Why I read it: I loved the Turner series and bought this one the day of its release.
What it's about: (from Goodreads) She will not give up…Three months ago, governess Serena Barton was let go from her position. Unable to find new work, she’s demanding compensation from the man who got her sacked: a petty, selfish, swinish duke. But it’s not the duke she fears. It’s his merciless man of business—the man known as the Wolf of Clermont. The formidable former pugilist has a black reputation for handling all the duke’s dirty business, and when the duke turns her case over to him, she doesn’t stand a chance. But she can’t stop trying—not with her entire future at stake.
He cannot give in…Hugo Marshall is a man of ruthless ambition—a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner’s son to the right hand man of a duke. When his employer orders him to get rid of the pestering governess by fair means or foul, it’s just another day at the office. Unfortunately, fair means don’t work on Serena, and as he comes to know her, he discovers that he can’t bear to use foul ones. But everything he has worked for depends upon seeing her gone. He’ll have to choose between the life that he needs, and the woman he is coming to love…
What worked for me (and what didn't): This novella is the prequel to Ms. Milan's new Brothers Sinister series, the first 2 of which I believe are due for release later this year with the third and final one in 2013. As much as I enjoyed the Turner series, I thought this story was a bit thin. The start felt just a little bit clumsy to me after the smooth beginnings of the other books I've read and the romance wasn't as well developed as I would have liked. I agree with comments I've read about the place that this could easily have become a full length novel and I think I would have enjoyed it much better had that been the case. After the first chapter or so, however, either I settled into the story or it improved and it was certainly an enjoyable read.
But, reflecting on the story afterwards, I'm not entirely sure I believed Serena had sufficiently recovered from her trauma to embark on a relationship with Hugo. I'm not sure I truly believed that Hugo would be happy on the farm with Serena when so much of his life's ambition had been about becoming very rich and powerful. It is apparent from the epilogue that he, at least, isn't powerful. I'm not sure how rich he is. I would have liked more of Serena and Hugo together later on to be satisfied in their HEA. As the epilogue didn't feature the couple at all, I found that a little disatisfying.
On the other hand, I'm very interested in reading about the Brothers Sinister and as a prequel to the series, this novella does a good job of setting the stage.
I thought Unlocked was a more complete story and I liked it better, but this was still a bargain at 99c and the quality in terms of self publishing is (as usual) excellent.
What else? There is a potential hot button in the story - the heroine is raped by the hero's employer (albeit off page). In the end I was satisfied with how Hugo dealt with the matter but a duke back then didn't really face many consequences for raping a governess so I while it is probably historically apropos, his "punishment" was fairly mild in terms of modern sensibility.
Plenty of people like this at least a little better than I did - It's averaging 4.34 at Goodreads at the moment, and Smart Bitches gave it an B+ and Dear Author gave it a B.