REVIEW: ‘This Wicked Gift’ (2009) by Courtney Milan

by Sarah on December 21, 2009 · 9 comments

Genre: Regency Christmas NovellaThe Heart of Christmas

POV: 3rd Person

Sensuality: Hot

Violence: None

My Grade: B+

This Wicked Gift is debut author Courtney Milan’s impressive contribution to the The Heart of Christmas Regency anthology. It’s a highly original story featuring working-class characters.

Lavinia Spencer runs her family’s lending library. Making enough money to cover basic expenses plus her ailing father’s expensive medication is a struggle, but Lavinia does her best. Determined to give her father a Christmas to remember, she’s been saving her pennies to pay for a delicious Christmas feast. One evening, Lavinia realizes her Christmas savings have disappeared – and more besides. Suspicion immediately falls on her irresponsible younger brother.  James has fallen foul of a con man and is required to make good on a promissary note worth ten pounds.

William White is a lowly clerk to the cantankerous Lord Blakely. He owes his reduced status to his father’s former business partner, Adam Sherrod, who swore to look after him following his father’s death, but reneged on that promise. William has just learned from Sherrod’s solicitor that he was left a measly £10 in Sherrod’s will instead of the £5000 he was promised. William feels frustrated and hopeless, doomed to toil in a tedious and poorly-paying job for the rest of his life.

When William overhears Lavinia’s conversation with her brother, he acts on impulse. He offers to settle James’s debt with the money he has just inherited in return for an afternoon with Lavinia. Lavinia is shocked by his scandalous proposal but agrees…

I thoroughly enjoyed This Wicked Gift. It features one of the most original loves scenes I’ve ever read in the sense that it is told from the hero’s perspective. William is an imperfect hero but his motivations are understandable. Lavinia was a good match for him. The ending was a little too neat for my liking but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of this entertaining novella.

Courtney Milan’s first full-length novel, Proof by Seduction, will be released in January 2010. I definitely plan to read it.


Jessica December 21, 2009 at 14:33

oh, I am cursing myself for not picking this up when I saw it at the pre-read book store store on Saturday!!!

Leontine December 21, 2009 at 15:21

Oh a love scene from the hero’s perspective, that sounds very intriguing. I’ve got her full length on the review pile and I’m looking forward to find out if I’ve got a new author in my historical genre to add to auto-buy :D

Marissa December 21, 2009 at 15:55

Sounds good Sarah, but I am a historical romance freak LOL… I have her Proof by Seduction in my tbr pile, have to pick up this one as well now, thanks for the great review!

katiebabs December 21, 2009 at 18:43

Courtney puts Balogh’s story to shame in this novella. Sarah, I can’t wait to see what you think of Proof by Seduction. It was a wonderful full length debut.

Maili December 21, 2009 at 20:23

I agree 100% with your review. I also look forward to giving Proof by Seduction a try. I mean, scholar hero? Scholar heroes to me are what catnip is to cats.

Sarah December 21, 2009 at 22:07

@Jessica: LOL! It’s well worth reading.

@Leontine: The love scene was so well done. They’re usually done from the heroine’s perspective, or occasionally from both.

@Marissa: You have Proof? Lucky! I have my copy on order.

@katiebabs: This was my favourite of the three novellas. I’d read the Balogh one before.

@Maili: I also love scholar heroes!

Janet W December 21, 2009 at 22:10

I would agree katiebabs that the Balogh story is not one of her strongest — which makes me stupidly hopeful that HQN will not reissue it YET AGAIN next Christmas! Balogh is the Queen of Magnificent Christmas stories — every holiday season I pull out my collection of Regency Christmas anthologies. Why don’t they try to buy the rights to some of those Baloghs and publish a collection like “Under the Mistletoe” — 4 oldies but goodies and 1 brand new! Instead, they have offered up a weak Balogh Christmas story for what, 3 years running? Is it supposed to be a loss leader?

This entire collection was not much to my taste … I was not convinced by the working class romance. I suppose a better way to put that (nod to Tumperkin’s most recent marvelous blog), I was not inclined to suspend my disbelief.

Sarah December 21, 2009 at 22:13

@Janet W: Yes! Under the Mistletoe is an excellent collection of Mary Balogh’s Christmas stories.

heidenkind December 21, 2009 at 22:56

I don’t really read anthologies, although this sounds like a good story.

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