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The Devil Comes Courting

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Captain Grayson Hunter knows the battle to complete the first worldwide telegraphic network will be fierce, and he intends to win it by any means necessary. When he hears about a reclusive genius who has figured out how to slash the cost of telegraphic transmissions, he vows to do whatever it takes to get the man in his employ. Except the reclusive genius is not a man, and Captain Grayson Hunter knows the battle to complete the first worldwide telegraphic network will be fierce, and he intends to win it by any means necessary. When he hears about a reclusive genius who has figured out how to slash the cost of telegraphic transmissions, he vows to do whatever it takes to get the man in his employ. Except the reclusive genius is not a man, and she’s not looking for employment. Amelia Smith was born in Shanghai, and taken in by English missionaries. She’s not interested in Captain Hunter’s promises or his ambitions. But the harder he tries to convince her, the more she realizes that there is something she wants from him: She wants everything. And she’ll have to crack the frozen shell he’s made of his heart to get it.


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Captain Grayson Hunter knows the battle to complete the first worldwide telegraphic network will be fierce, and he intends to win it by any means necessary. When he hears about a reclusive genius who has figured out how to slash the cost of telegraphic transmissions, he vows to do whatever it takes to get the man in his employ. Except the reclusive genius is not a man, and Captain Grayson Hunter knows the battle to complete the first worldwide telegraphic network will be fierce, and he intends to win it by any means necessary. When he hears about a reclusive genius who has figured out how to slash the cost of telegraphic transmissions, he vows to do whatever it takes to get the man in his employ. Except the reclusive genius is not a man, and she’s not looking for employment. Amelia Smith was born in Shanghai, and taken in by English missionaries. She’s not interested in Captain Hunter’s promises or his ambitions. But the harder he tries to convince her, the more she realizes that there is something she wants from him: She wants everything. And she’ll have to crack the frozen shell he’s made of his heart to get it.

30 review for The Devil Comes Courting

  1. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    "His arm came around her waist, holding her in place. She could hear the lapping of the waves against the ship, the call of gulls, the buzz of the docks. He kissed her on and on until time disappeared and the sadness in her chest lightened". Three years after After the wedding and multiple changes of release dates, The devil comes courting can (eventually) be read and enjoyed... The three years of waiting for this next instalment in the Worth sage were not in vain as this romance will take you on "His arm came around her waist, holding her in place. She could hear the lapping of the waves against the ship, the call of gulls, the buzz of the docks. He kissed her on and on until time disappeared and the sadness in her chest lightened". Three years after After the wedding and multiple changes of release dates, The devil comes courting can (eventually) be read and enjoyed... The three years of waiting for this next instalment in the Worth sage were not in vain as this romance will take you on a quest to forgiveness, families, a journey of a true honest romance and the rewritten story of the telegraphic line linking two continents… Knowing a little from what Courtney shared of the story and her process writing it and all the debates and the events in « romancelandia » in the last years, i had some expectations about this book. I thought it would feel a little a raw and tough (as opposed to a softer text) and that the subjects of race and racism would elevate the text from its romance purpose to a statement novel. I was wrong on both account and it underlines even more what Courtney said on twitter on the release of this book : an author will write the text that she/he wants or needs to write. Yes the story is intertwined with statements about race and shows various forms of racism and it also has characters developments on grief and depression but the story never loses the romance, which is at its core. In fact, the romance story is enriched with these ideas and these points. Grayson and Amelia’s characters and their fight have more depth, more authenticity, and therefore are more compelling because their path feel connected to the reality of our current world. Fantasy historical romances are delicious as it provides a welcome ridiculousness that brightens the heart of the reader. The joy these romances provide are important and are needed more often than we think. However, the engagement with the story and the growth a reader can take from these, is sometimes limited. Not to say that romance authors should constantly endorse the role of teachers but i believe that books in general, novels in specific are means to broaden knowledge, to create curiosity, to challenge ideas. Under gorgeous covers (quick interruption but the cover of book three is my favorite) and with a delicate enticing prose, novels are the most subtle weapon against ignorance, prejudice and narrow-mindedness. To me, The devil comes courting is the perfect example of how Courtney used her incredible story telling (i adore all the little trivia and knowledge with which she always infused her stories), her talent to write romance (more on that in a second) to bring the light to important ideas, facts and feelings by linking them to characters and a gorgeous romance to amplify their resonance. "The storm was here. He thought he’d insulated his heart, but a few inches of rubber were nothing for a bolt of energy that could cross the heavens. He didn’t want to feel this. This yearning. This want. This desire to keep her safe, this connection. He didn’t want it. He had known something was going wrong, that there was danger, but he’d justified all his conversation with her as business. Telling himself it couldn’t hurt. He should have recognized the danger he was in. He should have protected his heart better. How could he have? He hadn’t realized he still had one". Our hero is Grayson, who’s fighting his grief for his brothers killed during the war by making their shared dreams into reality : building a telegraphic line connecting America to China. Searching for someone clever enough to find a code for the Chinese language, he finds our heroine Amelia, a Chinese woman raised in an english household after being adopted by a missionary couple. She accepts his offer of employment, not only to escape another loveless and despicable marriage offer and for the intellectual challenge of it but also because Captain Grayson is a hot piece of a romance hero (and he knows so) and a true softie (he literally bought her a dog a few days about meeting her!!!). This telegraphic adventure will take them on a personal journey challenging them to listen to their hearts and know the truth of their feelings in order to find their lost family and accept their own path in life. The romance of Amelia and Grayson is not the courting one nor the angsty kind. It’s about the truth of their feelings, a deep connection of trust and a fiery attraction. Their paths cross each other as they work together on their telegraphic line but they are also often apart. Their romance is therefore built by dialogues when they share some scenes but also by their feelings growing when they are apart and by all the way they can communicate, words, codes, actions but most of all, a strong faith in each other and in their feelings. Courtney’s talent for writing romance offered extremely delicate and beautiful romantic lines… I think about you sometimes at night, she confessed. And in the day. I think about coming to your bed in an unsteady sea. I think about kissing your lips while the rocking of the ship tries to tear us apart, about finding a rhythm with you when the world is rough around us. I think about how you would have the superior pace from years of being at sea—how you would establish a rhythm that would allow us to ride the waves as I rode you. In addition to this moving romance, we got glimpses of Benedict Worth and his own quest to find his path in life, and met intriguing side characters such as the second Captain Hunter, Leland or Auntie Zhu. I also enjoyed all the description of Shanghai and Honk-Kong that Courtney wrote as they were vibrant with sounds, smells and so lively! Just writing this review and collecting some of my favorite lines make me want to read it again, to embrace again little details of the story and the romance… Who knows when book four will be released but Courtney Milan proved that to wait three years was worth it so i will (im)patiently wait for it. * * * april 2021 : I AM FULL OF EMOTIONS february 2021 : yes still here, still waiting and wondering if i will haunt this world if this romance is not released before i die august 2020 : did i not ask courtney milan to save this year? i can't wait for more news on the release of this one and very happy about courtney's getting back in the game with joy and control april 2020 : new release date is mid-june of this year... if this book is released this year, 2020 would look completely differently, it would be like a plot twist in the middle of season 3 of a show, where the first half was shitty but it gets better in the second half but then, if not, 2020 will still continue to disappoint, you feel me? may 2018 : TIME TO EITHER GO PLAY WITH DR STRANGE AND MAKE HIM USE THE TIME STONE OR JUST GET COMFY INTO AN ICE MACHINE WITH BEARDED CAP AMERICA

  2. 4 out of 5

    lisa

    TW: grief over death of a loved one, racism, gaslighting My heart is so full now. I love love love this story so much. Now that I've finished the book, Courtney Milan's storytelling skills amazed me, and I don't know why I was so surprised by it--this isn't my first Courtney book. I adore Amelia so much. She's so wholesome and smart, and I love all her quirks. I love how she conquered her imposter syndrome (truly inspiring, I am jotting down notes here), how she became more confident in her skin a TW: grief over death of a loved one, racism, gaslighting My heart is so full now. I love love love this story so much. Now that I've finished the book, Courtney Milan's storytelling skills amazed me, and I don't know why I was so surprised by it--this isn't my first Courtney book. I adore Amelia so much. She's so wholesome and smart, and I love all her quirks. I love how she conquered her imposter syndrome (truly inspiring, I am jotting down notes here), how she became more confident in her skin after removing herself from her mother's house (and abusive environment, tbh). Grayson, where do I start with Grayson? Dude needs a hug, badly. I adore his smart brains and how he takes care of Amelia, how he encourages her to trust herself. The way he always thought of his brothers with every accomplishment he made broke my heart. There are so many elements of this book that work for me, but ultimately it boils down to the characters. Amelia and Grayson are surrounded by so many wonderful people (and one Benedict Worth, grown up and far away from home!), their love for each other and their banter are truly heartwarming. Looking forward to the next book (which might take another 2 years but anyhoo this will give me time to reread the previous Worth books because I remember nothing)! E-ARC is received thanks to the author.

