Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind
Orphaned as a child, Miss Jane Milton lives to serve her Stover cousins, tending to their every need. Her beloved cousin Blair suffered a slow and painful death from wounds received at the Battle of Waterloo, and now, ten months later, Miss Milton feels utterly forlorn. Her one solace is caring for Lord Canfield's orphaned son, Andrew, a sad boy dogged by rumors that he was conceived before Lord Canfield married his mother. Is the source of these rumors Miss Milton's second cousin, the imperious Lady Carruthers, who seems determined to disinherit Andrew in favor of her own profligate son? If only Miss Milton could stand up to the horrid woman and her insults. Miss Milton finds herself spending more and more time in the company of her neighbor, a handsome tradesman. Mr. Butterfield, said to "smell of the shop," in fact smells deliciously of lavender. He has an encouraging effect on Miss Milton, helping her to understand that her world will not collapse if she learns to speak her mind. As her regard for her neighbor grows, Miss Milton remains aware of the many reasons they cannot be together. Fifteen years older, Mr. Butterfield is dangerously liberal-minded and earns his fortune through hard work. And she, whose aristocratic relatives look down on men of his ilk, is an impoverished spinster, almost thirty years old. In truth, the real gulf between them lies in the many guilty secrets they and others seem determined to guard at all costs.
I have never given a book a rating this high, and I may never again. But Carla Kelly simply blew me away with this sublime story. Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind is an A+ book in every way. Carla Kelly, I stand in awe! -- Ellen Micheletti, All About Romance
Kelly has the rare ability to create realistic yet sympathetic characters that linger in the mind. One of the most respected Regency writers. --Library Journal
It took me two days to finish this little 229 page book because I wanted to savor every page, every paragraph, every word! If I were the Emperor of Japan, I would declare Carla Kelly a Living National Treasure. If I were the Queen, I would make her a Duchess, but since I am only a humble book reviewer, I can only declare that she is The Best Regency Romance Writer In The Universe.
There is so much I loved about Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind that I hardly know where to start. To begin with, the characters are wonderful! Miss Jane Milton is one of Ms Kelly's Cinderella heroines. She is not beautiful, but she is good and kind and very efficient. Miss Milton is a Poor Relation and lives with her elderly cousin Lord Denby. Denby is not a bad man, but he is ineffectual, and a coward who always takes to his bed when his sister Lady Carruthers visits. Lady Carruthers is a vicious old witch who wants the Denby estate for her wastrel son, Cecil, and delights in picking at Miss Milton.
The hero is a mill-owner and the son of a pig farmer with the improbable name of Scipio Africanus Butterworth. Mr. Butterworth is not strikingly handsome and is certainly not of the ton, but he is good and decent right down to the marrow of his bones. Mr. Butterworth runs his mills along enlightened lines - he pays his workers a decent wage, provides them with comfortable housing, treats them with respect and does not allow anyone under the age of twelve to work. Snobs like Lady Carruthers treat him with disdain while he quietly does good for people and gets richer and richer.
Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind had me engrossed from the first paragraph. The plot is complex and beautifully paced for such a short book. Lord Denby had one son, Blair, who had a son named Andrew. Blair's mother was killed in an accident when he was an infant and Miss Milton was his nurse, governess and mother in everything but name. Blair was wounded in the war and died when Andrew was a young boy and now Andrew is the heir to Lord Denby. Lady Carruthers has spent years spreading rumors about Andrew's paternity and has convinced many of the neighbors that Andrew was born on the opposite side of the blanket. Lord Denby does nothing to counter the rumors and Miss Milton is Andrew's only champion. When Mr. Butterworth offers to tutor Andrew in Latin, this leads to an invitation for Miss Milton and Andrew to spend Christmas with Mr. Butterworth, his sister and her family. For the first time in years, Miss Milton and Andrew are spared Lady Carruthers' taunts and digs! and have a marvelous time. During this time, Miss Milton falls deeply in love with Mr. Butterworth, but since they are both quiet and shy, they will not tell each other of their love. Even though Miss Milton and Mr. Butterworth did not behave like I wanted them to, they did behave in a way that was consistent with their characters.
When Miss Milton returns to Lord Denby, she is no longer the shy, quiet mouse and begins to speak her mind. All the puzzle pieces of the plot come together and all the secrets come out in an ending that left me clapping my hands in sheer delight.
Even though Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind is darker than many of Ms Kelly's other books, it is in no way depressing. There are flashes of humor all throughout the book especially in the ways Lord Denby's servants treat Lady Carruthers. And when the local doctor treats Cecil for a bad case of hypochondria, you'll laugh, trust me. -- From the Publisher
Read an Excerpt
"Miss Milton, won't you come inside until the rain lets up?" She had a ready excuse on her lips--it was late, she was expected at Stover Hall--and she would have delivered it, if she had not looked down at Mr. Butterworth's feet.
He was wearing house slippers of such a virulent shade of lime green yarn that the colors almost spoke to her. "Sir, what on earth are you doing out here worrying about me, when your feet are . my goodness, Mr. Butterworth, but that is an . an exceptional color."
He merely smiled and offered her his arm, and for some unaccountable reason, she took it. He will catch his death if I make him stand outside in the rain and argue about whether I should come inside, she rationalized as she let him hurry her along the lane toward the house. Heaven knows he is not a young man, even if he is not precisely old, either.
He did pause for a moment to raise up one slipper from the wet gravel of the lane. "My dear niece made these for me last Christmas. My sister teases me that they were only just Amanda's practice piece, but I think them quite acceptable."
"They are, indeed," she replied, as she allowed herself to be led where she had never gone before. "Am I to assume that you saw me from your window and thought I needed rescuing so badly that you would risk a present from a niece?"
She had never thought herself a witty person, but Mr. Butterworth threw back his head and laughed, which meant that the umbrella went, too, and the rain pelted on her forehead again.
"Oh, I am a poor Sir Galahad, indeed, Miss Milton," he said, when he straightened the umbrella. "But yes, that is it entirely." She smiled at him, thinking that no one in England looked less like Sir Galahad than Scipio Africanus Butterworth. She thought he might have over forty years to his credit, but she could not be sure. She was not tall, but standing this close to Mr. Butterworth, she felt even shorter than usual. He was taller even than Lord Denby, and massive without being fat. He could have been intimidating, had his general demeanor been less kind. Years ago over dinner at Stover Hall, Blair had declared that the Almighty had obviously broken the mold with the mill owner. She thought that unfair, and so informed her cousin with a vehemence that surprised her.
She thought of that now, as she found herself being led up the Butterworth lane to the front door. He was directing some pleasantry to her, but all she could see was what she always saw about him: the brownest of eyes with their glance of utter enthusiasm belonging to a far younger man. He also looked so benign, a trait she had never much associated with the district's general opinion of mill owners.