Miss Lowell, you magnificent creature, I want you to paint your own canvas. I want you to unveil yourself.
And with that Ash Turner, the hero of Courtney Milan’s Unveiled makes you fall in love with him.
The plot centers around Ash Turner having the heroine Miss Lowell’s aka Margaret Darlymple’s father, the Duke of Parford, declared as bigamous, thus inheriting the Duchy for himself and his family while simultaneously having Margaret and her brothers relegated to bastardy.
Ash’s action frames the heart of the story – how do you strike a balance between doing what’s best for your family and doing what’s best for you? This theme really spoke to me and perhaps that’s one reason that I enjoyed Unveiled.
I fell in love with both the hero and the heroine early on.
Ash Turner is an alpha male (a stereotype I love in my romance) with none of the brooding looming-ness and asinine jerk behaviour that at times accompanies this stereotype. At the same time he’s also shot through with certain beta archetype facets that make him pretty much a perfect hero in my book. He is charming, goes by his instinct and most importantly sees each person he meets as someone worth knowing. Margaret Darlymple recognizes this unique gift of Ash’s. She becomes seduced by his ability to strip her off her societal trappings and reach to the core of who she is and see someone “who matters.”
That the heroine needs the hero to help her see her self-worth is slightly disturbing but perhaps necessary given that Unveiled is a romance; however, as someone who has had mighty struggles with her self-esteem, I know the value in having a friend, a loved one point out to you that “you are someone important” and that you do not need whatever parades as society’s approval for you to love yourself or believe in yourself. Miss Milan’s treatment of Margaret’s struggles with her self-worth and her eventual coming-into-her-own rang true to me.
So did the way she resolves the central conflict between Margaret and Ash, who essentially cannot be with each other while also being ‘loyal’ to their families. I kept expecting Miss Milan to spoil everything by introducing plot elements that would facilitate some sort of ‘big misunderstanding’ between Ash and Margaret and consequently make Unveiled bland and boring. Thankfully, Miss Milan though does no such thing. Her plot resolution is believable – the hero and the heroine’s actions, their turnarounds, their moments of realization and epiphanies is completely in keeping with their character and the transformation that they have undergone through the course of the story.
In fact I was extremely impressed with the tightness of the plot. More so because a couple of days ago I read Joanna Bourne’s The Black Hawk, another much vaunted historical romance, and while I loved the first half of the book I found the second half meandering, and set at a pace different than the first half, making the whole reading experience a little disconcerting. Unveiled on the other hand was paced consistently and held my interest throughout.
This difference between two such highly rated historical romances led me to look up Miss Milan and what I found about her background surprised me. Miss Milan is a graduate of UC Berkley in theoretical physical chemistry and then went on to graduate summa cum laude in law from University of Michigan. She’s also adept at programming. That she made such a turnabout from science to writing and romance writing at that is something that I found unusual and fascinating. And I cannot help wondering if Miss Milan’s training in approaching things analytically does not perhaps help her have a more thought-through and detail-oriented approach to writing as well. I would certainly love to know more about her writing process.
Anyway, moving back to Unveiled – the characters and romance, both are well-developed. The resolution is satisfying. I can completely see why Courtney Milan is a favourite with people whose opinion I respect. In fact, I am going to give The Duchess War (Miss Milan’s recent offering that I’d read a few pages of and given up on) another try and of course, I have the rest of the series queued up for my reading pleasure.