  3. 4 out of 5

    HR-ML

    Mostly China 1870. Not a 'cookie-cutter' story. Grayson, a successful black businessman & former Civil War officer, was overdue to visit his folks in Maine. Gray's late brothers & he planned to create a transpacific telegraph line. While in China, someone directed Gray to seek the genius of "the Silver Fox," who he assumed was a man. Not so. It turned out to be Amelia, an Asian lady born in China, & raised by English missionary foster parents in China. When Amelia was age 6, onward. Amelia's Chin Mostly China 1870. Not a 'cookie-cutter' story. Grayson, a successful black businessman & former Civil War officer, was overdue to visit his folks in Maine. Gray's late brothers & he planned to create a transpacific telegraph line. While in China, someone directed Gray to seek the genius of "the Silver Fox," who he assumed was a man. Not so. It turned out to be Amelia, an Asian lady born in China, & raised by English missionary foster parents in China. When Amelia was age 6, onward. Amelia's Chinese mom, who she referred to as Ah Ma, promised to return for her. Would she? Gray offered adult Amelia a job, to create a Chinese telegraph code. She'd formerly worked for a telegraph co. & displayed absent-mindedness IE forgot names easily, but had flashes of new ideas. Am's foster mom wanted to constrict/ control Amelia, now a widow. Her foster brother, Leland, worked in Hong Kong. Amelia experienced racism + did not feel she fit in with English or Chinese culture. A tea shop owner later made her feel more comfortable appreciating both cultures. Amelia worked in Shanghai, while Gray supervised the laying of telegraph cable at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. They saw each other months apart. They communicated via ship telegraph to a large city (w/ telegraph) to shore tele- graph she helped design. This author writes good stories with real characters with real emotions. I don't want to give away 'spoilers.' The MCs were a loving couple, so happy to be together after long periods apart.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gilgamesha

    The book was released today but isn't available to purchase anywhere? Amazon or Google or B&N? The book was released today but isn't available to purchase anywhere? Amazon or Google or B&N?

  5. 4 out of 5

    OLT

    (4.5 stars) I almost did not read this latest Milan entry in her Worth Saga series. Although I admire her social conscience and share her outrage over racism, bigotry, sexism and xenophobia, Milan's romances with those underlying themes have felt preachy and about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Well, maybe I'm getting used to her or maybe this one just clicked with me. Third in the Worth Saga, this one takes place in the early 1870s, after the American Civil War in which three brothers of our hero, (4.5 stars) I almost did not read this latest Milan entry in her Worth Saga series. Although I admire her social conscience and share her outrage over racism, bigotry, sexism and xenophobia, Milan's romances with those underlying themes have felt preachy and about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Well, maybe I'm getting used to her or maybe this one just clicked with me. Third in the Worth Saga, this one takes place in the early 1870s, after the American Civil War in which three brothers of our hero, Grayson Hunter, were killed. Adrian, the youngest Hunter brother, you may remember, if you're a Milan fan, as the hero of AFTER THE WEDDING, Worth Saga #2. He's the only one of the five sons of an English duke's daughter and a Black abolitionist who lives in England, taking care of the family's pottery business there. (BTW, characters featured in this story have ties either to the Hunter or the Worth families. I mention this because Worth Saga #1 came out in 2015 and because of all the HRs I've read since then I needed a bit of a refresher about these characters. So our connection to the Worth family here is that Adrian Turner is married to Camilla Worth and Camilla's brother Benedict Worth is an employee of Grayson Hunter.) But this is a story mainly about two somewhat lost souls: Captain Grayson Hunter and Amelia Smith. Grayson is a tortured man, in a way, suffering from survivor's guilt because, out of the four Hunter brothers who participated in the Civil War, he is the only one still living. Now he's on a mission, to complete the telegraph line he and his brothers had always dreamed of building. He wants to connect Shanghai to the U.S., but to do this he needs a workable Chinese telegraphic code, something that has been elusive. He has been told about a certain "Silver Fox" in Fuzhou who has already invented a partial code and he sets off to find and hire him. So, yes, this Silver Fox is actually our heroine, a young Asian woman who was adopted at the age of six by a white missionary family in China. Oh, how lovely and kind of that missionary family, you may think? Once upon a time, growing up the daughter of a Protestant minister, I would have. We children even had to recite the line "and bless the Christian missionaries all over the world and keep them safe and from all harm and danger" as part of our nightly prayers. But that's until I grew up and realized that, in the name of Christian proselytizing, missionaries steal away a people's identity, their language, religion and culture, their way of life, and try to replace it with the white man's "superior" versions. (Research what mission schools here in the U.S. did to Native American children in the 1800s and weep.) But never mind that. I'm preaching more than Milan did in this book. She was not at all heavy-handed here in dealing with injustices, although she does allow us to see some of the racism Grayson faces as a biracial Black man in a monoracial white-controlled world and all that Amelia has to face as an Asian woman trying to live in the white world, almost losing her identity in her desire to fit in and be accepted. But, fortunately, these two find each other and find healing. Amelia leaves her white family to accept employment in Shanghai, working for Grayson to perfect that Chinese telegraphic code. Along the way to inventing that code, she finds herself and her roots and her pride, realizing her self-worth and not allowing herself to be put down by others, especially not by her adoptive mother and the white missionary circle. And Captain Hunter? He will need to forgive himself and lose his feelings of guilt about being the only one of four brothers to survive the Civil War. He will need to learn to love himself and also to realize that he is loved by his family. This is a love story with two very appealing characters. It takes place over a period of maybe two years, and during most of that time they are separated, with Grayson out on the ocean laying cable and Amelia back in Shanghai creating Chinese code. Their methods of communication with each other are remarkably romantic and cleverly done. And who would have thought that mention of gutta percha and megalodons would be so entertaining? All in all, this new Milan was a success, IMO.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mskychick

