Unraveled by Courtney Milan (Turner #3)
December 8, 2011
Reviewed by Mandi and May
“I’m not broken,” he repeated.
“Although at the moment…” This was what came of violating the sentimentality quota. Everything he kept bottled inside him came out. He shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “At the moment,” he muttered numbly, “I may be coming a bit unraveled.”
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…
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…
Thoughts on Hero:
May: When I read Mark’s book (Turner #2), while it was a great read, I spent much of the time hoping for more of Smite. He stole the show in that book, and I dropped everything the moment this one was released so that I could read about my precious Smite. He has been through intense trauma that could render some people mad. Instead, he devotes his life to making sure he cares, listens, and makes a difference in the lives of those he sees as a Magistrate. While he is harsh and solitary, it seems reasonable in his circumstance and with his history. Indeed, it doesn’t feel manufactured to create a tortured hero, but rather as a man in his place would behave.
Smite made me shiver, grin, cry, and say “oh, oh my” throughout the book. He is a truly incredible character – one of the best I can ever recall reading.
Mandi: Smite, or as he is nicknamed in this book, “Lord Justice” was such an anticipated hero. We didn’t learn a lot about him in the previous books, but enough that I was so very intrigued. He surpassed every expectation I had of him. He is one of the most unique heroes I’ve read about. So devoted to duty, so dark and hurt on the inside, and watching him slowly let Miranda into his life was so fascinating. He is so stern, with a silly “sentimentality quota” where he has time limits for the amount of mushy stuff in his life. I also adore that love did not magically cure him. He is still hurt on the inside and devoted to duty at the end of the book. But he now has someone in his life that understands and loves him.
One of my favorite observations of Smite from Miranda:
He cast a glance at her. Just a simple glance, but it reminded Miranda of a time she’d slipped in winter and slammed her palms on the ice to break her fall. Maybe he was cold, but sometimes ice burned.
Thoughts on Heroine:
May: I appreciated that the heroine didn’t whine about what she didn’t have as a child, but rather celebrated what she did have. She found herself in a survival situation, and she was doing all she could to ensure the safety and welfare for herself and her ward. I was surprised and delighted to find her so strong, so open, and so truly crafted of awesome. So often in a book like this with such a strong leading man the heroine falls to the side – not here. She stands up, takes her place, and I loved her at every turn!
Mandi: I was so excited to get read about Smite, that when I came to know Miranda Darling, it was such a wonderful surprise to fall in love with her too. She grew up with a traveling group of actors and loved every minute of it. Her parents, although poor and on the move constantly, truly loved and cared for her. I love that she openly admits to being attracted to dangerous men. I love that she is smart and never runs alone into danger. She is open and honest and loves to try new things. She ultimately accepts Smite for who he is, without demanding he change. Because her name is Miranda Darling, when Smite speaks to her, she never knows if he is saying Miranda Darling, or Miranda “comma” Darling – which has another meaning altogether. It is played with many times during this story and always brought a smile to my face.
When she says:
“You will always put your duty first,” she said.
“So long as you put me best, I shall be satisfied.”
I fell for her right there. She is definitely my favorite heroine of Courtney Milan’s.
Thoughts on the Turner Brothers Relationships:
May: I found the brothers to have a complicated relationship that I found totally believable given their upbringing. They had each other, and no one else they could count on. From the strain with Ash (eldest who left before things were at worst) to the sibling fighting, to the love and support they all give each other at the end of the day. They don’t always know exactly how to relate to one another, but it’s clear they want to, they truly love each other, and they try.
Mandi: I find Ash, Mark and Smite to have such a fascinating relationship. We learn in previous books that Mark and Smite are much closer with each other than Ash is to either of them. Part of that is because Ash left when they were young to go to India to earn money, ultimately to come home and support his brothers. While he was gone, Mark and Smite had to survive their insane mother, who almost killed them. They have such a strong bond because of that, Ash doesn’t really fit in, but he wants to so badly. Ash and Smite’s conversations in this book are some of my favorites and are so well done.
May: There is a scene where Smite has his way with Miranda against a wall. As hot as that is in and of itself, the reason behind it, his motivation is what really made this scene for me. It showed how much he cares for her, and what he will do for his lady love. It added to the story, shared insight into the man that Smite is and the future that Miranda would have with him.
