable in her first Season. Then he left, and she remained unmarried, alone, and the subject of continued derision in his absence. Carlton returns from years away, a different person who is determined to make up for his past wrongs, no matter how difficult it is to undo years and years of damage.

YOU GUYS. There is groveling. He has to make amends. IT IS A GROVEL-VELLA.

4. This novella is based on the simplest of premises: the boy who teases a girl because he likes her. It also explores how hard it is to change your habits, to change who you are and the role you play in front of others, and most of all how hard it is to apologize for what you’ve done wrong.

5. In Milan’s hands, nothing is simple or easy. Every word, every phrase, means multiple things in some scenes. Dialogue has layered meanings that only the reader and maybe certain characters understand. Its’ a rich and delicious and intelligent experience. Pay attention. Don’t miss anything. It’s short – and you should savor it.

6. Enough? Why an A-? I wish one of the ancillary characters had been developed – I don’t want to say too much, but there’s one character who shows up at the end, and I would have sworn he was never there in the first place. He has no role in the beginning and a rather pivotal role in the end. My sidenote on him reads, ‘Who?! Where has he been?!”

7. Look, go buy this. Go read it. It’s wonderful. If it were in three-dimensional form, I’d run around hitting people with it. It’s thoughtful and rich and intelligent and beautiful. Jane at Dear Author called it “remarkable” in a conversation with me, and it really is. It is worth the absolutely minuscule amount of money it costs: .99c except at Goodreads, where it is $1. It’s worth the extra penny at Goodreads.

You can buy Unlocked at Amazon | All Romance eBooks | Goodreads. According to Milan’s website, it’ll be available elsewhere soon. You can also read an excerpt here.

8. Why are you still here? Bring a tissue when you go hide with this book. You might be a little teary.  Go read this! It’s wonderful!

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Chris says:

    Sold (since I have a kajillions bucks on ARe from my buying spree this weekend!)

  2. 2
    Jane says:

    So glad that you enjoyed this book. I loved it too.  I felt like I had robbed a convenience store reading a story like this for only $.99!

    And you are so right. The entire book is one big grovel.

  3. 3
    Kate Y says:

    Thanks for the heads up, Sarah!  I read Unveiled when you featured it for the bookclub and was blown away.  Yay for more Courtney Milan!  *g*

  4. 4
    Kitty says:

    My first Courtney Milan and my first comment on SBTB! I saw the Twitter-drama about this novella and decided to give it a go. I am so glad I did. The sheer depth of emotion packed into just over a hundred pages blew my mind. (I was holed up in bed with a cold, a box of tissues and a caseload of Dove caramels, so I was susceptible, to say the least.) 

    I get what you’re saying about the pop-in of a certain character at the end. That was a bit jarring and made me wonder if he had appeared earlier, would the story have played out differently? Nevertheless, a stellar example of what amazing things can be done with the fewest of words.

  5. 5
    darlynne says:

    Oh, man, I don’t even like historical settings. Not a fan of novellas, even less of one for having to read it through Kindle for PC. But groveling? A grovel-vella or grovela, because it’s too early here for more syllables? It’s already been whispered to my netbook as I type. Thanks, SB Sarah.

    Hey, who turned on the bold?

  6. 6
    Cris says:

    Ok, I’m dense.  Sarah & Kitty, who the heck are y’all talking about?  The man who showed up at the thing and said the stuff that made the crowd sit up and take notice (I love being vague and non-spoilery)?  Because I thought it was clear why he hadn’t shown up before, though true, it would have been nice if he had, but I don’t think most things would have played out differently. MHO of course :). Or are y’all talking about someone else entirely?

  7. 7
    MamaNice says:

    I just received my Kindle for Mother’s Day, and still get a little giddy when I buy a e-book and see it magically appear on my Kindle (I will always love my Sony, but the buying ease of Kindle books is addictive).

    The 99 cent book is another reason I am loving the Kindle – thanks for letting me know about this one, several hours of reading enjoyment for less than a cup of coffee? Yes please!