    I have so much love for this book It’s exquisitely painful in many respects But oh so good Favorite quotes: Amelia did not consider herself a liar, but she was a pointed teller of insufficient truths. They had now slotted him in place. Not British in their minds, no matter who his mother had been. But… British-adjacent. British enough to know the rules. British enough to converse with. Grayson tried not to have real emotions at all, let alone in public. It had not escaped Grayson’s notice that none I have so much love for this book It’s exquisitely painful in many respects But oh so good Favorite quotes: Amelia did not consider herself a liar, but she was a pointed teller of insufficient truths. They had now slotted him in place. Not British in their minds, no matter who his mother had been. But… British-adjacent. British enough to know the rules. British enough to converse with. Grayson tried not to have real emotions at all, let alone in public. It had not escaped Grayson’s notice that none of the ladies here had introduced themselves to him, nor did they seem likely to do so. They had not thanked him for the delivery. Perhaps they had not noticed that it had taken time and effort on his part. At one point in his life, he had harbored emotions about that sort of oversight. Now he refused to let such things bother him. He took all the frustration, all the rage, and siphoned it off into determination. They’d pay him back, all of them. They would pay it all back eventually. It took some real inattention to detail, reality, and history to call either the Chinese or the varied nations that made up what Britain called India uncivilized, but then English propriety was that rare combination of inattention to everything that mattered coupled with a minute fascination with everything that didn’t. After all, they were accusing China of being uncivilized while residing in the territory of one of the oldest civilizations in the world. when it came to valuing people other than themselves, colonialists were masters of a vast criminal conspiracy. Grayson rolled his eyes. “Mrs. Smith, you do not strike me as the sort of person whom it would be difficult to like. It says absolutely nothing about anyone’s character that they have chosen to do so.” “Your brother showed me some of your letters. I’ve seen your idea for a Chinese telegraphic code. I listened to you talk. I just saw you light up like a second sun. You can’t actually fool me into thinking you can’t do this. You can only fool yourself.” “You are absolutely wasted here. It took me two minutes to realize that you are one of the brightest people I have ever met in my life. I want to hire you and set you loose on my problems, and you’re here wasting all that power of imagination determining whether you can endure a marriage to Mr. Flappert.” “I’m clever enough to be suspicious. Someone I’ve only just met appears out of nowhere, offering me a chance to escape something I dread by being paid to do something I enjoy so much I have done it for amusement.” Her nose wrinkled. “‘When the devil comes courting…’” He held up a hand. “Am I the devil here?” “No. Of course not. I am. That’s the point of the aphorism. You make mistakes when you want things too much. You have to stop and ask yourself if it’s right, if it makes sense, or you’re only deluding yourself.” Decide if you want to change the world…or let the world change you. What immense hubris. What fun, some small part of her mind whispered. She squashed that down. “But what he wants is immaterial,” the captain went on. “What do you want?” “You make it sound so easy. The wanting, I mean.” “On the contrary. Wanting well is extraordinarily difficult.” “You are a ship’s captain,” she said to him. “When you’re out in the middle of the ocean, do you ever worry about what lies beneath you?” He took this wild change of subject with aplomb. “I lay submarine telegraphic cable. I worry about the ocean floor all the time.” “I’m speaking less geographically and more…animalistically.” He wrinkled his nose. “You mean plankton and such?” “I was thinking more along the lines of…a megalodon.” He stopped and turned to her. “A megalodon.” “Yes,” she couldn’t stop herself from saying. “The massive sharks from the Jurassic period. The teeth they’ve found can be as much as six inches in length, and they believe—” She managed to bite back her words before her megalodonic enthusiasm overwhelmed the conversation. She could imagine her mother’s reproach. Nobody wants to know more megalodon facts, Amelia. I don’t fit in much of anywhere. I’m not anyone’s first choice for anything. I’m not their second choice. I’m perhaps the…seventh, if they get around to choosing me at all.” The way he was looking at her changed. She waved an annoyed hand at him. “For God’s sake. Don’t pity me. It is what it is. I’ve accepted it. But you see what I mean. There’s enough for me to contend with in these shallow waters. I can’t go hunting megalodons. Your entire proposition is preposterous.” “It doesn’t make her not a good woman,” Amelia said. “But it does make her company very uncomfortable. She looks at me as if at any moment I might have an unaccountable outbreak of savagery.” You should make friends with your megalodon. But she didn’t need more things to want. That was exactly the problem. She was hardly short on regular wants. Leland says that he’s utterly ruthless, that he’s possessed of an incisive mind, but that…” How had Leland put it? “That he’s never done anything to anyone without their full and enthusiastic participation.” Her mother bit her lip. “That’s extremely alarming.” “Is it? It sounded reassuring to me.” “You know,” her mother said, “if you take employment, you’ll never marry. Men won’t want that in a wife.” Amelia turned to her mother and saw the grave expression on her face. As if she were speaking of the worst fate that might befall a woman. Amelia, however, had been married once. Not being tied to another Alden seemed like an unexpected bounty. “In the next year and a half, I have to lay the last two segments of the transpacific cable—four thousand miles. I have to establish telegraphy on the Chinese mainland. I need a code that will convince the Taotai of Shanghai that this is not just some Western devilry. I have to be rational or I’ll never get this done.” “I hear you on the difficulty of the work.” Zed met his eyes. “The part I have difficulty with is that you think your plan is rational.” She thought of the five years of her marriage—of trying and trying to make her husband happy. She had succeeded. But after the second year of her marriage, she’d realized that his marital bliss did not make hers any more likely. She’d begun to resent his felicity, unaccompanied as it was by a similar feeling on her own part. When you need someone to have a will of her own, you can’t just bend her to yours.” When the devil comes courting, he offers you what you want. That aphorism seemed to eat up all the light inside her. Nothing can change, her mother had told her. Nothing can change except you, so change. Change more. Change harder. Amelia was tired of changing to make other people happy. She was tired of feeling like she was worth so little that she should be grateful that a woman wanted to hire her as a scarcely glorified housekeeper to provide her husband with all the comforts of home, sexual intercourse included. She was vibrating with the need to elude the snare her life had made for her, vibrating so hard she feared she’d run straight into folly. I want more. It thrummed through her system, impossible to ignore. I want more. Something had to change. Something had to. Amelia went to her wardrobe and looked inside. Dear God, what did makers of telegraphic code even wear? She suspected the answer was trousers, since they were likely all men. That seemed rather risqué, even for her current mood. It had felt to her like a horrible breach of manners to show up in someone else’s country and to tell them they were doing everything wrong, and as a consequence, God intended for them all to go to hell. She shook her head emphatically. “It will do me no good to hold out real hope. I can scarcely manage the false variety.” “Mrs. Smith.” Captain Hunter looked her directly in the eyes. “Do you remember what I told you on board the Celerity?” “Um.” There had been so many things. “Which thing?” “I have to let you loose on the world.” She wasn’t sure if the smile he gave her was kind or cruel. “That means you’re going to have to let yourself loose as well.” He gave her a little shrug. “Do you want me to offer false platitudes?” She looked up, glaring. “Well now I don’t! You aren’t supposed to admit your platitudes are false before offering them! It completely ruins the effect.” That was what made it so hard. She did want this. She wanted to be the person who did it, because if she did… If she did, she would finally have someplace where she belonged, even if she’d had to carve it out herself at the intersection of China and the West. She felt tears prick against her eyelids. His hands clenched around his cup. “You have his intelligence. His enthusiasm. I forgot you didn’t have his experience. Noah would have known he could succeed.” Amelia felt a pit of uncertainty in her stomach. “And I don’t.” “You don’t know it yet,” he said. “You’ll have to learn by doing.” She made a face. “You don’t learn success. You either succeed or you don’t.” He finally looked up at her. “No,” he said slowly. “Take it from me. You learn. And if someone has taught you not to succeed, you learn that too. You’ll learn.” “How?” He looked at her across the table. “You’ll learn because there’s something you want more than your fear.” You think that my caring about your feelings is extraordinary, when it is a bare minimum. Don’t sell yourself cheaply, Amelia. Not even to me.” my next-eldest sister. The one who ran away.” Amelia tilted her head. It was the first non-treason-related thing she’d heard about his family. “She ran away?” Benedict made an equivocal noise. “Technically, she took the Dowager Marchioness with her, so it was more like… leaving England in the middle of the night without permission while still accompanied by a chaperone? Since everyone in Britain but his family hated him, it had been absolutely no hardship at all to volunteer to look for his sister. So long as he didn’t find her, he didn’t have to say no himself. No, I don’t want to go to university. No, I don’t want to marry one of these fine English maidens. No, I don’t want to petition to take my father’s title. It was far simpler to search fruitlessly for Theresa. “Oh for heaven’s sake,” Theresa had groused at him as she’d come up beside him. “This world is not large enough for the two of us!” From someone else, those words would have been a threat. From her, it had been the simple truth. They’d conducted a hasty, hushed meeting on the street outside the hotel and arranged a system of communication so they could most efficaciously avoid finding one another in the future. Shortly after that, Amelia got a note in the courier pile again. 32. If you get this, we’ve used the system you and Lightfoot developed for a week without incident. Excellent work. You should be proud of yourself. Proud of herself. It seemed such an odd concept, to be proud of herself. And yet… There it was. A flicker of happiness in her chest. Amelia grinned, hugged the page to her chest, and then went back to work. Captain Hunter’s words before he took her to the tea shop had stayed with her, rankling in her soul. Don’t tell me it’s fine if it isn’t fine. She had thought herself generally truthful up until that point. But once he had said those words, she’d suddenly become aware of all the ways in which she lied. “I’m fine” was only the start. She had started a list of the lies she had told her mother, and they had been surprisingly extensive. “No, it doesn’t bother me if I can’t get a dog.” “Of course it’s no problem.” “I’m willing to marry again.” “I’d love to meet Mrs. Flappert.” It had been a shock to her sensibilities to discover that she was not only untruthful, she was a consummate, inveterate liar. Captain Hunter. I never did apologize to you for lying. I said it was fine and it wasn’t. My mother told me to always tell the truth, and it pains me to realize I have fallen short. I have just realized that I was told to tell the truth, but when I did, my truth was not wanted. It has left my mind somewhat muddled. I am working to correct this flaw. Amelia Smith. Benedict had been years out of England now and had spent most of that time with Captain Hunter. His ability to judge the deference owed to someone of a different social station had once been knife sharp. That sense had now dulled to a useless blob of barely remembered facts. He was no longer sure who he was supposed to treat as his better and who he was supposed to assume was beneath him. The end result was that he made it all up as he went along and inevitably made everyone British despise him a little. “I understand that sometimes it is necessary to lie and claim everything is well. I told myself I wasn’t doing it, but I was. But if you never tell anyone you’re not fine, who will take care of you?” God. The sheer density of the load on him felt unbearable. Take care of him? The concept felt impossible. Take care of him? Not Noah, his sweet younger brother. Not Harry, his longtime confidante. Not John. He thought of the flash of resentment in his mother’s eyes, of the five days he’d spent with his family, of her saying, I’m so glad you’ve taken a week from your busy schedule to see your family. At least this way, with his time eked out to them five days at a time, she could forget. Forget that he wasn’t the bright one, wasn’t the one who would bring her babies. She was always going to resent him just a little for being the one who survived, and he couldn’t blame her. He couldn’t blame any of them. How could he ask for anyone to take care of him, when he hadn’t been able to care for his younger brothers? Who would take care of him? The answer, desolate and lonely, was obvious. Nobody. Not even himself. And he couldn’t think that—he couldn’t let himself wallow in any of the feelings that arose with that admission. Feelings were the enemy. He let out a long sigh. “God. I’m so dreadfully sorry.” Her eyes narrowed as she contemplated him. Then she shook her head. “Put your apology in a fire pit and burn it to ash.” “Don’t think I have not noticed. There was an apology and there were kisses, but you haven’t answered my question. Who is taking care of you?” His breath punched out. He didn’t have the strength to resist any longer. “Nobody,” he confessed. It had been months since he’d teased her about her megalodons. Now she was doing it back to him. He felt like a pane of glass, liable to shatter at any moment. His throat seemed full of sand. “Nobody,” he repeated through the gravel that seemed to clog his speech. “Everybody who did was killed.” He could hear the yearning in his words. “I’m the only one left, and dammit, what do I need with something so paltry as care when I was so selfish as to survive?” “Mrs. Smith.” He was choking on his want now. He had to—he didn’t know—shove it back. Push it away. Bury it beneath the ocean waves before it ate him whole.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I *loved* this book. Loved, loved, loved it. It is not a traditional romance in the sense that the two main characters aren’t even in the same country for much of the book. But this is a beautiful love story that is also very much about grief. I wept for quite a while after reading a particular part of this book, because I could so empathize with that character’s losses. The characters’ stories of grief are beautifully written and deeply moving, as is their love for each other. This book made me I *loved* this book. Loved, loved, loved it. It is not a traditional romance in the sense that the two main characters aren’t even in the same country for much of the book. But this is a beautiful love story that is also very much about grief. I wept for quite a while after reading a particular part of this book, because I could so empathize with that character’s losses. The characters’ stories of grief are beautifully written and deeply moving, as is their love for each other. This book made me laugh, cry, and wonder. I say every book Courtney Milan writes is my favorite, but I think this one really is. Thanks to the author for the eARC. All opinions are my own.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kelly W.

