As you may have noticed from yesterday’s post, I did a lot of reading last week – even for me. And there were a lot of contenders for this week’s BotW, but it seemed serendipitous that Courtney Milan’s latest romance is actually out today, whereas the release dates had already passed for the other contenders. And don’t worry, some of the other books from last week will feature in upcoming posts I have planned – there’s another cozy crime round up due as well as the traditional Holiday Reading post. I read through my holiday so that you can benefit from it when picking your holiday reading. Or at least that’s a happy accident of the fact that my preferred way of spending my holiday is reading! Anyway, on to the review.
After the Wedding is the second book in Courtney Milan’s Worth Saga. I haven’t read the first, but that didn’t in any way impair my enjoyment. Set in the late 1860s, it tells the story of Camilla and Adrian. Camilla has been moving around from family to family for years since her father was convicted of treason, but she never seems to be able to keep any of them happy enough with her to be allowed to stay. Adrian is juggling a lot of things. He’s trying to run the family business while trying to convince his uncle (a bishop) to recognise his family, who were disowned when his mother ran off with a black abolitionist. This sees him doing things that he would rather not be doing – like impersonating servants to obtain vital information. When the two of them find themselves married – at gunpoint no less – they begin an awkward dance to work out what to do next. He has definite ideas about what he wants from marriage, she can’t see how the world can make anything worse for her, but has had enough blows that she knows that she can’t rule anything else.
This is a really good historical romance – but it’s not your typical historical romance. There is a a sadness in each of the character’s backstories that goes beyond what you normal find, and that is never going to go away or be resolved fully. But that makes a lot of the other events of the book even sweeter. Milan says in the afterword that this book is about hope – and I can totally get on board with that. It’s showing two characters who face obstacles in their lives work out how they’re going to get around them – or live with them – and come to terms with themselves in the process. The Camilla of the end of the book is not the same bowed, cowed and undermined character that she is at the start, but that’s not because everything has been magically fixed for her because she has found a man. She’s done it for herself. Adrian also works out what his priorities are and what he really wants but he’s also working for the best outcome for Camilla because he knows that she has even less choices than he does in many ways. For me, the best sort of romances are the ones where the characters grow and develop and the fact that they’ve fallen in love in the process is a happy consequence, not the fix. And that’s how it should be. You can’t – and shouldn’t – rely on someone else to make you happy or to make your life complete.
I think this is my favourite new romance of the year so far and a timely reminder to me to go back and read more of what Courtney Milan has written. I really, really like what she is doing with her historical romances – they’re something a bit different from what you expect and have a cast of characters who not only aren’t all dukes, but aren’t all white members of the haut ton. And they’re stories that I want to read more of. The conflict at the heart of this is not a misunderstanding that could have been fixed by having a conversation. And that makes for a really satisfying conclusion when you get to the happy ending.
I received my advance copy of After the Wedding from the author via her Facebook page, but as mentioned at the top, this is out today. As I write this, I can only find it in Kindle and Kobo in the UK, but fingers crossed there’ll be some physical copies at some point. I’m off to buy more of Courtney Milan’s back catalogue.