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A Fan's Playground
Unveiled, Unclaimed, and Unraveled, by Courtney Milan 
Next up in my Great Courtney Milan Readthrough of November (....yes I am very behind in posting) is the Turner Series! Which I found pretttty uneven in my enjoyment of. I strongly disliked a major aspect of one of the three books, and adored the other two books.

Not even mentioned here: the side novella Unlocked, which I disliked enough that I didn't bother finishing.

Unveiled, by Courtney Milan

Okay so this is definitely the most Romance Novel of the Courtney Milan romance novels I've read so far and I am not impressed. The leading man (Ash) is just so.....peremptory asshole. He never goes so far as being a rapist asshole but boy does he sure come close in his thoughts at times.

And yet the book wants the reader to believe that he's, like, so charming and kind and thoughtful and supportive that he makes the leading woman (Margaret) feel for the first time like she's really worth something in her own person. Which would be a lovely thing except that I REALLY don't believe it given the way Ash behaves towards Margaret. His first scenes with her make me go NOOOO RUN AWAY at Margaret a bunch. He gets at least somewhat better from there but there's no indication we were supposed to be finding his initial behaviour offputting.

Plus he doesn't entirely get better from there. For instance: there's a scene near the end of the book where the two of them meet at a party where Margaret basically does the next closest thing to saying a safeword to ask him to leave her alone (she reminds him of a conversation from near the beginning of the book where he promises to only have sex with her if she wants it, and that he'll listen if she tells him no). AND HE TOTALLY FAILS TO LISTEN. She is serious about how they can't be together despite her feelings, because of some extremely legit reasons, and yet he doesn't care at all about her priorities despite ostensibly loving and respecting her. Yuck.

The thing is, Ash is mostly only horrifying when he's interacting with Margaret. He's actually a really interesting character if you only pay attention to the parts of the story that are about his relationship with his brothers (SO GREAT), and his general family backstory, and his struggles with dyslexia. And the plot stuff in this book was interesting too! It was just everything about how Ash behaves in the romance that I hated. SIGH. ROMANCE NOVELS.

(Margaret herself is fine as a character. I'm not as interested in her as in the female leads of the other Courtney Milan books I've read but I don't have any problems with her. Except for her taste in men, I guess.)

Unraveled, by Courtney Milan

Yes, I read these out of order, this is actually the third book in this particular series, whatever. I was just excited to read this book because it sounded the most interesting. So this is a book about one of Ash's brothers, the middle brother named Smite! And unlike Ash's book I LOVED this one. It was super interesting!

Smite (yes that's really his name, it is in fact short for a really unfortunate bible verse that he is named) is a lot more...moral, and likely to actually think of other people, than Ash. He's got strong ideas about justice, and also it's his job given that he's a magistrate. Which then gets exciting since his love interest Miranda is involved in criminal activity in order to survive.

I really appreciated all of the characters and all of the non-romance b-plot stuff going on in this book and basically it was all greattttt. And I love Smite and Miranda so much! They're both amazing on their own, and then they also just fit together really well.

Plus this book has explicitly queer background characters, which I haven't run into in any of Courtney Milan's other historicals so far! (Minnie's aunts in The Duchess War are hinted at relatively strongly but there's also plenty of plausible deniability there.)* In this book, Miranda was raised in an acting troupe with distant parents, and two men who are a couple were basically her surrogate parents. Also Richard Dalrymple, Smite's childhood friend turned sort of enemy turned sort of friend again, is gay. It was very nice for this book to be less heterosexual than usual, even if the lead romance is still straight.

*yes, I know, lesbians will appear in my next post about the Brothers Sinister series

Unclaimed, by Courtney Milan

And now we turn back to the second book in the series. I don't like this one as much as the third book (Unraveled is the BEST) but I still like it a lot.

This one is about a virgin man and a sexually experienced woman, which is a nice shake-up of the usual status quo in romance novels.

Mark is famous for having written a book about chastity for men, and he hates his fame because everyone misinterprets his original purpose in writing the book which was to RESPECT WOMEN instead of to, like, treat them as evil temptresses.

Meanwhile Jessica is a courtesan who doesn't want to be one anymore and is in need of money, and has made an agreement with an unscrupulous man who wants to take Mark down. She will get a lot of money if she can seduce Mark and write a tell-all about it!

Inevitably of course Jessica and Mark fall in love. Less inevitably but totally awesomely, Jessica calls out the villain of the piece to pistols at dawn and saves the day for herself. It's pretty great.

I was surprised by how Mark gets basically no character arc for himself. There's no growth or change or finding himself or accomplishing something or learning to appreciate himself or anything. He's a happy, confident man who is satisfied with who he is and all, and he ends the book the same way only with the extra pleasure of having a wife he loves. Usually Milan gives both of her leads at least some sort of arc, but not here. It makes Mark come across as a little less real and human than Milan's characters usually do - I like him, but he comes across a little too perfect. (Despite Milan's intro to Unveiled talking about Ash being a little too perfect......No. Ash is not perfect. Ash is terrible.)

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