    I'm a simple girl. I see a new Courtney Milan book, I read it. I was expecting this book to be good, but I wasn't expecting it to be so raw, emotional, and satisfying in almost every way. If I had to quibble, I would say that I would have liked to see a stronger focus on developing the romance, but as it stands, The Devil Comes Courting is an engaging read that deftly deals with topics such as colonialism, racism, grief, and family. Writing: Milan's prose, as always, feels effortless while delive I'm a simple girl. I see a new Courtney Milan book, I read it. I was expecting this book to be good, but I wasn't expecting it to be so raw, emotional, and satisfying in almost every way. If I had to quibble, I would say that I would have liked to see a stronger focus on developing the romance, but as it stands, The Devil Comes Courting is an engaging read that deftly deals with topics such as colonialism, racism, grief, and family. Writing: Milan's prose, as always, feels effortless while delivering a lot of information. It balances telling and showing well, and evokes a lot of emotion without feeling burdened by flowery language. The only criticism I have is that in the first half of the book, there are some phrases that characters use that start to feel repetitive. It isn't a big deal, as they're supposed to be repeated (as a way for characters to remind themselves of things), but as a reader, I felt a little irritated. Luckily, this repetition clears up by the second half of the book, so if you also feel annoyed, you don't have to wait long. Plot: The plot of this novel revolves around Grayson Hunter, a Black man intent on connecting China to America via a transpacific telegraph network, and Amelia Smith, a Chinese woman raised by an English missionary and who has invented a way to transmit Chinese characters via wire. The first half of the book follows Grayson as he convinces Amelia to abandon her mother's plans to marry her off. Appealing to Amelia's ambition, he convinces her to come to Shanghai to work for him, all while building up her confidence and inspiring her. The second half more or less focuses on the development of the telegraph line as well as Amelia's longing for her Chinese mother, Grayson's obsession with work to avoid confronting his feelings of grief, and the budding relationship between the two. I really loved this plot. It showed us Milan's nerdy interest in a topic (the telegraph line) while also exploring complex emotions connected to the history of colonialism. I loved how Milan handled Amelia's feelings of being torn between cultures, all without excusing the actions of those who participated in colonialism; despite Amelia having complicated reactions to her past, Milan does come down hard on what's right and doesn't try to redeem people who refuse to admit they have done wrong. If I had any criticism of the plot, I think I would have personally liked to see arcs more strongly defined. There were some moments when I felt like I was just following characters in their day-to-day activities, and while some of it was interesting, there were times when I was wondering what larger goal the plot was heading towards. This is a minor criticism, however; because of the rich character exploration, I didn't mind following Amelia and Grayson, but if you're a plot person (rather than a character person), you may disagree. Characters: I love how this book proves that you can have a historical romance about people of color without focusing on suffering. Amelia, a Chinese woman raised by an English missionary, is quirky in that she's scatter-brained, bright, and kind. I loved that she was portrayed as incredibly smart and ambitious, and that her main character flaw was needing to believe in herself. I also loved how she wrestled with her feelings about her past - Amelia longs to meet her Chinese mother and ask why she left her, and I loved how Milan used that longing to fuel her desire to connect China to the rest of the world via wire. Grayson, a Black man who obsesses over the telegraph wire as a way to avoid coming to terms with his brothers' deaths, is similarly likeable in that he's ambitious and kind. I loved that he was ruthless in pursuing Amelia (to work for him) but also respected her boundaries and let her make decisions for herself (rather than manipulating her into doing something). I loved the way Milan handled Grayson's grief and how his work on the telegraph was both a worthy project and an externalization of his character flaws. Side characters were charming as well as helpful for facilitating Amelia's and Grayson's character arcs. Benedict, who is a character from the previous two Worth books, was quite adorable and had a nice little arc of his own. I think Benedict's arc complimented Amelia's and Grayson's well, though it will have more significance if you've read the first two books in the series. I also liked Amelia's adopted brother, Leland, whose arc explores and exposes the immorality of missionary work. Grayson's cousin, Zed, was also delightful in that he pushed Grayson to spend time with his family, which was important for exploring Grayson's complex feelings about his mother. The book's antagonist (if we can really call her that) is Amelia's adoptive English missionary mother, who I think exhibits the right combination of genuine love for her child and toxic, manipulative behavior. I liked that Milan wrote this character so complexly because it helped explore nuances in the actions of individual colonists. The subtle racism (microaggressions, superiority complex, etc.) worked better, in my opinion, than overt racism (slurs, etc.) because they painted a more realistic and interesting picture of someone who believes she is doing good while actually doing a lot of harm. Romance: In my opinion, the romance in this book was less interesting than the independent development of the characters. Don't get me wrong - I loved Amelia's and Grayson's interactions. I loved how they teased each other, I loved how Grayson inspired Amelia to believe in herself, and I loved how Amelia pushed Grayson to find happiness. I also very much enjoyed the little numbered letters that they wrote to each other and how their character arcs paralleled one another (both had to do with family). But personally, I didn't feel like the romantic aspect of this relationship was passionate enough. I got the vibe that Amelia and Grayson were close confidantes rather than lovers - but it may be my own tastes or even unconscious bias, so I don't think readers should take this as a damning criticism. I did appreciate, however, that the romance didn't fit the mold of a lot of other romances. Amelia never asks Grayson to change re: settling down, and both respect each other's boundaries. They also both don't want children, and neither of them face pressure to change their minds. As a result, this romance felt unique, and the fact that neither character was an upper class person in England helped a lot, too. TL;DR: The Devil Comes Courting is a rich, evocative romance that explores colonialism, family, and grief without wallowing in misery. The unique, likeable characters on their own are enough to love this novel, but the deviation from romance genre norms (such as setting, social class, etc.) will surely satisfy readers looking to expand their horizons.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    Okay, so apparently Courtney Milan structured The Worth Saga around this story, although there are several that come before it. Heroine: Amelia Smith, a Chinese woman adopted by English missionaries as a young girl. She has faced microaggressions and thoughtless racism from other English missionaries and has been convinced she doesn't have any worth except as a second-class wife to another missionary. She is a widow whose conventional mother wants her to remarry. Amelia is not conventional, she Okay, so apparently Courtney Milan structured The Worth Saga around this story, although there are several that come before it. Heroine: Amelia Smith, a Chinese woman adopted by English missionaries as a young girl. She has faced microaggressions and thoughtless racism from other English missionaries and has been convinced she doesn't have any worth except as a second-class wife to another missionary. She is a widow whose conventional mother wants her to remarry. Amelia is not conventional, she is curious and inventive, but these qualities are not valued in her. Hero: Grayson Hunter, a biracial African-American businessman and ship's owner whose ambition is to create a transpacific telegraph line so people around the world can communicate with each other. Upon meeting Amelia's brother in Hong Kong, he learns she has begun work on a telegraphic code that can convert Chinese characters to English for the telegraph. He convinces her to leave with him for Shanghai to finish her code instead of marrying another racist missionary. Her English mother is not a fan of this plan, but Amelia goes anyway. Character tying this story to the Worth family: Benedict Worth, younger brother to Judith and Camilla (who is married to Grayson's brother), who is apprentice to Grayson and is supposed to be on a mission to find his runaway older sister Theresa. Benedict and Theresa have a pact that neither of them will be in the same city at the same time and Benedict will write letters home saying he has looked for Theresa and not found her. Grayson tells Benedict he will be Amelia's liason in Shanghai. Amelia and Benedict both have to figure out that they are capable and independent without needing to follow someone else's directions. Leaving Amelia and Benedict in Shanghai, Grayson goes to lay cable. He is grieving his brothers, who all died in the Civil War, and feels that he has to finish the transpacific cable before he can return to his family in Maine. He also has survivor's guilt and believes he should have died instead (and that his mother wishes he had died instead). There are various voyages to and from Shanghai and Hong Kong that take months because of Grayson laying cable. Whatever thing it is that Amelia and Grayson have stretches out for miles and long periods of time. Amelia learns her Chinese mother is nearby and rejects her English mother. Benedict decides he's tired of following his sisters' orders and tells them he's not going back home and they can't tell him what to do or where to go. Grayson and Amelia, after hundreds of pages and telegraph messages, follow through on that whole falling in love thing. It's an unusual story and surprisingly, given all the travel and angst and separation, doesn't drag too terribly much. Amelia developing independence without needing a man's support was a nice change of pace. But even though there is a romance, this didn't exactly feel like a romance novel. It felt like the structure of a romance novel was being used to explore identity, history, and place instead of a romance novel that is primarily about the love story but also set in a historical period and place and explores identity, if that makes sense. I also wonder about this being part of the Worth Saga. With the exception of Judith's story, the series so far has not really been about the Worth family but about the Hunter family and peripheral characters (like Mrs. Martin, who appears in Camilla's story briefly) And After the Wedding and this book both were very serious, as opposed to Judith's and Mrs. Martin's stories, which made me laugh. Milan wrote that her next book was intended to be about the sister Theresa left England to search for, so again, the story is not really about the central Worth family. Milan seemed to be at a loss for how to continue the series and I can see why. She started a new series, the Wedgeford Trials, which has a lighter tone, and I hope she continues with that as well as restructuring the Worth Saga, which needs books for Benedict and Theresa, and a couple of remaining Hunters. I mean, this is a series that could go on like Robyn Carr's series do (not that Milan's books are anything like Carr's) but it really feels like it is spinning out into a family saga with romance rather than a series of romance novels about a family. I hope she comes back to this. There's a lot left to explore here.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I loved this story. I adored Amelia! She was so much fun to read and so sweet and kind and wonderful! And Grayson was just as amazing, but for me, Amelia really stole the show. This was the story of her becoming even more of who she already is. Of her realizing how she fits in to this world and become the person she always was/could be. I loved it. This story does deal with a lot of serious, tough topics. I, as a white woman, had a hard time reading some of it, my heart hurt so much for Amelia a I loved this story. I adored Amelia! She was so much fun to read and so sweet and kind and wonderful! And Grayson was just as amazing, but for me, Amelia really stole the show. This was the story of her becoming even more of who she already is. Of her realizing how she fits in to this world and become the person she always was/could be. I loved it. This story does deal with a lot of serious, tough topics. I, as a white woman, had a hard time reading some of it, my heart hurt so much for Amelia and Grayson at times, and I am sure others may find it even more difficult to read at times. But it was well worth it. The author deals with racism (though she does say in the note at the end that she tones down the racism, it was still so heartbreaking to read), and missionaries raising Chinese children. Amelia was raised by a white missionary in China and that plays a big role in what happens. In who she is and what her life is like. She never really felt like she fit in anywhere and I loved seeing her find people who loved and accepted her for who she is. Who welcomed her into their lives without trying to change her. Who support her and help her grow into the best person she can be. I loved this story. My heart broke for Amelia at times, but I also teared up at how kind some people were. How touching this story could be. There is often a lot of talk about historical romances not dealing with some of the issues that would have been present at the time, but this story doesn't shy away from them. They are vital to the story and so at times it was a rough read. But the characters are so wonderful you want nothing but the best for me. Grayson has his own troubles, his own demons he needs to face throughout the book. I loved how much he supported Amelia and wanted her to not keep herself small for anyone. How he believed in her always, even when she didn't believe in herself. As I said for me this is the story of Amelia and how Grayson is so sweet and kind and caring towards her. These two were great together. Neither wants the other to be anything but what they are and that is wonderful. All of the telegram stuff was fascinating as well. It made me want to go read some of the histories of what actually happened. I never really thought before this book about trying to communicate via telegraph with people around the world. With languages that use different characters and all the difficulties that would entail. It was a really great read and I loved everything about it. *Note: I received a free copy of this book for voluntary review consideration

