Smite Turner isn’t a normal hero. Traumatised by his mentally ill mother throughout his childhood, in a time when treatment was more harmful than helpful, he’s grown into a conscientious magistrate fixated on justice who nevertheless sets people apart from him. He knows that they’re unlikely to understand just how he ticks, and as such he’d simply rather be alone – or with his dog. Miranda Darling, in contrast, does just about everything for someone else – under the protection of a figure of the underworld in which she lives, she puts on numerous fake identities to mislead the law. Until she encounters Smite, who never forgets a face, and somehow can’t get hers out of his head.
I feel as though every Courtney Milan book I read is better than the last, and Unraveled was no exception. Treading dangerous waters with a mentally damaged hero, a heroine turned into a mistress, and seedy crime, Milan never puts a foot – or a word – down wrong. Instead, she has created a fantastic, heart-wrenching love story that I simply couldn’t put down. (She even manages to stick a perfectly happy gay couple in there, who helped raise Miranda and gave her a ton of happy memories.)
What I loved most about this book, I think, was that Miranda didn’t “cure” Smite. He is still damaged by his past, and he’s always going to be uncomfortable with certain aspects of intimacy and behavior. That doesn’t change. What does change is that she loves him for who he is, and she understands which of his gestures mean “I love you” when he can’t say the words. In real life, we all know that if we go into a relationship looking to change someone, we’re virtually guaranteed to fail. Why should the world of romance novels be any different? That is why her characters are so appealing, so human, so easily able to sneak their way in and tug at your heartstrings.
At the end of the book, Milan explains the historical context behind the book and her inspiration for setting it in Bristol and amongst those who walk a careful line between breaking the law and staying alive. I loved this – so often romance novels in particular are simply modern day characters dressed up in fancy old-fashioned outfits who go to balls, and while I accept them for that and still enjoy them, I can’t help but love an author who goes out and tells me that she was inspired by actual history.
Just writing about this book has made me wish I could go and read it all over again. It’s such an addicting, romantic read, with characters so appealing that you genuinely won’t want to leave them until you’ve finished. Highly recommended for any romance readers.
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