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.
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