  11. 4 out of 5

    C. A.

    Oh gosh this book is so good. It's about family, and grief, and what it costs to ignore the things that hurt us. And, because this is a story by Courtney Milan, it is also about hope, and love, and healing kindness. This story is set almost entirely in eastern China in the early 1870s, and there is a lot of delightful nerdery about telegraphic communication, encoding Chinese characters so they can be used in telegraphs, and also dinosaurs. It is the third book in Milan's Worth Saga, and though a Oh gosh this book is so good. It's about family, and grief, and what it costs to ignore the things that hurt us. And, because this is a story by Courtney Milan, it is also about hope, and love, and healing kindness. This story is set almost entirely in eastern China in the early 1870s, and there is a lot of delightful nerdery about telegraphic communication, encoding Chinese characters so they can be used in telegraphs, and also dinosaurs. It is the third book in Milan's Worth Saga, and though aspects of it would make more sense if you read the other two first, most of the book stands on its own pretty well. I adore Amelia, I love that she has ADHD/uncooperative brain cats the same way I do, I love how important honesty is to her, how she has no filter, and how she's always thinking and wondering about everything. And I love Grayson, his kindness especially. It's interesting to me how Amelia's brother described him as "ruthless," which connotes coldness and maybe a bit of malice, and in fact he's just stubbornly single minded about his dream project. And even then he's still patient, and kind -- there's not a speck of coldness in him, really. Just determination, and grief (oof). One of the things I always appreciate about Courtney Milan's novels is the delicacy with which she deals with family dysfunction. There is some hurt that's been done which causes conflict outside of the romantic arc, some bridge that needs mending between parent and child, and she always handles that so well. Which isn't to say that the conflict's always tidied up and hunky dory by the end, but rather that it's been addressed, and there's a sense that the characters have grown and usually forgive one another. This book engages with that as well, on a few different fronts. There are hurts that can be addressed, and reconciled, and -- just as impressive, for the way it's done -- actions that cannot be forgiven. There is no true villain in this book, but there are people claimed they acted with the best of intentions, who made still choices that are unforgivable. The ways these conflicts mirror each other in the story, and the ways they're each handled, will stick with me for a long time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    CW: racism, gaslighting Grayson Hunter wants to build a transpacific telegraph line in memory of his brothers who died during the American Civil War. As a Black man, he is used to not being accepted in his own country, and he stands out when we travels through Asia to make his brothers' dream a reality. But he does it because he needs to complete their work and he needs to believe that connections exist, and that a telegraph can foster family connections, not just business one. In order to make t CW: racism, gaslighting Grayson Hunter wants to build a transpacific telegraph line in memory of his brothers who died during the American Civil War. As a Black man, he is used to not being accepted in his own country, and he stands out when we travels through Asia to make his brothers' dream a reality. But he does it because he needs to complete their work and he needs to believe that connections exist, and that a telegraph can foster family connections, not just business one. In order to make that work, he needs a telegraph code that works for Chinese characters. Amelia Smith wants connection, too. A Chinese girl who was abandoned by her mother and taken in by a Western missionary, she has been othered for as much of her life as she can remember. She's too Chinese to be accepted in English society, and her adoptive mother has required her to forget her Chinese heritage. But her adoptive mother can't quite quash Amelia's brilliance (she's already worked on the telegraph code for Chinese characters for fun!) or her deep capacity for love. I love everything I've read of Courtney's. Absolutely and without reservation. This book is no different. Particularly, I love how Grayson sees Amelia and knows that what she needs more than anything after a lifetime of forgetting herself, is to learn the truth about herself: that she is capable and that she can trust herself. And he gives her the gift of freedom and space to do just that. And I love how Amelia comes to see that Grayson's drive and motivation, based in sorrow and loss, is a burden that needs to be shared. They see each other's deepest need, and find ways to help the other fulfill it. Amelia doesn't save Grayson, and Grayson doesn't save Amelia. But they point one another to ways to save themselves, and ultimately to love one another fully. So much of romance is based on "the grand misunderstanding," where the characters just need to sit down and have one honest conversation to resolve everything. This novel is not that. It is a beautiful story of leaving behind the false stories that racism has told and finding the truth about oneself, and in that truth being freed to love another person.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emmalita

