I was supposed to start reading the book for my book club’s April meeting. I’m sure I’ll get to it, but I looked at those densely-populated pages of educational nonfiction and I just thought “Well, I could squeeze in a quick romance and still get started on time…” So it’s happened – I’ve succumbed to the addictive qualities of the romance genre. After hearing from some other CB readers after my last post on Julie Anne Long, I decided to give Courtney Milan a try. My library happened to only have a couple of her books in stock, so I chose Unveiled, the first in a trilogy about a group of brothers from Regency-era England. Unraveled (MrsJulien’s recommendation) wasn’t there but now that I’ve gotten into a trilogy I will have to seek that out as well. I can’t leave things unfinished like that, right?
Unveiled is the story of Ash Turner and his quest for revenge against the Duke of Parford and his family, the Dalyrimples. Due to some circumstances of which I won’t go into detail, Ash and his siblings (Mark and Smite (!!!!), despite being a relation to the Duke, were nearly destitute when their sister fell ill. When a young Ash goes to beg the Duke for money to pay a doctor to help, the Duke refuses cold heartedly and turns him out. When his sister dies not long after of her illnesses, Ash vows to make something of himself in the world and for once and for all ruin the man who killed his sister. Many years pass and he’s finally discovered the way in which to do so and moves into the estate, waiting for Parliament to determine if he’ll become the next Duke, or if the legacy will pass to the Dalrymples. It’s there he meets Margaret – the Duke’s daughter in disguise as his nurse. She’s vowed to do whatever it takes to ruin Mr. Turner and report to her brothers everything she can discern from him. What she doesn’t count on is how handsome Ash is, and how kind he can actually be.
I’ve enjoyed reading this book. The writing is fairly high-brow in places, though sometimes the dialogue doesn’t feel authentic to the time. Most of it comes from Ash himself, however, and as he’s completely disinterested in following society’s norms or caving to old-fashioned conventions, it doesn’t feel disingenuous. Our hero is definitely in line with what I’m gathering is a stereotype in romance novels – he’s strong, large, handsome, and steadfastly principled. Our heroine is a mixture of vulnerable and fierce, though often she’s more caring of everyone around her than is really warranted. Her brothers, Richard and Edmund, seem like real assholes and so sometimes I wondered where she drew this loyalty from. Richard at least in the past has shown kindness toward her, but Edmund is pretty much worthless. Her struggle between what she wants for herself and her need to protect those she loves is definitely captivating. The fact that Ash is constantly reminding her that though he’s the cause of all the present troubles for her family, he’s the only one who sees her as a human being and not a piece of property is endearing and surprisingly feminist. Well, to the extent that is possible in 19th century England anyhow. The phrase “You’re mine” does come up, it just doesn’t sound as demeaning coming from him.
My only quibble is that I think in an effort to increase tension, Milan extends the time between Margaret’s realization that she has to choose either her own happiness or that of others – and Ash doing the same – and delivers the resolution a little more slowly. I was impatient to know how it ended (though I had some guesses) so I think Milan’s goal was effective here, I just remember thinking “OK, I get it, this is hard for her. This is hard for him. Let’s move on.” This only happens in the last like 50 pages, tops, so aside from that I don’t really have much negative to say about it. I’ll have to request the other two books from the Turner trilogy soon…