Reviewed by Mandi and May
May: What would be the closest thing to a rock-star in the Victorian Era? That would be Sir Mark Turner, writer of a book on chastity and virgin. People view him as more than a mere mortal man, and he is overwhelmed by how people swarm to him, ask him for guidance, thrust their young virgin daughters in his path, and generally make him wonder if he should have ever written his book.
We first met Mark in his brother Ash’s book UNVEILED, and have since wondered who could ever tempt him out of his lifelong chastity and be his perfect match?
Meet Jessica. She is a courtesan who is desperate to leave the lifestyle and dependency on men behind and just go settle down somewhere in a quiet cottage. To do this, she’s decided to seduce Sir Mark and go public with the story, bringing him down in shame and getting enough of a cash reward that will free her forever.
Tired of London and having people chase him all around, begging for autographs and the MCB (male chastity brigade) that formed inspired by him, and as a fan club of sorts, Mark is desperate himself. He heads to his childhood village in hopes of finding some peace, and instead finds a woman who he has to take the utmost care not to fall into bed with. He is instantly fascinated by Jessica, and she in turn is both baffled by and drawn to Mark. Will she win her bet? Can he earn her trust and love? It’s a most unlikely pairing, and a beautiful love story as only Courtney Milan could tell.
So Mandi, let’s dive right in and discuss:
Male chastity [hero]… thoughts:
Mandi: When I hear “virgin hero” I don’t care what genre of book it is in, I’m there! Virgin heroes are rare in romance books and they give us such a different dynamic. And what really stands out in Unclaimed is that although Mark is a virgin, he is not, as he says – innocent. As a child, the horrible things he saw as he tried to survive on the streets has shaped how he wants to live his adult life. But that doesn’t mean he feels no lust or he can’t flirt. He wants to romance Jessica, and that is just the sexiest thing about him.
May: Mark was more than I ever thought a virgin hero could be. It is not that he can’t get laid, it’s that for his own good reasons, he chooses not to engage in sex before love & marriage. He’s totally sexy, a great catch, and very manly (rawr). He chooses to wait, however long that may be. He is not innocent, he likes to flirt, wants to romance his lady, and he is actively looking for his true love. That the roles are reversed and the innocent man is paired with the experienced lady? I loved it. This innocent hero had me besotted and his brand of romance made this reader swoon!
Thoughts on Heroine:
Mandi: To be able to sympathize with the heroine Jessica, as she sets off to seduce Sir Mark, you really must believe in her horrible past. And you must feel her desperation as she sees tricking Mark into bed is her only option. I got on board with her. At times, I wanted to shake her and make her tell Mark the truth. Mark is a hero that wears a halo. I mean – he is all around a good, good man. If she had given him a chance to understand the horrors of her past, maybe the big blow up would never have had to happen. But I do understand that Jessica has been used by men since she was 14 and she is not coming from a good place. I did like how conflicted she was. And her wit and humor, when allowed to shine through is so smart.
May: Jessica is an experienced courtesan, and as the book opens she says that she feels made of stone, unmoved by anything and unable to feel. By surviving for a decade or more, she has lost the core of who she was before and the very touch of a man makes her panic. I understood her motives for trying to ruin Mark. She needs the money and in her estimation he deserves to be taken down a few pegs. Though she’s sexually experienced, she has no knowledge of love, being treated right, or of a man valuing her as she deserved. In many ways, she’s more innocent than Mark and I loved how Milan shows this.
Mandi: “I don’t hate you,” she whispered.
“Oh.” His voice dropped. His thumb encircled her wrist. “Oh, dear.” And then he pulled her to him, gently.
May: “You’ve always been your own knight,” he said, “riding to your rescue. I’m just the man who came along and saw how brightly your armor shone.”
Mandi: There are so many lovely scenes in this book but I’ll share this one. Quite early in the book when Mark first arrives in Shepton Mallet he attends church. He of course is the focus of everyone there, and at this point Jessica is still very much an outcast in the town. And then this happens:
Sir Mark turned in his seat. He looked straight at her. As if he’d known where she sat. As if he has realized that she was watching him.
Their eyes met. She didn’t duck her head or avert her gaze – any of the things that a shy, retiring lady might have done. Instead she met his eyes calmly.
His gaze dipped.
For a second, she regretted the unfortunate habit that had led her to wear a respectable gown to service. All these years, and she still reached for a sober, high-necked gown.
His eyes came up, met hers again – and then, very deliberately, he winked at her.
I’m a sucker for a good wink.
May: One of my favorite scenes was definitely the shooting competition. As Mark realizes that the amazing woman before him has had to pretend to not be amazing, in fact has learned how to be a terrible shot on purpose so as not to upset the man in her life, it broke my heart and made me love this couple all at the same time. It was a turning point in their relationship and the story for me.
Most loved Character:
Mandi: My favorite character is Mark. His reasons for being chaste are so solid but even more so, it is not only that he chooses to lead a chase lifestyle, but it is how he lives. He is so respectful and honest. He doesn’t pretend – he admits to being proud and greedy. He is forever being cast as this perfect saint by society, and with all that pressure, he still leads a life of his choosing. He is a stunning character and I could not get enough of him.
And to cheat with a second favorite, Courtney Milan gives us just a tease with Smite in this book. I’m so intrigued by him I can’t stand it. I need his book. Now.
May: The obvious answer for me is Mark. He is so virile, such a fine specimen of masculinity and yet he chooses a chaste life, saving himself for his one true love. He was truly a good man. That said, the character that intrigued me most and I hope to soon read about is his brother Smite. I want to know about his dark past, his peculiarities,and everything else. I was fascinated by him to the point that I craved to see him enter a scene, and was disappointed to not get even more.
Least Favorite Part:
Mandi: I became frustrated with Jessica while she tried to seduce Mark. I think selfishly I just love Mark so much that I knew a big blow up was coming and I didn’t want it to happen. But I like how it is quickly resolved.
I also wanted their sex scene to be explored a little more in depth. But we’ll talk about that below.
May: I wanted more insight into the characters. Sometimes they would act, and while I could draw my conclusions and come to understand, I wish I could have been more inside the character’s heads. I wanted to understand their point of view, to sympathize and it wasn’t always easy to do so. They would act and sometimes the leaps were a bit much for me. At one point near the end I felt like a few pages must have been missed – what made the heroine suddenly change her tune was a bit abrupt.
Let’s talk about sex:
Mandi: Obviously with Mark a virgin and Jessica a courtesan, the build up to their sex scene is intense. I think there is some fabulous make-out scenes leading up to the big one. When the actual sex scene comes, I wanted it a little longer. A little more emphasis put on it. But otherwise, it is very romantic and fits with both characters really well.
May: The hero virgin and the courtesan. I must admit, I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out sexually. I shouldn’t have worried. Between the intense sexual tension, the solo-love scenes and the eventual consummation of their relationship this book had heat, and more importantly I feel Milan did a great job with this aspect of the book.
Mandi: I think I say the same thing every time I review a Courtney Milan book. She is such a smart writer. The wit, romance, and conflict are always so well done in her books. Nothing ever seems to be compromised or rushed. You are totally engaged as you read it and when you finish you wonder how you will endure the wait for her next book. Especially with Smite next, it’s going to be a very long wait indeed. Rating: A-
May: Courtney Milan is amazing.She managed to take a story that I’d never have normally picked up, and make me love the story, characters, and leave me begging for more. She has such respect for her characters, and such a gift for story telling I devoured each and every page. I can not recommend her books in general, this series in particular enough. Rating: A