It’s been quite a while since the previous novel in The Worth Saga was released, and while I remembered the main story about the family’s downfall due to the father’s treason and two protagonists reconnecting after years of estrangement, I had actually forgotten my reaction to some of the characters until I saw an old comment I had made on Malin’s Goodreads review. Apparently, Theresa, the youngest sister, had seriously grated my nerves in the first one. Milan obviously toned her down quite a bit since I did not have that reaction at all while reading this novel. Of course, it helps that she was in much smaller doses in this novel, and it wasn’t from the perspective of Judith, the oldest, loving but also put upon sister.
After the Wedding follows the middle sister, Camilla, the one who had left her siblings to stay with her uncle. Unfortunately, that did not work out as expected, and she soon found herself being past around to more and more distant relatives and acquaintances. By the time this novel catches up with her, she is working as a servant at a local clergy member’s home, and is constantly reminded of her mistakes and her flaws.
The hero, Adrian, is the youngest brother of five, though three of his brothers died in the American Civil War. His parents were firm abolitionist, and his mother, the white daughter of a duke, chose exile from her family to marry the man she loved, a black abolitionist speaker. Adrian has kept up a relationship with his mother’s brother, a bishop, even if he always had to publicly pose as a servant to do this. In one last effort to get his uncle to acknowledge his family, Adrian agrees to help him by spying on a rival bishop and gain intelligence to help end his career. While posing as a valet, Adrian ends up at the household Camilla works at, and after one of them stumbles on incriminating evidence, Adrian and Camilla are forced to marry at gun point to discredit them and get rid of them.
The rest of the novel follows the two as they try to figure out what the bishop has been up to, find enough hard proof to justify an annulment, and slowly get to know each other. Having his parents’ example, Adrian wants a marriage based on true love and friendship, while Camilla simply wants someone to choose her and not to be abandoned yet again. Since she chose her uncle over her siblings, she no longer feels like she deserves love, and much of the novel shows her slowly regaining her self worth.
There are also a few chapters from Theresa and Benedict’s perspective. Her oldest sister may have initially been mad when Camilla chose their uncle, but she never stopped caring for Camilla, and has been trying to track her down for months. Theresa and Benedict come up with a scheme to track down their lost sister and surprise Judith for her birthday, leading to some of the more entertaining and comical parts of the novel.
I don’t pay much attention to authors on Twitter or social media (I know, I really should) but even I am aware that Milan has been vocal about the need to highlight diversity in romance, and how the voices of PoCs have been suppressed, and their presence in books erased/whitewashed. While she has always been known for her feminist takes on stories, Milan is clearly using these novels to show her support and also back up her words with actions by centering on a hero who is half black, having references to a LGBTQ couple and even having a bi heroine. While I felt like the first Worth novel felt slightly forced with all the quirky characters, After the Wedding creates believable, optimistic characters without making any of them feel forced in or like token figures.