Desert Isle Keeper
Once Upon a Marquess
Now that I’ve finished Courtney Milan’s Once Upon a Marquess, I am very excited about the next book in her new series. This novel has a different feel to it than many of her previous books, but it is a feel that is unique and refreshing. Though many grumbled when the book was not released earlier, Once Upon a Marquess was well worth the wait. It is a tribute to Milan’s longevity and popularity that readers care enough to be disappointed when they cannot get their grubby little hands on her books sooner rather than later.
Judith Worth is in a quandary. She has a problem she cannot solve and the only person she can think of to call to her aid is Christian Trent, the Marquess of Ashford. There is no love lost on Judith’s part regarding Christian for he was a major player in the treason trials of her father and brother which led to her father’s suicide and her brother’s transportation. Since this tragedy befell her family eight years ago, Judith has taken care of her younger sister and brother (another sister went to live with a relative). While the three are not starving due to Judith’s talent with clockworks, money is still quite dear. Thus when funds she sent to her solicitor go missing and the man will not tell her what happened to it, she needs help. And Christian OWES her, by God!
Christian has lived through eight years of guilt and torment. In part because of his testimony his best friend Anthony Worth was convicted of treason and Christian’s dream of marrying Judith was forever lost. When he gets Judith’s note asking for aid, instead of sending the servant she expects, he shows up in person. Judith is just as beautiful and vibrant as she was eight years earlier when she turned down his proposal. Christian agrees to help in exchange for Judith allowing him to read her brother Anthony’s journals. He makes a pact with Judith and promises they can remain enemies even as they are allies and the two again forge a connection.
funnChristian is a lovely hero. He hides his feelings of awkwardness and insecurity under a veneer of an affable and quirky humor. Having what we would now classify an obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as a lifetime of night terrors made his father so ashamed of Christian that, at one point in his son’s life, he wanted to have his only child committed. Christian’s mother prevented that by giving him laudanum at night so his nightmares would cease. Christian’s humor is trying to his mother and cousin who love him but never really understood him. He is at ease with Judith. She has her own brand of humor and a shared history with him that enables them to slide back into their old banter and this provides the “in” that Christian needs to reconnect. Christian is an exquisitely drawn character who evokes empathy even when the reader is not sure if he is a villain or not. I was on pins and needles wondering how Milan would resolve this.
Judith is also a wonderful character—I think she could become iconic in romantic literature. Her use of bird terminology as euphemisms for swearwords is hilarious and her relationship with her younger siblings is believable as well as hysterical. The humor is strong with this one. She is resilient and the hardship she endured has honed her and made her a strong woman deserving of respect.
Her siblings provide comic relief as well and if there is a book in Theresa’s (Tee’s) future, I will be grumbling along with everyone else if its publishing date is delayed. She is a perfectly loveable brat as well as the bane and joy of Judith’s existence. Judith’s friend Daisy is the subject of the next book (a novella) in this series and her story in this novel evokes my only real criticism of the book. I wanted just a little bit more of her backstory. It seemed almost incongruous a plot line for this particular story without more. But that is a minor quibble and I will not have to wait long to get her backstory as Her Every Wish is due out on January 18, 2016.
This book is a keeper for me. I suspect readers too will enjoy this book and we will all celebrate that, this time, it won’t be long until the Worths’ story continues….