    I love this book so much. By chapter two of The Devil Comes Courting, I was introducing Captain Greyson Hunter to the world as my new book boyfriend. By the end of the book I was curled in a fleece blanket crying and so happy that Greyson and Amelia finally pulled themselves together enough to stop being idiots and fully commit to each other. Courtney Milan is magical. Greyson is looking for someone called Silver Fox who he wants to employ to create a telegraphic code for Chinese characters. What I love this book so much. By chapter two of The Devil Comes Courting, I was introducing Captain Greyson Hunter to the world as my new book boyfriend. By the end of the book I was curled in a fleece blanket crying and so happy that Greyson and Amelia finally pulled themselves together enough to stop being idiots and fully commit to each other. Courtney Milan is magical. Greyson is looking for someone called Silver Fox who he wants to employ to create a telegraphic code for Chinese characters. What he finds is Mrs. Amelia Smith, the adopted Chinese daughter of British missionaries and the widow of a missionary. Amelia feels like she belongs no where, too Chinese to be British and too British to be Chinese. When Greyson looks at her, he sees a person with a mind that can change the world. The Devil Comes Courting is a slow burn that cover a few years. Greyson and Amelia are apart a lot, but Milan makes it work. They find a way to stay connected over miles and time. Letters play a big role in this book in many ways, for many characters. Which is appropriate because Greyson is building a transpacific telegraph system that will allow people to communicate more easily. Greyson begins the story believing in Amelia when she doesn’t know how to believe in herself, and Amelia comes to believe in Greyson in a way that he doesn’t believe in himself. The Worth Saga continues to be about people coming to believe that they are worthy. A world broken by racism, colonialism, war, sexism, and homophobia won’t allow people to be themselves. Amelia has been shoved into an identity that does not fit her and for which she will never be accepted. Greyson struggles with survivor’s guilt. In this book, Amelia experiences the bulk of the racism and it’s facets are sharp and subtle. As a Black British American man, Greyson factors how racism will impact his reception into his decisions as well. As always, the Author’s Note at the end is almost as engaging as the book itself. There are general and specific content warnings on Courtney Milan’s website. I received an advance reader copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    CalReads

    Wow. All the stars. Wow. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/ 5 ALL THE STARS. Wow, having recently read Milan’s “The Duke Who Didn’t”, I thought I was in store for another fluffy, delightful, upbeat read. It’s not that I was wrong. It’s that I wasn’t right, in the best of ways. I laughed. I cried. I screamed (in joy and frustration). Courtney Milan has always been among my favorites, but this book? This book was evocative and heart wrenching and joyful and sad and lovely in ways that threw me for a happy, happy loop. Wow. All the stars. Wow. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/ 5 ALL THE STARS. Wow, having recently read Milan’s “The Duke Who Didn’t”, I thought I was in store for another fluffy, delightful, upbeat read. It’s not that I was wrong. It’s that I wasn’t right, in the best of ways. I laughed. I cried. I screamed (in joy and frustration). Courtney Milan has always been among my favorites, but this book? This book was evocative and heart wrenching and joyful and sad and lovely in ways that threw me for a happy, happy loop. This is the story of people between worlds, who find belonging with each other. But, it’s not an instant situation… there’s months and months, and thousands of miles, and oceans of heartache and grief for them both to navigate before it happens. Somehow, Milan has written a book where both people meet each other with their trauma, grow in parallel lines, and take care of their own things. Their trauma in this book is absolutely why they can’t be together initially, but they don’t rely on the “power of love” to overcome it… rather, the love and compassion they have for each other sparks love and compassion within themselves. Milan has accomplished what I’ve always wanted to see… two characters who aren’t changed by the love of their partner, but for whom the love of their partner sparks love for themselves. This story is beautiful. It’s enthralling. It’s everything to me. It’s the first romance EVER where I was just as invested in the characters’ development of self as I was in their relationship. EVER. At some point I even went “I don’t even mind if they don’t kiss. I just want them to be happy.” (Don’t worry. They kiss). THIS IS NOT A SENTENCE I UTTER. Buy this book. Read it over and over again. It is a transformative work in romance, and I will love it forever and ever. Courtney Milan… thank you. Thank you so, so much. Spice: 🔥🔥🔥🔥 HEA potential: Rock solid CW: Adoption, abduction, sibling loss, depression, white supremacy

  15. 4 out of 5

    Teleseparatist

    I received a review copy of this book courtesy of the Author; my opinion is my own. I am at a loss for words to describe what this book is like. I've been waiting for its publication for a while, and based on the excerpt included in one of the earlier books, I expected intense chemistry between the main characters. The Devil Comes Courting definitely had that, but I soon realised that chemistry was only a fraction of what this novel was about, and its themes resonated with me on a deeply personal I received a review copy of this book courtesy of the Author; my opinion is my own. I am at a loss for words to describe what this book is like. I've been waiting for its publication for a while, and based on the excerpt included in one of the earlier books, I expected intense chemistry between the main characters. The Devil Comes Courting definitely had that, but I soon realised that chemistry was only a fraction of what this novel was about, and its themes resonated with me on a deeply personal level. Amelia and Grayson are a lovely couple. Amelia is distinctly neurodivergent, and trained to self-deprecate rather than use her skills to her advantage, in ways both instantly recognisable and specific; this aspect is written with so much care and respect. Grayson has been depressed (and grieving unhealthily) for so long it feels like the normal way to be. That does not prevent them from cherishing and supporting each other. I enjoyed reading about their mutual affection, attraction and gestures of love, and appreciated how they were capable of them even before their healing was complete (love is not only for the un-broken). I adored the way in which they opened each other up to negative emotions as a way to becoming more open to joy and love. And I loved the way in which the plot relied on real and external rather than manufactured obligatory conflict. I also loved the way Milan wrote about their families. There are many aspects I connected with - parental abandonment, abuse disguised as love, sibling death - and their portrayal was poignant, touching and never sensationalist. No false note was detected. My only complaint might be that there wasn't more about the dog. [Review to be continued later, possibly.]

  16. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    I received an ARC from the author and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. The Devil Comes Courting is the long-awaited third installment in the Worth Saga, and it’s absolutely worth it. After two uneven predecessors, this book is utterly enjoyable and almost as much a return to form as last year’s “surprise” release, The Duke Who Didn’t. And part of that could be because the book had such a long gestation period, inspired by an idea early in Milan’s career and serving as th I received an ARC from the author and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. The Devil Comes Courting is the long-awaited third installment in the Worth Saga, and it’s absolutely worth it. After two uneven predecessors, this book is utterly enjoyable and almost as much a return to form as last year’s “surprise” release, The Duke Who Didn’t. And part of that could be because the book had such a long gestation period, inspired by an idea early in Milan’s career and serving as the primary structural point for the Worth Saga, as she discusses in her author’s note, resulting in this one being the strongest of the series thus far. And as is typical of her work, Milan looks to history, taking poetic license in believable ways to create a narrative that conveys important issues. Amelia was taken from her mother by English missionaries as a child. I loved how it explores the impact it had on her, especially as she finds her way back to her mother. It was also great to see Grayson as a hero, given we’ve already met his brother and uncle in prior stories. While he didn’t win me over as much as a character, I was intrigued by his work with the telegraphic network, and really enjoyed the development of his romance with Amelia. This is another winner from Courtney Milan, and I’m glad it’s finally coming out into the world, after such a long wait. Courtney Milan devotees will be satisfied (and left begging for more, especially as there’s a teaser for The Return of the Scoundrel and Wedgeford Trials #2!), and new fans who love a well-researched historical romance will likely be just as delighted.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jas

    A book by Courtney Milan is well worth the wait, even if it takes years, because you end up with this lovely, layered story as a result. At the start of this book our main characters meet up while walking towards a common destination. He is looking for someone to help his business and has no idea that the person he is seeking is the one right next to him that is distracting him with her charms. A sweet meet-cute that could have signaled the start of a straight forward and formulaic romance. Inst A book by Courtney Milan is well worth the wait, even if it takes years, because you end up with this lovely, layered story as a result. At the start of this book our main characters meet up while walking towards a common destination. He is looking for someone to help his business and has no idea that the person he is seeking is the one right next to him that is distracting him with her charms. A sweet meet-cute that could have signaled the start of a straight forward and formulaic romance. Instead what is in store for us is so much more than that. Grayson and Amelia have an instant attraction but he is a black man trying to fulfill the dreams of a transpacific telegraph he had with his brothers and she is Chinese woman raised by white missionaries about to be married off again to another man who wants a servant more than a life partner. Both of them realize the reality they are living is not quite what they think it is. They have personal journeys ahead of them to make sense of their places in the world and help them carry the burdens of what they have already lost on top of the hard work necessary to make the telegraph possible. They spend more time apart than they do together on these pages but the reader is able to see how every step they take helps them understand what they have found in each other. This is still a romance after all. It is, in fact, the best kind of romance when despite all of the pain endured, two characters find the one person who can see and appreciate everything that made the other person perfect for them. I received a copy of this book in exchange for honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sijing

    This one made me bawl like a baby during two scenes (spoilers ahead!): 1. (view spoiler)[When Amelia finally reunites with her birth mother. MY GOD. By this point, I thought the birth mother was going to be an unresolved issue, which would be realistic; not every adopted child can successfully find their birth parents. I really wanted to see her spend more time with her birth family, but I understand it wasn't all that relevant to the plot. (hide spoiler)] I didn't think I could hate Mrs. Acheson This one made me bawl like a baby during two scenes (spoilers ahead!): 1. (view spoiler)[When Amelia finally reunites with her birth mother. MY GOD. By this point, I thought the birth mother was going to be an unresolved issue, which would be realistic; not every adopted child can successfully find their birth parents. I really wanted to see her spend more time with her birth family, but I understand it wasn't all that relevant to the plot. (hide spoiler)] I didn't think I could hate Mrs. Acheson more than I already did for her casual cruelty but wow. Send her to Hell. 2. (view spoiler)[When Grayson finally confronts his emotions about his dead brothers and reveals to his mother that he's been projecting his self-hatred onto her. (hide spoiler)] I ugly-cried like no one's business. It was a whole mess. Something about family misunderstandings and characters believing they're not worth anything always punches me right in the heart. I love the emotional journeys Amelia and Grayson both go through to finally be confident in their own existences and find true happiness. The way they finally found their way to each other in a fashion that satisfied them both! Chef's kiss. Amelia's feeling of having one foot in two worlds and belonging in neither was so relatable for me it hurt, but I love the perspective of her being a bridge instead!! I'll have to work towards being a bridge myself. I loooove Leland too! What a good brother and a good human in general. I'm so glad he started living his truth. My final curiosity: is the telegraphic code for Chinese characters developed in this book real? It sounds plausible; guess I have to do some research.