Mandi: It is impossible for me to pick a favorite scene as I go through my notes for this book. There are so many scenes and moments that are so powerful. I do agree with May though – the scene where Smite has sex with Miranda against a wall. It is not necessarily the erotic part of it (although wow, it is a very hot scene) but as Miranda realizes:
And that was when she finally understood. He wasn’t the sort to become aroused by the thought that their tryst might be discovered. No. He’d listened to what she told him earlier. She liked danger.
So he’d created it for her.
Scene/Moment that didn’t work for me/disliked:
May: There is one scene that stood out for me, and it was when the heroine on her escape decides to make a stop. While I understood her reasons for it, I didn’t believe how surprised she was by the outcome or the bad guy’s reach. It didn’t seem to cross her mind that things could go terribly wrong, and as it was my first thought, this bothered me. It felt like a way to keep plot going in direction it needed to, I wish it had been handled differently.
Mandi: I wish the Patron (who is the villain in this story) would have been a little more prominent in the book. This person makes a big impact at the beginning, but then the Patron doesn’t really come back until the end and I just expected a little more suspense from this storyline.
I’m so in love with Smite #1 Scene/Moment:
May: I had to choose when Smite vomits. How Smite can be so strong, so manly, and at the same time have something that makes him altogether loose it and yack right in front of the heroine… well wow. I’ve never read a book with a scene like that one, and funny as it may sound that was the moment he stole my heart completely.
Mandi: I fell for Smite during this passage:
An odd smile crossed her face. “How like you, to be arrogant even when you’re vulnerable.”
“I’m not vulnerable.”
“Yes, you are,” she contradicted. “You’re looking at me as if I’m supposed to…”
“What is it you’re supposed to do?” he asked.
“Kiss you. Kiss you and make it better,
“No.” His voice rang hoarse. “I don’t want that.”
She drew back.
“I want you to kiss me and make it worse.”
A little gasp escaped her. he touched his hand to the point of her chin, tilted her face up to his. Her skin was warm against his fingers, and it flushed under his touch. She looked utterly dazzled. Dangerous, that look, as if he’d hung the stars for her.
But he wanted to believe he could, so he kissed her.
As predicted, it made everything worse.
Scene/moment that most broke my heart:
May: Things have never been right between Ash and Smite, but there is a scene as Smite is at his absolute lowest and he is to meet Ash. It tore me to piece and broke my heart while giving me hope for a better future for the brothers.
Mandi: I’m choosing the vomit scene as May mentions above for my most heartbreaking moment. Smite might know all there is about law, and be fair and honest in his work. He may have money, and brothers who love him and eventually a woman who loves him. But the abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his mother will not leave him. It crumples this strong man to the ground, and for him to show that extreme amount of vulnerability to Miranda moved me.
“If ever I address you with an intimacy, you’ll know it. Darling is your name, is it not?”
Smite cut her off with a chop of his hand. “You can excuse. I’ve heard it all before. You didn’t have a choice. You did it for the common good.” As he spoke, he ticked off fingers. “You were hungry.” He shook his head. “I’m not interested in your pathetic reasons. This isn’t a hearing.”
“It won’t work. I seek out frightening stories, just to send a shiver up my spine. I climb to the top of bell towers, just so I can look down at the ground. I like being scared. So please, give me that repressive look. Just once more.”
“Miranda Darling,” he said in repressive tones that would brook no argument.
So why was it that she heard “Miranda, darling,” instead?
If death had its opposite, it was this. She came to life for him, her whole body tingling.
You are my best beloved.
May: What I love about a Courtney Milan book is that every scene, every sentence feels delicately crafted. Things said (or left unsaid), actions taken, these characters become very real and her stories utterly suck you in. This book, even among hers, was a standout. She managed to blend an unforgettably unique hero, a fantastic memorable heroine, and a story line that allowed for interaction with previous characters as well.
My one caution is that while it can stand alone, I do not believe it would have been quite as strong if I had not read the previous novels in this series. The background information and scenes with Smite from the past books enhanced the reading experience for me.
Mandi: As I read this book, about every three sentences I would text May a quote or an “OMG I love Smite.” At the end, after many, many texts, I asked her, “What is it about her style of writing that is so good?” And I think May answers that question above. They are not overly funny, or have crazy plots or over the top scenes but they are truly memorable in their own way. She writes true stories of courtship, with unique and engaging characters. I can’t say enough how amazing this book is and I hope it finds its way to you.