If I were more charitable, I'd say that I didn't like Unclaimed (2011) by Courtney Milan because I've been reading too many romance novels lately and they're just getting old. But I think it's more than that. I was bored by the unbelievable characters and story and I just couldn't get into this one. Someone, somewhere mentioned Milan as a favorite, which is why I picked up Unclaimed, but her writing definitely does not work for me.
The story involves Jessica Farleigh, a courtesan, and Sir Mark Turner, the author of a practical guide to chastity (someone like Britney Spears or one of the little band boys, known for their virginity). Farliegh is hired by a ne'er-do-well to seduce and discredit Sir Mark. Jessica who cannot stomach any more trick turning for reasons that are explained near the end of the book, hopes to use this opportunity to get out of the business. Of course, the two meet and sparks fly and they have to eventually end up together after some dramatic misunderstandings and obstacles.
I am all for withholding disbelief if I care enough about the characters, get involved in the story, or enjoy their interactions. But I wasn't given enough information about the characters to care about them. Jessica Farleigh is very troubled by what a past lover has done to her. And even though it's already happened and we're in Jessica's head, the reader does not find out about it until the end. And even then, it doesn't really explain her behavior. The same goes for Mark's backstory. It's kept a big secret until the end, and then it's kind of ridiculous and unbelievable.
I was also not very impressed with the writing. It was repetitive and often boring--although I will say that the second half was significantly better than the first half. Jessica Farleigh constantly whines in her head about how she can't be a prostitute any more, but she's oh so torn over betraying Sir Mark. Over and over again. And Mark goes on and on in his head about his crazy mom and how he's so attracted to Jessica. And for some reason I cannot explain, Jessica's favorite place to put her hands while getting frisky are on Mark's elbows. I don't get it, but she was constantly clutching his elbows or his arms.
In fact, the whole virginity thing was weird. Mark is pro-chastity because of the negative effects indiscriminate sex has on women, which is nice, I guess. But Mark is an unexplained, weird mix of modern-day feminist with olden-day views of setting women on pedestals. You can't have it both ways. It doesn't fit with the time period and the characters aren't developed enough for the reader to understand the characters' beliefs anyway. All in all, a disappointment.