Look, I'm a Milan fangirl, so I kind of feel like you'll have to pry my Milan books from my cold bony dead fingers but I do get what you all were saying about this book. Have you ever put something together and then turned around to discover there are still some parts left in the bag? (Ikea, not for noobs) Well, I feel like Milan had this problem but instead of hiding the evidence in a blackhole drawer, she jammed them into any nook and cranny she could find.
We have the Worth family whose father was found guilty of treason, especially scandalous because he is an Earl, and hung (hangs?) himself in jail. The eldest brother is found guilty of knowing about it and put on a ship to be deported for 7yrs. This book starts us off with the second eldest, Judith. She's left to take care of the younger siblings, Camilla, Benedict, and Theresa. Camilla goes AWOL right away, way to go Judith. The storyline of searching for Camilla weaves in and out, perhaps a innocent small screw that came from our leftover bag.
"I thought about it," he finally said. "But here's the thing about having been in love that first time: I always knew, every time after, that what I was faced with was a pale imitation. I never found someone else I could trust with my soul. After the first time, nothing else was acceptable."
Christian is our Marquess and he was a childhood friend of the eldest brother Anthony and as younger sisters and older brother friends are wont to do (my favorite trope, by the way) Christian and Judith fell in love. However, Christian was selected to look into the evidence against father Worth and Anthony and so he had a hand in convicting Judith's family, thus stripping her of her status and life she had always known. Christian's part in the conviction was pivotal in creating the crack between our couple and I think would have really worked if we didn't have all the other distractions going on. I'll scientifically call this a missing "doohickey", it definitely belongs but probably not placed how and where it should have been.
Now, where things went a little awry for me and what seems like a 2X4 stuck into our book, were Christian's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, night terrors, and opium addiction, Theresa's "I'm not bratty, I'm different", and Benedict's little big secret. Christian's and Theresa's issues are there to give the characters depth, which I constantly discuss wanting, but jammed in, they lost some of their value. I couldn't get a beat on Christian, his jokes at importune times were off tune and while it's important to set characters up for future books, I could have done with less Theresa. Benedict's little big secret is pretty obvious as the story goes on but the explanation was extremely rushed at the end.
"It isn't all my fault," Judith said. "It's just all on my shoulders. Try it, sometime, and see how well you do."
As always, the Milan heroine is who and what I liked best, bless Judith. If I was in charge, you can bet Theresa's cat loving heart would be the first butt out of Dodge (anyone else sneeze a couple times imaging living in this house?). Judith was strong and heartbreakingly human in her breakdown. Even though she and Christian didn't have the complete emotional depth, chemistry, and passion I like between my leads, they have some devastating moments, in both good and bad ways.
"If I'd married," she said softly, "I would never know what I was capable of doing. It turns out that when you take away my kid gloves and my morning dresses, I can do quite a bit. This may sound ridiculous, but I'm proud of myself."
This is first in a seven (7!!!) planned series and I get it, I really do, this book fell to first in a series syndrome because this kind of series arc requires one hell of a set-up. It's not the best Milan book I've ever read and it's parts might not fit together all right but there can still be beauty in disorder and this book has little parts of that. I don't think this will be a favorite of many but I do think you're going to want to read it if you plan on continuing with the series, lots of Worth family information that will be good to know for future books. The next in the series is a novella featuring Daisy, a friend of Judith's, and then book two will feature the AWOL Camilla. Hopefully, the unnecessarily necessary added in parts that felt disjointed in this book won't be needed in the next as the reader has the Worth family story now. Reading the synopsis for the whole series has me giddy for future books.