This is my first re-read of this book. My original review can be found here.
With the other two books in The Turners series, I have re-read the books more than once over the years. I read Unclaimed back in 2011 and haven’t revisited it since. Until now.
While I would still rank it as the weakest of the three books in the trilogy, that is only really because one of the books has to come in third place. In my memory, Mark and Jessica’s story wasn’t as engrossing and emotionally satisfying as that of Ash and Margaret or Smite and his Miranda Darling (review of re-read to come). On this re-read I found it a lot more rewarding, possibly because last time I read the book, I blazed through it during a Read-a-thon, while this time, I spent several days over it, listening to it in audio.
One of the nice things about this story is the reversed experience dynamic in the couple. So often you have the virginal or fairly sexually inexperienced heroine matching with the jaded and sexually prolific rake. Here, the hero is the virgin and the heroine the sexually experienced one, although at the start of the story, she’s gone through a trauma bad enough that she can’t even stomach being touched, let alone feel any sort of desire. Jessica has been so lonely for so long and it’s a gradual process for her to even warm up to Sir Mark, the man she’s been sent to seduce. Of course she eventually finds her mojo again and thanks to Mark and his unorthodox family, begins to believe that there could be a larger group of people who care for her.
I don’t really want to spoil the book for anyone, so I’ll not disclose exactly what sort of trauma Jessica is struggling to get over. All I will say is that on re-reading the book, the section where she reveals the truth to Mark had me in tears, my heart breaking for her, feeling her grief and loss of agency so much more strongly this time around, when I doubt I thought too much about it last time. Generally, Jessica as a heroine resonated so much more with me on this re-read than the first time I read the book.
I have long said that Courtney Milan is possibly the best historical romance writer out there, and this book is another example of why she’s so very good. I’m very glad that I revisited this book and discovered that I liked it better than I remembered.
Judging a book by its cover: This, like all of Milan’s books, has been reissued with Milan’s own covers (she self-publishes all her books now), but my book still has the cover from the publisher. I think the cover designer could have done a better job finding a shot where the cover models looked like they were actually enjoying being in each other’s company. The female model looks more like she’s about to fall asleep than as if she’s in the throes of desire. I like that she’s wearing yellow, which is the colour of at least one of Jessica’s dresses in the book. I also find the giant ring on the male model’s hand funny – Jessica’s tasked with getting Sir Mark’s ring as proof that she’s seduced him. I very much doubt his signet ring would be that gaudy and ostentatious.
Crossposted on my blog.