  19. 4 out of 5

    sonzaemon

    I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is my first read of Courtney Milan’s work, and I am so impressed! Even though The Devil Comes Courting is the third book in the Worth saga, it reads very much like a stand-alone. I did not feel at all hindered just because I hadn’t read the first two. The story begins in China, in 1870, with Captain Grayson Hunter. He’s seeking the mysterious Silver Fox, who may be able to help him achieve his dream of building a teleg I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is my first read of Courtney Milan’s work, and I am so impressed! Even though The Devil Comes Courting is the third book in the Worth saga, it reads very much like a stand-alone. I did not feel at all hindered just because I hadn’t read the first two. The story begins in China, in 1870, with Captain Grayson Hunter. He’s seeking the mysterious Silver Fox, who may be able to help him achieve his dream of building a telegraph line that will connect China and the world. Not only is he wildly ambitious, but he’s a Black man in a world of white missionaries and international trade. The captain encounters Amelia Smith, a young anglicized Chinese woman. She is test-driving her latest invention, a bustle with a cooling fan. Though the bustle is a bust, it is apparent that Amelia is both intelligent and vivacious. She is also the Silver Fox. Hunter applies his own clever wiles to Amelia until she agrees to work for him, and the real adventure begins. This book is, like Grayson and Amelia, ambitious and clever, and it succeeds on all levels. The romance smoulders beautifully, and the characters’ self-realizations are uncontrived. We lucky readers are given fascinating history and almost-history of the development of the telegraph, the devastating impact of white colonialism on China and the world, and even the proper way to make Chinese tea! I am thrilled to have been introduced to the writing of Courtney Milan, and I intend to devour her extensive back catalogue. Needless to say, I strongly recommend The Devil Comes Courting.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Heloise

    I loved everything about this story. It's a historical set in 19th century China, and centres around the building of a telegraph across the Pacific, and the development of a telegraphic code for Chinese characters. The story tackles themes of self-discovery and family in all its forms, as well as racism and how that can colour and poison otherwise loving relationships (the heroine, Amelia, is a Chinese woman who was adopted in dubious circumstances by English missionaries as a child), and it doe I loved everything about this story. It's a historical set in 19th century China, and centres around the building of a telegraph across the Pacific, and the development of a telegraphic code for Chinese characters. The story tackles themes of self-discovery and family in all its forms, as well as racism and how that can colour and poison otherwise loving relationships (the heroine, Amelia, is a Chinese woman who was adopted in dubious circumstances by English missionaries as a child), and it doesn't pull any punches. But despite this, it is also a very joyful story. It is a book about the delight of discovery: of new things, of one’s own capabilities, of love, of things that were thought lost. I loved the friendship between Grayson and Amelia, and I loved the way they supported each other and helped each other to become more themselves. I loved watching Amelia come into her own, and I especially loved watching her reconnect with her stolen culture and family. I loved Grayson’s charm and his delight in Amelia’s endlessly hungry mind, and the fact that he’s honestly convinced that he is all hardened and manipulative and emotionless but he’s actually a total softie where Amelia is concerned. I adored the telegraphic code and all the stuff about laying cable across the Pacific, and the unique, tender, and sexy take on an epistolary novel by telegraph. I've loved all of Milan's work, but I think this is her best one yet. Full review here: https://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/r...

  21. 5 out of 5

    PlotTrysts

    4.5 stars rounded to 5. Is this a good book? Without question, yes. Is it a romance? That is debatable. Yes, there is a love story with an ultimately happy ending. But was that the point of the book? The Devil Comes Courting combines an unflinching progressive lens on a little-known historical era with an unapologetically optimistic outcome for our protagonists. Grayson and Amelia are intelligent, ambitious, flawed, courageous characters, and we were rooting for them to come out on top of their 4.5 stars rounded to 5. Is this a good book? Without question, yes. Is it a romance? That is debatable. Yes, there is a love story with an ultimately happy ending. But was that the point of the book? The Devil Comes Courting combines an unflinching progressive lens on a little-known historical era with an unapologetically optimistic outcome for our protagonists. Grayson and Amelia are intelligent, ambitious, flawed, courageous characters, and we were rooting for them to come out on top of their circumstances. Before they can meet each other halfway, though, they have to accept themselves fully. We 100% recommend this book, but go into it knowing that it's not the kind of "I laughed the whole time except when I was crying!" romance you get with, for example, Milan's The Duke Who Didn't. This is more of an alternate history of the late 19th Century with a wonderful romance subplot. 27-Word Summaries: Meg: Falling in love means not just meeting the right person, but being in the right place with yourself. Amelia & Grayson somehow meet all conditions with each other. Laine: Telegraph writer... telegraph writer. Grayson has thrown himself into work to fulfill his dead brothers' dreams and Amelia is finding her identity as a transnational adoptee. Heavy. This objective review is based on a complimentary copy of the novel.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    A top-tier book from a top-tier author. Telegraphy! An alternate history of transpacific undersea cables! Megalodons, literally and metaphorically! Envelopes! A puppy! How we construct happiness from who we are and where we've been! And those usual Milan staples: a dedication that makes me tear up before we even get to the actual story, and so many lines that I want to write down and remember and believe in for myself. Big picture stuff: this is a character driven narrative, thoughtful and care- A top-tier book from a top-tier author. Telegraphy! An alternate history of transpacific undersea cables! Megalodons, literally and metaphorically! Envelopes! A puppy! How we construct happiness from who we are and where we've been! And those usual Milan staples: a dedication that makes me tear up before we even get to the actual story, and so many lines that I want to write down and remember and believe in for myself. Big picture stuff: this is a character driven narrative, thoughtful and care-taking in its world-building and its character-building, lacking in unnecessary conflict. It deals explicitly and directly with racism, and it does so with those previously mentioned values of thoughtfulness and care. The story starts slow, and the protagonists do spend portions of the book physically separated from each other, which I know might frustrate some readers, but everything about those elements (the depth of internality, the plot specifics and the emotional spaces created by the protagonists' distance) worked for me. This can totally be read as a standalone. (I didn't enjoy the first book or the first novella in this series to read them beyond the first couple of chapters; I enjoyed the second book and two most recent novellas, but enjoyment of this novel does not rely in any way on having read them. Any important information is conveyed, and previous protagonists appear only briefly.) FTC Disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Disclaimer: ARC copy review, but I have also purchased a copy, because this goes straight in the re-read pile... It's a delight This book is just another in the series that sparks joy, but this book is bittersweet and delicious. The heroine and hero both are delightful people and I'm so glad that Courtney let them work through their baggage before launching their relationship. This is a happy ever after that is both well considered and believable, despite the difficult circumstances that beset b Disclaimer: ARC copy review, but I have also purchased a copy, because this goes straight in the re-read pile... It's a delight This book is just another in the series that sparks joy, but this book is bittersweet and delicious. The heroine and hero both are delightful people and I'm so glad that Courtney let them work through their baggage before launching their relationship. This is a happy ever after that is both well considered and believable, despite the difficult circumstances that beset both characters. I love the way they support each other as they grow into their relationship. This slow burn is just exactly why this book is so wonderful. I also loved the careful consideration that was given to the infinite variety of ways "well-intentioned" missionaries managed carry out aggressive colonialism while managing to ignore the myriad insults and crimes they committed as they went forth from Olde England. The obvious parallels to current racial tensions and long-standing issues in transracial adoption are thoughtfully examined with a light touch that makes this book educational without being preachy. These parts of the plot must have been incredibly difficult and heart wrenching to write and I applaud how beautifully wound into the story the hard bits are without interrupting the narrative flow. The painful bits of the character's story is what makes this a meaty romance that's definitely worth the re-read. A++ thanks for the feels and thinks Courtney.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    This book was beautiful! I'm not sure I've ever said that about any book, even ones that are my most favorite. I've long been a fan of Courtney Milan but she outdid herself with this one. It's somehow sad, sweet, lonely, hopeful, and full of megalodons all at once. Captian Hunter is on a mission to complete the first world wide telegraphic network, something he and his brothers had dreamed of doing together. His problem is finding someone who can make a code that will work with Chinese character This book was beautiful! I'm not sure I've ever said that about any book, even ones that are my most favorite. I've long been a fan of Courtney Milan but she outdid herself with this one. It's somehow sad, sweet, lonely, hopeful, and full of megalodons all at once. Captian Hunter is on a mission to complete the first world wide telegraphic network, something he and his brothers had dreamed of doing together. His problem is finding someone who can make a code that will work with Chinese characters. Amelia Smith was abandoned by her mother at a young age and taken in by an English missionary near Shanghai. She has long hoped her Chinese mother would one day return for her. As a widow, her English mother is trying to marry her off again when Captain Hunter comes along with a proposal of employment. After an unhappy marriage, she longs for the freedom employment would give her, free of a husband, free from her English mother. To me this book is not so much romance as it is two people learning to overcome grief and guilt, dealing with racism, finding themselves, and in the process finding a way towards each other. Grayson and Amelia never try to change each other, but support each other in whatever they chose to do. "Before I met you, I felt like a lamp dimmed to the point of extinguishment. I could not let myself feel anything-not joy, not sorrow. Meeting you was one of the greatest joys of my life. You have brought a kaleidoscope of color into my world."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Linaria

