This review was originally posted on amazon on August 13, 2012:
When Miranda Darling appears in a disguise and using a false name to testify untruthfully as a witness to a crime, Magistrate Turner, better known as Lord Justice, recognizes her. She had been a witness before him before, although not in a disguise. He follows her home, and they become intertwined - a young woman of dubious parentage and the brother of a duke.
Courtney Milan writes exceptional historical romances. Her style and characters are unique. Smite Turner is a deliciously damaged hero: a man of uncompromising integrity and attention to duty. He rejects sentiment as weakness, and feels that he is too damaged to deserve happiness. He lives in austere rooms, his life confined to the discharge of his duties as a magistrate in the criminal courts of Bristol. He does not indulge in second thoughts - his mind, once made up, is inalterable.
Miranda Darling, the heroine, is a headstrong young woman with a taste for dangerous men. She is not a young woman of his social class - the daughter of a pair of actors, she grew up in a theater troupe. The two of them agree that Miranda will become Turner's mistress for one month. For that month, he will provide for her, and then, at the end of the month, she will be paid a thousand pounds - a veritable fortune for a girl of her social class.
The interactions between these two main characters are wonderful. Miranda is irreverent, sarcastic, and not even slightly intimidated by Turner. She softens him, and makes him wonder if, maybe, he shouldn't demand more than the circumscribed, sterile life that he has been with satisfied with until he met her. She unflinchingly accepts every part of him, even the parts that are harsh, frightening, and unyielding.
This book was nominated for the RWA historical romance of the year, and it deserves the accolades it has received. The romance is bittersweet and compelling. It is interesting because it is set, not in London, amongst the ton, but in Bristol. And while Smite Turner is an aristocrat, he is no gentleman of leisure. It is beautifully written.
A few of my favorite quotes:
"So why was it that she heard "Miranda, darling," instead? Maybe he paused for emphasis. Maybe he paused to indicate a comma. Never had one little punctuation mark mattered so much."
"If this was magic, magic was tiring. It drained him until he was bone-weary, until all that was left was a deep, empty ache, and a desire to belong to someone else, if only for a few moments."
"You anchor me without holding me down. You frighten me without threatening my future. You're unflinchingly devoted. I love you."