I purchased this book when I started to see a lot of buzz about it on the romance blog sites. Everyone was singing it's praises and it made me curious to see what the hoopla was all about. Could a novella pack such an emotional punch? Well, the answer is a resounding YES!
Lady Elaine Warren entered society full of anticipation and excitement in the hopes of finding a husband - same as every other young woman in her shoes. She is a young woman who enjoys life and her hearty laugh announces it to everyone. Enter the young and immature Earl of Westfield, Evan Carlton. Evan is drawn to Elaine and her zest for life, but of course, being a brash young man, he chooses to start poking fun at her instead. He doesn't want anyone to know that he's falling in love with her. Because he's popular with a wide circle of friends, he inadvertently starts an endless stream of taunts and insults by them all aimed at Elaine. It doesn't take long for Elaine to go from a vibrant young woman to a timid wallflower doing everything in her power to avoid Evan and his friends. Her first season into society is ruined and every season thereafter.
Evan soon realizes what he has done, tries half-heartedly to get his friends to stop their taunts, but in the end, takes the coward's way out and leaves to go abroad for 10 years. He is horrified when he finally returns to find that nothing has changed and Elaine is still the victim of bullying. How can you undo your stupid immature mistake? That is what Evan's goal is when he returns. He still loves Elaine and he must now somehow win back her trust, but first he must change the minds of his peers who still use her as their virtual punching bag.
Ms. Milan is masterful at portraying Elaine's emotions as she endures the insults in public to the exquisite pain she feels in private. I found myself drawn into this story, especially Elaine's pain and humiliation, wishing against all hope that this vibrant young woman would somehow be redeemed in the eyes of society.
This story is ageless - a harmless prank snowballs out of control and a young woman becomes the victim of bullying by her popular peers. I especially liked that the author does not fall into the trap of letting Elaine forgive him just because he apologizes for his youthful indiscretion. This novella is exquisite, thought-provoking, emotional and one of the best romance stories I've ever read. Highly Recommended.