Courtney Milan does such a good job crafting characters who feel like real people. In this case, it’s the heroine who I felt a connection with. Judith has endured loss and ruin that would have destroyed most ladies. But she has not only survived, but carried two of her siblings through the ordeal. Now, so much of what she has worked for is threatening to unravel –and the only person she can turn to for help is the man who ruined her life in the first place.
Christian was Judith’s brother’s best friend and the man she was supposed to marry, until he exposed her father and brother as traitors. It was a move that meant death for her father and it should have been eight years of punishment for her brother, only his penal ship went down and he was never heard from again. Not only did her family lose its fortune, but all of its social standing as well. Judith was left to care for her remaining family with no resources or friends. And, obviously, no husband. How could she marry the man who betrayed his own best friend and destroyed the family who treated him like a son?
Judith has every reason to hate Christian. But when the money she put away for her sister goes missing, she literally has nowhere to turn. And he owes her. So Christian is back in her life, at least until the mystery is solved. Unfortunately, the investigation uncovers even more questions, and hating him isn’t quite as easy at it should be.
Milan really made me feel Judith’s anguish. Even though she and Christian fell for each other off page, years ago, I still felt it. I believed her struggle to remember what he did to her, as his nearness affected her as it always did. I believed how she fought back her laughter at his jokes; how she tried not to reach for his touch.
It would have been easy for me to hate Christian, too, but his love for Judith was clear and present. It was obvious that he never got over her. Yet he did what he did. There is obviously more to the story, which unfolds over the course of the book, but I felt like with all the stuff going on his Christian’s past, he could have been a little more developed. This was clearly Judith’s book, but I would have liked to know more about his struggles, both with opium and his anxieties. And I wish I could have seen him with her brother, even if it was in flashback.
It took a while for the romance to happen. But I appreciated that Milan did not make an easy fix for these two. Their emotions and history needed to play out.
On a side note, I felt like Judith forgave her brother his sins a little too easily, considering the circumstances… and Christian’s turnaround on his values was a little convenient. But overall, it was a good romance, because it made me feel. I’ll definitely back for the next story. I’m interested in learning everything that happened to Judith’s sister, Camilla.
*ARC provided by author
Click to purchase: Amazon
Once Upon a Marquess
by Courtney Milan
Release Date: December 8, 2015