  8. 8
    Sarah says:

    @Cris: No, not him. He ruled. We’re talking about the older male family member of one of the main characters.

    Highlight to read:

    The heroine’s father.

  9. 9
    Kitty says:

    Sorry, the bold business was all me. That’ll teach me to get fancy with the tags.
    Cris, I’m starting to second-guess myself on which pivotal character Sarah was talking about. I’m definitely not referring to the man who stood up at the thing, but someone who was naturally close to the h and whose opinion/approval should be crucial to the HEA, but who got rather short shrift. At least, I’m guessing that’s who Sarah means. I don’t want to bang on about it because it’s going to assume more importance than warranted for peeps who haven’t read it. Sorry, I realize that that’s about as clear as mud.

  10. 10
    Hannah says:

    FYI—I was able to sideload the mobi format and read on my Kindle. It wasn’t really clear to me from the Allromance product page whether or not the book was DRM-protected and if the sideloading would work. It would be ironic to have it only available with DRM given the title—Unlocked. By browsing the Allromance store I see that some titles are listed as “Secure Adobe Epub eBook” only. I assume these are the only titles with DRM.

  11. 11
    Eliza Evans says:

    Oh, I just love Courtney’s novellas.  I won’t read anyone else’s, because I’m not a fan of the format, but she not only makes them work, she makes me like it. 

    I’ve got this one waiting for me on my Kindle!

  12. 12
    library addict says:

    I bought this yeasterday during my big spending spree.  My credit card is still crying. But Calibre and my Sony reader now have a whole lot of additioanl books for my TBR pile and I have lots of eBucks to use later.

    I love ARe’s customer service.  And their buy 10-get-1-free.  And the fact they use a shopping cart. And their selection for the most part.  I just have to remember to open the links to descriptions of books I want to look at in another screen as their site doesn’t allow pageback.

    Remember, you can “gift” your eBucks to someone else, too.  I kept all mine, but it is an option.

  13. 13
    JBHunt says:

    I really enjoyed this—just gobbled it up in one sitting.

    I agree that Milan is the novella master. She’s able to take the characters through a complex and emotional arc that doesn’t feel rushed, even in this short format.

    Eagerly awaiting Unclaimed in the fall!

  14. 14
    Erica says:

    Good heavens! Alright already! I promise I’m leaving this site and buying it RIGHT NOW.

  15. 15
    darlynne says:

    @library addict: Thanks for the details about AllRomance. Most of the time, I buy from B&N because of my Nook and will buy from Borders because their coupons can be used for non-agency ebooks. The thought of going to additional sites and having fifteen random credit card charges for under $10.00, however, has kept me pretty much pinned to those two. But a shopping cart for ebook purchases, that has my attention.

  16. 16
    peggy h says:

    Loving this!  (Bought this Saturday but trying to savor it and make it last by not finishing it right away—I know, it’s a little crazy to do that!)

    I think Courtney has a special gift for novellas.  Though her novels are definitely a notch (or several or many notches) above the average, to some extent, I think her novellas are even better.  The Wicked Gift was such a joy to read, and her short, short story (which I believe she had written for a contest but is now available on her website) The Goddess of Small Things is an absolute delight!

  17. 17
    meganhwa says:

    ok a few things (happy things but this may go on so i appologise)

    1. loved this novella – happened across it saturday night when browsing allromance and was so excited because a) i really loved courtney milan’s book that was read for the book club and b) i really liked lady elaine in that book and was glad to see she got her own story. i subsequently gobbled it up in one sitting. it was brilliant.

    2. i agree with other people’s comments especially library addict about how it’s so nice to be able to buy several books in one session from allromance as opposed to one ebook at a time (which i dun quite understand the point – i see how people like the instance of it but why not have an add to cart option as well…on a side note i also do not understand why most online shops do not have a cancel button that wipes all your information if you happen to change your mind at the last minute but anyways…)

    3. also agree that allromance have very good customer service.

