C2’s Duckies Do Series Review of Turner Brothers Series by Courtney Milan
Historical Romance Published by HQN
In her Turner series, Courtney Milan tells the stories of three brothers (with very unusual first names) whose lives are shaped by their troubled mother. How each brother is affected and how each chooses to live his life and move past those early problems is central to the stories.
Unveiled – 25 Jan 11
In Unveiled, we are introduced to the Turners. As a teenager oldest brother Ash went to a wealthy distant relative to ask for money – his younger sister was ill and their mother would not take her to a doctor. The Duke of Parford, a distant relative, turned him down and, soon after, his sister died. Knowing he needed to be able to take care of his family, because his mother could not, Ash ran away to India and made his fortune there. When he returned to England, fortune in hand, he was able to find his younger brothers (by then living on the streets) and get them settled into a normal life. Years have passed since then – years in which Ash has been working toward getting revenge on the man he blames for his sister’s death.
Ash has information which will result in the duke’s children being declared illegitimate and that will change the inheritance of the title from the duke’s oldest son to Ash. Ash’s petition will be decided by the Parliament. In the meantime, Ash visits the ducal estate to take stock of things – in case the duke decides to steal from or otherwise undermine the estate. The duke is in residence and in poor health; the strain of the whole situation led to the death of the duchess some months before.
Also residing at the family estate is Lady Elizabeth, the duke’s daughter. She is posing as the duke’s nurse – she was already taking care of her father before word of Ash’s visit came – and using a different name. Her brothers want her to spy on Ash and uncover whatever incriminating information she can…anything that might help their case before Parliament. Since she blames Ash for her mother’s death, Elizabeth is glad to stay and spy – even if it means dealing with her very difficult father.
Ash takes one look at Elizabeth and knows she will be important to him – he has always relied on his impressions of people…the feeling he gets…and the feeling he gets when he sees her is awfully close to love at first sight. Ash is not what Elizabeth expected. This large, thoughtful, cheerful man is the person trying to ruin her family? Still, she tries to uncover whatever information she can…at first. Eventually, she discovers a closely guarded secret that could ruin Ash but can she do it?
I really like Ash – excellent hero material, says me. Early on, Elizabeth calls him “cheerfully ruthless.” I love that! Because, really, being ruthless doesn’t mean you have to be all gloomy. 😉 Add in Ash’s self-confidence, even in the face of extreme obstacles, and his love for his brothers? *swoon* And Elizabeth, even though she started out not particularly likeable, ends up being an excellent match for Ash – and saving the day. Yay!
He was her bitterest enemy….
Ash Turner has waited a lifetime to seek revenge on the man who ruined his family, and now the time for justice has arrived. At Parford Manor, he intends to take his place as the rightful heir to the dukedom, and settle an old score with the current duke once and for all. But when he arrives, he finds himself drawn to a tempting beauty who has the power to undo all his dreams of vengeance.…
And her dearest love
Lady Margaret knows she should despise the man who’s stolen her fortune and her father’s legacy—the man she’s been ordered to spy on in the guise of a nurse. Yet the more she learns about the new duke, the less she can resist his smoldering appeal. Soon Margaret and Ash find themselves torn between old loyalties—and the tantalizing promise of passion….
Read an excerpt.
Unlocked – 26 May 11
Though it is the most recent release, Unlocked (a novella) falls between Unveiled and Unclaimed chronologically. Unlocked is the story of Elizabeth’s best friend, Lady Elaine Warren. We meet Elaine very briefly in Unveiled.
Unlocked takes place several years after Unveiled, and Lady Elaine is firmly on the shelf. Society has not been kind to her – thanks in large part to some unkind remarks made in her first season. Remarks that began with Evan Carlton. As is sometimes true with boys, when they like a girl they will do anything to get her attention – not realizing that all attention isn’t good attention. Unfortunately, the things Evan said were repeated by others and soon Lady Elaine was an object of mockery. By the time he realized what he had done, it was too late to reverse things, so Evan fled to the Continent. While traveling through the Alps, he discovered a love for mountaineering (aka mountain climbing).
When Unlocked begins, Evan has just returned to England, ostensibly to take up his title – he is the Earl of Westfield. However, he also realizes it is time to make amends for the damage he did to Lady Elaine’s reputation all those years before. However, when Evan apologizes and tries to explain his actions, of course Elaine doesn’t believe him. Especially since his cousin has made her life miserable in the years he was abroad. Mean-spirited heifer! >:( I digress…
All Evan can do is try to prove his sincerity with his actions – or non-action, in this case. Not joining his cousin in her meanness. Not encouraging her – and, in fact, actively discouraging her bad behavior. He becomes a friend to Elaine – all she would allow since she didn’t believe he had romantic feelings for her. But will Elaine realize he’s telling the truth? Or will she ignore the love right in front of her?
If you are curious about the series and have never tried Ms. Milan’s writing, this novella is an excellent opportunity to do so. It stands alone from the rest of the series nicely but gives a good feel for the world of the other books.
A perpetual wallflower destined for spinsterhood, Lady Elaine Warren is resigned to her position in society. So when Evan Carlton, the powerful, popular Earl of Westfeld, singles her out upon his return to England, she knows what it means. Her former tormenter is up to his old tricks, and she’s his intended victim. This time, though, the earl is going to discover that wallflowers can fight back.
Evan has come to regret his cruel, callow past. At first, he only wants to make up for past wrongs. But when Elaine throws his initial apology in his face, he finds himself wanting more. And this time, what torments him might be love…
Read an excerpt.
