passion rating: hot
Over a rainy post-holiday weekend, I read - back to back - Courtney Milan’s Turner series. The series comprises three books and a novella and tells the tale, novella excepted, of the three Turner brothers, Ash (Unveiled), Mark (Unclaimed), and Smite, the hero of this novel. I found the series irresistible — taken together the books present an entrancing experience greater than that found in reading each alone. My favorite of the three is the first, Unveiled; my second, this tale of Smite and his unconventional love, Miranda Darling.
Each Turner is, in some way, an oddity. Ash is an Earl with no formal education and an inability to read; Mark, a ton darling who’s known for his treatise on and embracement of chastity; Smite, a wealthy magistrate who shuns all material and creature comforts. The three men are each acutely scarred by a childhood spent at the hands of a mother whose religious fervor devolved first into insane abuse, then into horrifying abandonment. These are books that must be read as a piece -Unraveled is firmly grounded in the brothers’ evolving relationships with one another and with Richard Dalrymple, once Smite’s closest friend and the brother of Margaret, Ash’s wife.
Ash and Mark have each found love, but, the Smite encountered in the previous books in the series seemed an unlikely candidate for intimacy. Smite is only a tad close to one person, his younger brother Mark. His relationship with Ash is strained, he lives alone with no servants, and his colleagues and those at his mercy in court see him as a zealot. He is known, unflatteringly, throughout Bristol as “Lord Justice.” Smite would be a completely solitary creature were it not for Ghost, an endearing sheepdog foisted on him by Mark. In general — there is the occasional meaningless coupling — Smite neither intimately touches nor talks to anyone.
One day he sees a young woman in his court. Smite, who has an eidetic memory, recognizes her despite the disguise she’s assumed; he’s seen her in his court before, testifying. Realizing, were she to swear to anything under oath, she’d be guilty of perjury, he dismisses the case before she can speak and, once the session is ended, goes in search of her. When he finds her, he tells her to stay out of his court or next time, she’ll find herself Australia bound or worse.
Staying out of the courts is a problem for Miss Miranda Darling. Miranda, the orphaned daughter of a pair of traveling players, lives in the slums of Bristol in Temple Parish. Those who live in Temple Parish rely not on the King’s edict for their safety and laws, but on the Patron. Miranda, in order to protect herself and her ward Robbie, does the Patron one favor a month in exchange for her and Robbie’s safety. Miranda’s theatrical background pooled with her charm makes her an ideal candidate to play roles for the Patron. A role she’s played several times is that of an innocent young lady testifying on the part of someone the Patron wants found not guilty. When Smite bans Miranda, in all her false incarnations, from the Bristol courts, Miranda worries the Patron will be displeased with her. When she tells the Patron, whose face is hidden away on the other side of an old confessional booth in a no longer used church, of Smite’s decree, the Patron tells her she’s to continue to seek out Lord Justice.
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