Title: Once Upon A Marquess
Author: Courtney Milan
Series: Worth Saga #1
Genre: Victorian Romance
The last man Judith Worth wants to see again is Christian Trent, the Marquess of Ashford—the man who spent summers at her family home, who kissed her one magical night…and then heartlessly ruined her father. But when a tricky business matter arises, he’s the only one she can ask for help. With any luck, he’ll engage a servant to take care of the matter, and she won’t even have to talk with him.
But Ashford has never forgotten Judith. He knows she will never forgive him for what he’s done, but when offered the chance to assist her, he arrives in person. His memory of Judith may have haunted him, but it pales in comparison to the reality of the vivacious, beautiful woman he rediscovers. Throughout his life, he has always done what is correct. But now, he finds himself doing something utterly wrong…falling in love with the one woman he can never have.
Source: Review copy via NetGalley
There was so much about this book that I enjoyed – the characters, the twisting plot, the social implications of treason, the wider historical backdrop – but more than anything the thing I loved most was the humour. There’s a lot of sadness in this book and broken trust and hurt, not to mention family and personal issues, all of which could have become too dark and depressing and made the whole thing drag. Except there was also so much humour, particularly the swans (I do this sort of thing all the time), the kittens and the baby elephants.
Another thing that really worked for me was the slow pace of the romance. And it is very slow – but with good reason. Christian and Judith have a lot of history. During their teenage years it was light and beautiful and lovely and there was no doubt in either mind that they would marry each other one day. Then came treason and death and loss and Judith can’t forgive Christian (rightly or wrongly) for the part he played in it all. So, for me, any other pace to their romance would have felt wrong. It’s slow and steady as they gradually get to know each other again, but to me it felt wonderful.
Then there are the characters. Dear Christian with his lists and his nightmares, his need for order and inappropriate use of humour. He’s definitely not your average romance hero, but I loved him. Especially the way he understands Judith so well, and even though he clearly loves her, he gives her fresh reasons to hate him because he can’t bear her being hurt by their renewed friendship.
I really liked Judith too, with her strength and determination, her skill with clockwork and the way she’s been caring for and raising her siblings. Everything she has done has been to survive and provide the best life she can for her sister and brother, under pretty trying circumstances. I love that she doesn’t bemoan her fate too much and always looks for positives. Best of all, she’s proud of what she’s achieved and refuses to be pitied or belittled for the person she’s become.
I loved her siblings too, troublesome Theresa and young Benedict, who add their own moments of both fun and sadness. The Worth family clearly have many more stories to tell and I cannot wait to read them, especially if kittens and punishment bread are involved.
Add to all of the above Milan’s usual skill at dealing with characters on the edge of society, a touch of legal drama, and an excellent use of the Opium Wars (which has one of the worst reasons for war ever embarked upon by the British Empire), and I found the whole thing enthralling, entertaining and utterly enjoyable. Although there were aspects towards the end that did feel a bit rushed – everything that follows after the second visit to the solicitors, really – I still finished reading with a smile on my face.
It might have taken a while for this book to arrive, but I found it definitely worth the wait and I’m so excited about the rest of the series. Next up, Daisy’s novella, Her Every Wish, which I’m really looking forward to and after that… Well, let’s just say After the Wedding has me very intrigued. Can’t wait!
Once Upon A Marquess is Out Now!
Visit Courtney Milan for more details.