Unclaimed – 20 Sep 11
Unclaimed is Mark’s story. Mark is the easy-going brother. He is very comfortable with himself, even if he is sometimes uncomfortable with things around him. Mark is the youngest Turner brother and has made a name for himself – and been knighted, even – for his treatise on male chastity. Umm…yeah. You can imagine the kind of attention that gets him. There are many who have embraced the principles he put forth and want nothing more than to be like him…or their vision of what he is like, which may or may not be anything close to the truth. And there are others who want nothing more than to prove him to be a liar and see him knocked down a peg or five.
As we begin the book, word around town is that Mark will soon be offered a government position…a position someone else wants and is willing to go to extremes to get. If a woman seduces Sir Mark and gets proof (his signet ring), she will get 300 pounds. When Jessica hears of this, she decides she can do it…she can no longer live the life of a courtesan. With the money (she negotiates a higher reward), she will go live quietly (and man free) in the country.
Sir Mark has decided to take a break from the madding crowd in London. He can’t go anywhere without a crowd gathering around him – reporters even go through his trash! (heh…the more things change, the more they stay the same for celebrities) So Mark decides to revisit the village he grew up in. The townspeople were remarkably unhelpful when it came to assisting him and his siblings when they were young…maybe they will leave him alone now, too? Not so much.
This book isn’t just a story of opposites attracting and finding redemption (although it does a very good job of that). Unclaimed is an interesting look at celebrity – how it happens so randomly for strange reasons, is maintained often through less-than-honest means – whether the person wishes it or not – and how people try to use the celebrity of others for their own purposes.
I love Mark – easy going, good natured, thoughtful…with a stubborn streak, sure, but that’s okay. Jessica tries very hard to be tough and self-centered, but, when push comes to shove, she does what is right rather than what will most benefit her – and still finds a way to help herself without hurting anyone else. Mostly.
Handsome, wealthy and respected, Sir Mark Turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London—and he’s known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check… until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he’s waited for all his life.
Is to ruin the man she loves…
But Jessica is a courtesan, not the genteel lady Sir Mark believes. Desperate to win free of a life she despises, she seizes her chance when Mark’s enemies make her an offer she can’t refuse: Seduce Mark and tarnish his good name, and a princely sum will be hers. Yet as she comes to know the man she’s sworn to destroy, Jessica will be forced to choose between the future she needs—and the love she knows is impossible.
Read an excerpt.
Unraveled – 9 Dec 11
Finally, we come to Smite’s book – Unraveled. Smite is a magistrate. People charged with crimes are brought before him and a couple of other magistrates to be heard and, perhaps, sentenced. Smite very much wants justice, not just the standard penalty regardless of facts, for the people that come before him. He lives alone in Brighton – he has day servants but none that live in – partly because he has nightmares caused by childhood trauma. Smite’s only constant companion is his dog, Ghost (we meet Ghost in Mark’s book, actually). Another interesting thing about Smite – he has an eidetic memory (aka photographic)…handy for a judge-y type, yes?
Miss Miranda Darling grew up traveling with her parents. Her father led a troupe of actors around England, so Miranda is a good mimic of accents, manners, etc. When we meet Miranda, she lives in a section of Brighton known as Temple Parish. It is not the best area but, for those under the protection of the mysterious Patron, it is safe enough. Miranda and her foster brother (the best term I can think of, although it isn’t quite accurate) have that protection – but it doesn’t come without a price. Miranda owes the Patron a favor a month – the favor she is to perform when we meet her is going to the courthouse and serving as a witness so the accused can go free…something she has been called on to do before. She is unaware of Smite’s memory. Oops! Smite is intrigued and follows Miranda back into Temple Parish – where he warns her not to try to fool his court again.
Unfortunately, the Patron has other ideas. In order to protect her brother from the Patron’s machinations, Miranda is instructed to find some records…records in the courthouse. She doesn’t get the records, but Smite does manage to find where she lives. And gets conked on the head for his trouble.
Thus begins their relationship. Smite, now having a better understanding of Miranda’s situation, offers to help her. Eventually, he sets her up as his temporary mistress. Smite thinks he doesn’t have the time or energy to devote to a real relationship, but a temporary one might be acceptable. You can imagine how that goes, can’t you, faithful reader?
Unraveled is the most action-y of the series. Full of twisty-turny goodness. Smite is the most complex of the brothers. His motivations for the life he has chosen are so misguided but completely understandable. And Miranda is my favorite of the heroines. With all that life has thrown at her, she manages to still be mostly happy and find enjoyment where she can.
He has no use for love…
Smite Turner is renowned for his single-minded devotion to his duty as a magistrate. But behind his relentless focus lies not only a determination to do what is right, but the haunting secrets of his past—secrets that he is determined to hide, even if it means keeping everyone else at arm’s length. Until the day an irresistible woman shows up as a witness in his courtroom…
But love has other plans for him.
Miranda Darling isn’t in trouble…yet. But she’s close enough that when Turner threatens her with imprisonment if she puts one foot wrong, she knows she should run in the other direction. And yet no matter how forbidding the man seems on the outside, she can’t bring herself to leave. Instead, when he tries to push her away, she pushes right back—straight through his famous self-control, and into the heart of the passion that he has long hidden away…
Read an excerpt.
I have to say I very much enjoyed all the books. For me, it’s all about the hero and Ms. Milan’s heroes are excellent. Such genuinely good guys…not perfect…just genuine and real. They encourage those around them to be their best and not just do what is expected.
All in all, this is an enjoyable series (and the covers are lovely, too). If you like British historicals but are in the mood for something outside the norm – tired of dukes and delicate misses?? – I highly recommend Ms. Milan’s books. And aren’t you curious about the names?? If you end up unhappy, you can come back and yell at me.