Happy 2016! I hope all my readers enjoyed lovely holidays. I’m finally ready to return from my vacation. (Well, okay, I’m not ready, but it’s time anyway.)
At last, we have the first book in Courtney Milan’s new historical series. And even though the series is presented as a historical romance series, remember that Courtney Milan is never what you could call “traditional” (and I for one am glad of it).
THE PLOT: Once upon a time, Judith Worth was the pampered daughter of an earl, innocently flirting with her brother’s best friend, Christian, Marquess of Ashford. Then her life changed drastically. Her father killed himself after being convicted of treason, and her oldest brother, Anthony, disappeared while being transported for the same crime…all based on Christian’s testimony. Poor Judith was left alone to care for her younger brother and sisters. She did her best, but the family can barely afford to eat; her young brother is being bullied at Eton; her sister Camilla hasn’t spoken to her for eight years; and her youngest sister Theresa is “difficult.”
Then Christian returns to her life. Judith doesn’t even want to see him, but she needs help with a legal/financial matter, and her solicitor is feeding her a line. She needs the backing of a male to get some answers, and a marquess would be particularly helpful.
Christian is haunted by what he did to the Worths, but still believes he was in the right. He wants Judith to loan him Anthony’s journals so he can get to the bottom of the treason.
As the two reluctantly spend time together, their natural personalities begin to overcome anger and awkwardness and rekindle their friendship. But it’s going to take a whole lot of openness to really reach an understanding. Judith’s pride and Christian’s secret demons throw up some serious barriers.
MY TWO CENTS: This is not a “traditional” romance. It’s the story of a family struggling to survive after heartbreak and scandal. Judith has taken a huge burden on her shoulders: she wants her siblings to have “normal” lives despite whatever happens to her. Her very selflessness is a burden and she doesn’t even realize it. Her only outlet (and secret source of income) is working with clockwork items, a fact Christian recognizes and encourages even in young Judith.
I don’t know enough about Autism Spectrum Disorder to absolutely diagnose Theresa, but I’m fairly sure that’s what explains some of her behavior. Theresa is both darling and exasperating, and Judith’s refusal to abandon her to save herself strengthens her character. The situation also giving us hints of Camilla’s character.
Which leads to…what on earth is Camilla’s story? I’m so glad her book is next. Judith has been writing to her for years, assuming that Camilla just won’t speak to her. When Judith discovers the truth, she is helpless, shocked, and appalled.
Back to the romance: Christian has some quirks himself, such as an obsessive compulsion to put items in order. He also has a somewhat Pythonian sense of humor, which Judith matches (see the hilarious conversation between “Fred” and “Bill,” complete with many puns). It’s not that they can’t be romantic; it’s just that Milan understands that to build that bridge, they must be friends first. And their friendship is beautiful, realistic, and relatable.
BOTTOM LINE: “The Worth Saga” is off to a promising start. I’m looking forward to Her Every Wish, the novella about Judith’s friend Daisy, and I wish Camilla’s book, After the Wedding, was out RIGHT NOW.
TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and e-formats.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.