Courtney Milan, whose “This Wicked Gift” was the highlight of the recent holiday anthology The Heart of Christmas, delivers the full package with her debut novel Proof By Seduction. Milan’s writing is crisp, original and full of surprises, and her protagonists are anything but your run-of-the-mill historical romance hero and heroine. The emotionally stunted, science-minded Marquess of Blakely and the fortune-teller “Madame Esmerelda” set the bar high for romance in 2010 — Gareth and Jenny are each richly drawn and multi-faceted, and Milan imbues them with sharp humor and even sharper edges.
Interspersed with the whimsy of elephants, oranges and soothsaying for shillings are scenes of genuine human emotion, awkwardness and those gut-punch moments where you just ache for a character and the hit they’ve taken. Milan wields words incredibly well, and she evokes winces just as effortlessly as she evokes laughs.
And a treat for readers is that Proof By Seduction is a sequel to This Wicked Gift. But you don’t have to read the short story to read the novel. (One of my biggest pet peeves about anthologies is when they force a reader to run around reading everything an author wrote just to understand what the heck is going on.) Here, instead of the tale of William White and the lord he comes to work for, the reader sees Gareth and how he relates to this man who works for him.
And I love it because Milan continues to work mostly outside the confines of the ton. With Proof By Seduction‘s Jenny, just as she did with This Wicked Gift‘s William and Lavinia, she explores the world of those who have to work for a living and cannot simply flit from ball to musicale to club and go driving a phaeton through Hyde Park. And that’s a fresh take. That’s compelling. It’s the kind of storytelling that continues to revive and re-imagine the historical. I mean, with Meredith Duran, Tessa Dare, and now Milan… it’s a wonderful time to be a romance reader!
Gareth and Jenny may be searching for proof by seduction, but Courtney Milan has nothing to prove!