Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Turner, #2
Publisher: HQN Books
Hero: Mark Turner
Heroine: Jessica Farleigh
Date of Publication: September 27, 2011
Started On: April 06, 2020
Finished On: April 09, 2020
Unclaimed by Courtney Milan is book 2 in the Turner series, the debut book of which I skipped and jumped straight to this one. Unclaimed can definitely be read as a standalone, as I could follow the unravelling story just fine.
It has been a while since I have read a Courtney Milan. Though her books receive rave reviews from readers now and again, I have found her books a bit bland for my tastes at times, steeped in too much bantering back and forth between the main protagonists, perhaps in a bid to show the intelligence behind her characters. But seeing a glowing review of Unclaimed on Instagram made me want to see what the fuss was about; after all, who doesn’t love a hero who is a stickler for principles and presents a cold-hearted front to the rest of the world, while inside he is teeming and burning with fire and desire to be unleashed on the right woman? I have read a couple of books of the type, the last one I read being Laura Lee Gurhke’s Secret Desires of a Gentleman which I absolutely adored. So of course, I had to see what the fuss was about.
28 year old Sir Mark Turner finds himself in the intriguing company of Mrs. Jessica Farleigh, who presents herself as a widower. While Jessica is a courtesan who wants out of the business, having grown wary of the life of servitude that she had been forced into, seducing Mark is her way out.
Mark, being the author of A Gentleman’s Practical Guide to Chastity has a reputation that precedes him, where people put him on a pedestal and likens him to a saint who is exempt from desire and sins altogether. However, Mark is the farthest thing from that, and it is one of the aspects of his life that troubles him, which is the reason why he retires to the country for a while, trying to regain his balance from all that is required of him.
When Jessica turns up in his life, Mark finds himself sorely tempted by the woman who is an enigma on many levels. While her intentions are obvious enough, her body language tells a tale of its own, which makes Mark wonder and dig deeper where she is concerned.
While the romance between Mark and Jessica turned out okay for me, the most intriguing aspect of the novel for me were the brothers themselves; the Duke, Mark, and then Smite if I am recalling his name correctly. The bond between the brothers and the premise upon which Courtney has created their characters was fascinating. I found each of them unique in their own way, with a bond that holds strong – that was how I felt during the sneak peeks into their characters, seen through the eyes of Mark.
I found the heroine to be just okay. Apart from Jessica being a coutesean who had been forced into the situation by an act of youthful indiscretion on her part, the rest of her was just average in my opinion. What she went through with her last paramour and how she had come to detest the touch of a man on her body, how she awakens to the touch of true desire; all of that failed to move me in a way that was significant.
Mark’s character was also pretty much the same – he is a beta hero which was rightfully pointed out in a review I came across. While the entire populace tries to label him as a saint, untouched by worldly desires, Mark reiterates over and over that he in fact he is not one. And he proves the same, even though he sticks to his principles and stays true to the course of not hurting a woman and leaving her in the lurch.
I found his thoughts on marriage profound – chastity and fidelty in a marriage depending on being married to a person who is worthy of it perhaps? Or moreover, someone who is your everything, someone who desires you, wants you, is captivated by you, and you return those feelings just the same. Having common interests and values is important, and at the same time, Mark’s views on settling for someone just because, struck a chord deep inside of me. I am guessing it would for anyone who has been in a long-term relationship and have had those questions of what-if once in a while.
While I enjoyed those thought provoking bits and pieces in the novel, I skipped some huge chunks of the story towards the end, just because I wanted to find out how it all ended. Recommended for those who love Courtney Milan’s voice in the genre.
Final Verdict: Unclaimed is a story that seeks to see the world through the eyes of a male protagonist who holds virtue to a higher degree than most, and the woman who is made for him who has defied all those conventions.
“Mrs. Farleigh.” His words were choked. “You have no idea how long I have waited for someone to recognize that. I’m not an innocent. I’ve never been innocent. And yet I’m treated as if I were some sort of divine being, untouched by lust.”
“It cheapens what I’ve accomplished,” Mark said, “to imagine me a saint. To believe I am untempted, that I pass through this life without feeling lust or want or desire. I said it in the first chapter of my book, and yet nobody seems to believe me. Chastity is hard.”
“I hadn’t thought—”
“I want. I lust. I desire.” He scrubbed his hand through sandy blond hair at that, shaking his head. “No. You’re right. You don’t deserve euphemisms. I want you. I lust after you. I desire you.”
She reached down to touch his erection. It was heavy in her hand, the head wet already. He hissed, his hands clutching her arms, as she stroked down his length.
She slid up onto her knees. One of his hands clasped her waist. He was the one to adjust his member into place, the one to set his hands on her hips. He was the one to apply just the slightest pressure. This wasn’t possible.
It was possible.
And then, it simply was.
His hands clenched around her arms. His breath came in explosive little gasps. His body entered hers—not in possession, but in desire.
It felt fragile, that kiss. As if this, too, would break. As if the future could rise up and choke the life from even this mutual desire. But he pressed her against the wall, and there was nothing delicate about his want. She couldn’t envision the future, but she comprehended this now—the hard ridge of his lust against her belly, the demands of his mouth, her own lust rising, hard and fast. She brought one leg up to draw him in. “Hold me,” she explained, guiding his hands to her hips. It took a few moments for him to get the idea—a few seconds until he slid inside her once more.
Each thrust speared through her uncertainty, each kiss grounded her. His hands held her up. When she came, it shattered her anxiety, splintering dark fears away.
His orgasm followed, fierce and relentless.