    4. and yes the character which SBSarah mentions (who i could not recall until you were more specific), his sudden appearance at the end was rather jolty. I hadn’t thought quite as far as kitty had on that aspect – how things might have played out but it did seem a little odd.

    but despite that, the book is wonderful and you should all go out and buy it :)

  18. 18
    Laura (in PA) says:

    Ok, I came here this morning, did as told and went off and bought the novella for my kindle, read it, loved it. Even after reading Sarah’s comment this morning about the character who was jarring, I didn’t know who she meant after reading the book. So I guess I didn’t find it as jarring, but I see what you’re saying.

    I also read Unveiled for the book club, but I don’t remember Elaine being in it. Can someone remind me?

  19. 19
    Kayla K says:

    This was utterly delightful.  My first Courtney Milan book, but I am busily rectifying that right now.  Yay for rebate weekend at ARe!

  20. 20
    AmberG says:

    How can I resist a book for a dollar? I popped it on my Kobo (which I am starting to love more and more) and spent a happy hour or so. It was wonderful. Although I know who you mean at the end. I had a moment where I sat there going, “Wait, who? When did he show up?” But ultimately, it was only a very minor thing and didn’t take me out of the story too much.

    Definitely, it was worth the dollar, and the time spent reading when I should have been doing any one of a large list of things I was going to accomplish today. It was so sweet and left me feeling all warm and happy.

  21. 21
    Alex says:

    86p?  Sold to the girl who really needs to stop downloading cheap books to her iphone!  I shall read it in bed tonight.

  22. 22
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    @Sarah, Kitty & Co.
    Yes. Completely agree. He was practically a non-character; he never even had a line of dialogue. In fact, I actually thought he was dead until he popped up at the end. Then I was like, “What? Where have you been this whole time?”

  23. 23
    Laura (in PA) says:

    It was mentioned at the beginning that he was often away; it was the reason why they were where they were at the beginning. :) But he could have been eased into the story better.

  24. 24
    Alpha Lyra says:

    Ooh, I love Courtney Milan. I’m off to go buy this.

  25. 25
    Karin says:

    Sold. It’s my birthday, so it wasn’t hard to convince me I deserved an extra treat. Now I’m just gonna lay here with some ice tea in the air conditioning.

  26. 26
    Terri says:

    That was amazing! I love a good grovel (and totally want the word grovella to enter the lexicon), and I thought the author did an excellent job creating the characters and setting up the situation. I also appreciated that she didn’t make the hero all angsty at the end when Elaine questioned him (I was bracing myself for it, but mature Evan is all sorts of awesome).

    Thanks for the book suggestion – it was an awesome way to end the day :)

  27. 27
    freshechelle says:

    would love to buy this but the AR site doesn’t seem to believe me when I enter by credit card details.  What gives AR?  I just want to be your customer.  Play nice.

  28. 28
    Carin says:

    I’m sold!

    -A Courtney Milan story.
    -for 99c with a 49c rebate
    -counts toward my buy ten get one free

    Awesome!  I can’t wait to read it!

  29. 29
    Pickle says:

    Thumbs up for the grovella.  A very enjoyable end of weekend read!

  30. 30
    QuinFirefrorefiddle says:

    I just finished reading the description of the book, and I’m not sure whether I should download it, because I think it might hit one of my “don’t want to read” buttons.  (My mom’s husband, for example, cannot read anything with child abuse or child harm in it.  Doesn’t matter how well written, or whether it’s the point of the story or a sidebar, just can’t do it.)  My thing is, I skitter away hard from reading stuff with abuse, mistreatment or ridicule of the mentally handicapped.  And from reading the summary, it sounds like the ton’s treatment of Elaine’s mom would make this novella really unenjoyable for me.  Can someone tell me, is this dwelt on?  Is there a scene where someone’s laughing at her and she’s laughing with them and it’s supposed to tug our heartstrings?  Because it would snap mine.


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