    +diverse characters +smart women +romance does not rely on misunderstandings -multiple POVs It's no secret that I love a historical romance novel. What I liked about this novel specifically is that while Courtney Milan does use the standard tropes of the romance genre, she manages to write something so different than many of the other HR books right now. I'd say that, unfortunately, the majority of the HR books I've read are based in England, and are pretty pro-British Empire. The Devil Comes Courti +diverse characters +smart women +romance does not rely on misunderstandings -multiple POVs It's no secret that I love a historical romance novel. What I liked about this novel specifically is that while Courtney Milan does use the standard tropes of the romance genre, she manages to write something so different than many of the other HR books right now. I'd say that, unfortunately, the majority of the HR books I've read are based in England, and are pretty pro-British Empire. The Devil Comes Courting is not afraid to call the British out as the bad guys though, which is a refreshing change. Amelia is a Chinese woman in China, who has been adopted by a British family. She has been raised to speak and dress English, and this puts her in between the two worlds. Grayson is a Black captain looking to lay a telegraph line to connect China to the world and he wants Amelia's help designing a way to represent Chinese characters to transmit messages. The majority of the book takes place in China (Yes!!!) and the characters spend a significant amount of time apart working independently. Also, this has to be the absolute first book that has a HEA where the hero/heroine both agree (view spoiler)[ that they do not want kids and they stick to that decision!!! Seriously refreshing. (hide spoiler)] . Not going to lie, this is my favourite Courtney Milan book and it's probably in my top ten HR books of all time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Truusje

    I finished the book a few days ago but needed some time to process it before I could write a review. But even now I'm not sure if I can now; I may just have to reread it first. Anyway, I absolutely loved the setting. I really liked the little insight we had into 19th century China, even if we only saw what was accessible to Westerners at that time. I loved the characters just as much. They both grew tremendously throughout the book and I loved how supportive they were of each other's growth. The ro I finished the book a few days ago but needed some time to process it before I could write a review. But even now I'm not sure if I can now; I may just have to reread it first. Anyway, I absolutely loved the setting. I really liked the little insight we had into 19th century China, even if we only saw what was accessible to Westerners at that time. I loved the characters just as much. They both grew tremendously throughout the book and I loved how supportive they were of each other's growth. The romance didn't quite work for me. The attraction between the main characters is instantaneous. While it isn't acted on immediately so there was some tension, I felt it needed a little more. This may have to do with the fact that the two spend long periods of time apart. Of course, they can communicate a little (and I loved that!) but again, I felt something was missing. The relationship between the two main characters grows organically which I loved. While they need time to realise what form they want their relationship to be, there isn't a dark moment. I really liked that, but I also think it added to the sense that the romance wasn't as developed as I'd have liked. The book deals with some very interesting and important issues and Courtney Milan handles them beautifully. I really enjoyed this book and I honestly believe that a reread will only add to that.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sharyn

    I received an ARC of this book and read it in 1 sitting!! There is so much to say, starting with the characters, Grayson Hunter is the son of a white mother ( a daughter of a Duke) and a black abolitionist who now live in America. 3 of his brothers were killed in the Civil War, and he sets out to finish a trans Pacific cable to connect China to the world by telegraph. He is told there is a person in China who has started to figure out how to code Chinese characters into Morse code, the silver fo I received an ARC of this book and read it in 1 sitting!! There is so much to say, starting with the characters, Grayson Hunter is the son of a white mother ( a daughter of a Duke) and a black abolitionist who now live in America. 3 of his brothers were killed in the Civil War, and he sets out to finish a trans Pacific cable to connect China to the world by telegraph. He is told there is a person in China who has started to figure out how to code Chinese characters into Morse code, the silver fox. He is expecting an old man, but it turns out to be a beautiful young Chinese widow who has been raised by white missionaries. There is a mystery there that runs concurrently to the fascinating main story about how the cable laying was accomplished. Grayson and Amelia must learn how to live with their own low expectations, and watching them both blossom as their relationship evolves was not only heartwarming, but at times heartbreaking and tears were coursing down my cheeks many times. Milan has told a story of racial differences in a very compelling manner. I highly recommend this book!!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I'm so impressed by the scope of this book. The leads are thousands of miles apart for most of it, yet the romance never feels forced or dragged out. Amelia Smith is a Chinese woman who was taken in by English missionaries as a child, and Grayson Hunter is a Black man on a mission to lay the first transpacific cable line connecting China and the USA. There is so much genuine love and support between these two; the emotional threads are thoroughly explored, and this is not a story that rests on t I'm so impressed by the scope of this book. The leads are thousands of miles apart for most of it, yet the romance never feels forced or dragged out. Amelia Smith is a Chinese woman who was taken in by English missionaries as a child, and Grayson Hunter is a Black man on a mission to lay the first transpacific cable line connecting China and the USA. There is so much genuine love and support between these two; the emotional threads are thoroughly explored, and this is not a story that rests on the physical aspect alone. I just want to add that there IS a clear villain in this book, and it's Mrs. Acheson, who cut Amelia off from her Chinese identity. It was gratifying to see Amelia reclaim what was stolen from her, as well as grow confident in herself and her abilities through her work with the telegraphic code. That's a challenge when you've been gaslit your entire life, and I appreciate that Grayson helps her see what a monster her "mother" really is. I highly recommend this one even if you're not a romance reader.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Verity W

    ****Advance copy in return for an honest review**** Courtney Milan’s latest novel is the long awaited third in the Worth Saga, but set on the other side of the world. Amelia Smith was adopted by missionaries as a child, but has always been waiting for her real mum to come back for her. When Captain Grayson Hunter offers her a job devising a code to transmit Chinese characters by telegraph, she doesn’t think she’s the person he’s looking for. But after some persuasion, she decides giving it a go i ****Advance copy in return for an honest review**** Courtney Milan’s latest novel is the long awaited third in the Worth Saga, but set on the other side of the world. Amelia Smith was adopted by missionaries as a child, but has always been waiting for her real mum to come back for her. When Captain Grayson Hunter offers her a job devising a code to transmit Chinese characters by telegraph, she doesn’t think she’s the person he’s looking for. But after some persuasion, she decides giving it a go is a better option than marrying another missionary. Grayson is determined to lay the first transpacific telegraph cable and achieve the dream his brothers aren’t here to complete. Convincing Amelia that she’s the missing link that his company needs is a hard task, but soon the sparks are flying between the two of them – even though both of them are determined to ignore them. As well as the romance this is also examining the damage that missionaries did going out and forcing their beliefs on to other cultures around the world. This will may make you feel uncomfortable, but it’s meant to and you probably need to sit with that. I liked the romance well enough, but what I really loved was watching Amelia come into herself and make the life that she wants to have, not the one that her adoptive mother things she should have. And if you liked the meddling relatives in Dial A for Romance, this has a couple of characters who are doing a similar sort of thing – just in nineteenth century China. If you’re fed up of Regency or even just European-see historicals, try this.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Grace Hill

    This is one of Courtney Milan's most delightful books. She weaves together a rich historical tapestry of the Taiping rebellion, the opium wars, missionaries in China, the the British East India Company, the US Civil War, and the extraordinary challenges of laying the trans-Pacific telegraph cable and creating a telegraph code for Chinese characters. Centered among all of these historical elements is a wonderful romance in which people are different from their wider society both externally and in This is one of Courtney Milan's most delightful books. She weaves together a rich historical tapestry of the Taiping rebellion, the opium wars, missionaries in China, the the British East India Company, the US Civil War, and the extraordinary challenges of laying the trans-Pacific telegraph cable and creating a telegraph code for Chinese characters. Centered among all of these historical elements is a wonderful romance in which people are different from their wider society both externally and internally. I don't know if it's deliberate, but I perceive a celebration of neurodiversity, as well as an appreciation for the viewpoint from bridging cultures. Like Ms. Milan's last book, there are lush descriptions of food, and a peaceful skip across the traditional "black point" of a romance novel. This is a book I will return to for the way in which the characters are unapologetically accepted in their differences.

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