Unravelled by Courtney Milan
Miranda Darling grew up with a band of traveling actors, but when the troupe fell apart she took in a young boy as her ward, and now she is just trying to get by on the streets of Bristol. Unfortunately the best way to do that was to enlist the help of The Patron, and now Miranda finds herself unable to back out of doing favors for this mystery person. Her latest favor brings her to court, where Justice Smite Turner recognizes from another visit to his courtroom while she was pretending to be someone else. Smite follows her, and Miranda is terrified that he is on to her and asks the Patron to release her, however instead the Patron sends her right back into danger, and right back into Smite's arms. Smite knows Miranda is in quite a straight, she is undernourished, she can't control Robbie, and she is dangerously close to getting herself arrested and running out of money. Smite has earned the nickname "Lord Justice" because of his dedication to finding the truth behind all the charges brought before him, unlike his predecessors who assume everyone is guilty. However, he has dark memories and secrets about his childhood with a crazy mother and an an older brother who ran off to India and a younger brother he grew up having to protect.
Smite finds himself thinking about Miranda incessantly, but he knows he is not cut out for anything lasting of permanent. He offers her a position as his mistress and Miranda is just desperate enough to take it, especially after he offers Robbie a job as an apprentice on a ship. The money and the future is too much to turn down, and Miranda agrees, even knowing that this could end up hurting her immensely. Their first night together is everything Miranda dreams, until the end when Smite, in a desperate attempt to show that he does not need her, walks away and leaves her alone at the end and Miranda realizes that her heart is engaged. When the Patron hurts Robbie, Smite turns to his estranged family to try to help Miranda, but he feels that the best way to keep her safe is to send her away, even if it means he never sees her again. Miranda cannot bear to leave him, so she decides on her own method of dealing with the Patron. Smite and Miranda must fight off powerful enemies to ensure their happily ever after.
Miranda was a wonderful heroine to read about because she was caring, but not sacharine, she was independent but also not afraid to ask for help, she did what she needed to in order to survive on the streets, but she didn't become hard or sarcastic. In a way I would say she was a perfect heroine, precisely because she was imperfect. I liked how she faced her life, and how she wasn't pampered, but was still a woman with standards and hopes for the future; none of the high flung hopes with no chance of coming true, but realistic. Smite was a very tortured hero, and his past was certainly enough to send chills down my spine, but it feels like the world of historical romance has an unspoken contest between authors to see who can make the most horrific past for the hero to explain away why he's afraid of commitment. I admired his dedication to justice and it was certainly very ahead of his time, but the book did take some very advanced views of social issues that would be quite out of place in the Regency period (and might still be today to some people).
Smite wasn't mean to Miranda, but he did make it clear they couldn't have a relationship, and of course it was because he wasn't good enough for her or because his past prevents him from ever forming an attachment with anyone. I really enjoyed all of the time they spent together, even before their romantic relationship started, because they got along so well together, with none of the fighting or banter that so many authors use to show a connection between protagonists. They had common interests, they were both strong willed and independent and they certainly worked very well together in the bedroom. Their sexual relationship was very hot and was a really great addition to show why their relationship worked so well. The Patron played an important part in the story and there was quite a lot of how Miranda would escape from his clutches and, of course, a kidnapping plot at the end, but with the nice little twist of Miranda rescuing the man.
Rating: I enjoyed the book and the relationship and the plot about the Patron. I do, at times, wish that Milan's novels were more faced paced, but her writing was, as always, superb.