Seriously, “once upon a Marquess” has literally zero to do with the plot except that the male lead is a Marquess. I can’t imagine that Milan had anything to do with it unless she was off her tits. Given that she self-publishes, it can’t have been pressure from the publishers. I am a fan of Milan specifically, and I have fond feelings for romance in general, but the naming convention is total sexist bullshit that infantilises the readers and detracts from the genre. Am I right? I’m right.
Judith Worth and Christian Trent had a History, but Circumstances mean that Judith turns to Christian for help protecting her remaining family. Judith is the second of five Worth children and is the sole guardian and protector of the youngest two; the eldest son is presumed dead, and the middle daughter left Judith after their father and brother were tried and convicted of treason. Judith has to keep her remaining family together and happy while resisting the pull of the past. Christian, meanwhile, is torn between the honesty that his honour demands, and the narrative that is demanded by his loved ones.
So far, so predictable, as far as set-ups go. Will Judith and Christian get back together? Will the youngest Worth boy get over his year of torment at Eton? Will the clearly on the autism spectrum Worth daughter continue to be a comedy interlude slash signifier of the purity of Judith’s character or will she experience true growth? Is the eldest brother really dead or has he been secretly you know what, actually, let’s just go with this book is mostly predictable in its entirety, but that’s not a bad thing.
What makes Milan stand out as a writer is her social commentary, not her plotting, and in Milan’s defence there it should be pointed out that I am pretty cynical about romance plots generally (I prefer it as a sub-plot) and, unfortunately, whenever I read a book with the intention of reviewing it I bring the full force of my cynicism to bear. It’s sort of the force of a strong gale, not a hurricane or El Nino driven snowstorm or Arctic whatever. I’m British. Our cynicism, like our weather, is constant but relatively mild.
The social commentary in Once Upon A Marquess is as good as I expected, and more philosophical than I anticipated – which in retrospect was my error; anyone as astute as Milan at under-the-radar social justice commentary can obviously do the same with moral philosophy 101. She seems to be expanding her repertoire, and I look forward to finding out how that progresses. I would like it if she was less narrow with her representations of life-as-neuratypical, but the fact that she has any representations of it at all is still awesome.
4 stars: I’m looking forward to the rest of the series and will read this again. Half a point removed for slightly ableist representation of the sister, another half a point for the OCD representation; half a point regained for good addict/addiction representation, and another half a point for not starting the sex scene with cunnilingus. (It annoys me as a trope, okay? It’s the cookie-cutter aspect of sex scenes that bothers me rather than any one particular aspect.)
Cross-posted to my blog here.