I usually find authors who are new to me by having them recommended by other readers or I find them on lists that match authors I like with other authors of the same genre. I stumbled upon Courtney Milan on my own when I was looking at the “new to the library” shelves. What a find!
Proof by Seduction is not your ordinary “dark, brooding, handsome lord meets uplifting, beautiful lady” romance set in 1830’s London. Oh, there is a dark, brooding lord all right, and he is quite handsome, but that is where the similarities to other romance heroes ends. Gareth Carhart, the Marquis of Blakely, hides behind his responsibilities because he is extremely shy and socially inept. He has no friends and hasn’t a clue how to make any. He is busy driving his step-sister and his cousin away from him even though he doesn’t know he is doing it and would not want to if he did realize what he is doing. Blakely is a man who is so smart intellectually that he has no one to talk to. His field is science and he is so arrogant that he knows if you can’t prove something scientifically, then it just can’t exist, even, perhaps especially, love.
Jenny Keeble is introduced into Blakely’s world when his cousin, Ned, hires her, in her disguise as “Madame Esmerelda,” to tell Ned’s fortune. Jenny is an orphan and certainly not a lady of the ton, but she is well educated. She has chosen to take on the personae of Madame Esmerelda because she doesn’t want to be a mistress, she can’t be a governess, and she has to make her living somehow. Blakely is appalled when he learns Ned has put his trust, and some of his coin, into the hands of a fortune teller and he determines to discredit her. He allows himself one hour for the task. However, it is Blakely who finds himself performing tasks set up by Madame Esmerelda for it is Jenny who sees through Blakely and she is determined to make him human.
I don’t know if a story like this could have really happened in 1830’s London but I hope so. Milan has produced two characters so unique that you hope they were real and that they found each other. The story is funny in the right places, touching where it should be, and altogether rewarding. Blakely isn’t lovable as Blakely, but as Gareth, I found myself hoping for his redemption.
Be sure to look for Courtney Milan. You really don’t want to miss her!
Proof by Seduction (cJan 2010)
Trial by Desire (cSept 2010)
Unveiled (cJan 2011)
Unclaimed (cOct 2011) Watch for this one!