Every single Courtney Milan book I've read has been so full of win. Her writing really speaks to me on so many levels. Courtney's skill as a writer is shown perfectly with her heroes and heroines and the interactions that on the surface seem to be one thing, when really underneath their dialogue and conversations is another thing altogether. Not many authors can write a successful character driven story, but Courtney has done it time and again. Her latest, Unveiled is another beautifully written historical romance that I can't find any fault with. The majority of the drama that occurs is internally, mainly from the heroine, Anna Margaret Dalrymple, who's entire world has been destroyed not only because of the selfish and amoral actions from her father, but from a distant cousin who rips it all away as a revenge on his part.
Ash Turner and his two brothers lived in near poverty because their mother was sick in the head and become a religious fanatic who gave away all their money and livelihood after their father died. Ash lives with guilt over the death of his sister who could have been saved if only his distant cousin, Richard, the Duke of Parford had given him the funds needed for a doctor. The Duke turned Ash out on his ear just because he felt like it. Left with nothing, Ash leaves his family for India where he makes his fortune. When he returns, his brothers are living on the streets. He quickly makes amends, but it's not enough, or at least from his view. Ash promises to get back at Parford, and after years of waiting, has figured out a way to take away the Dukedom from Parford and in a legal way. Parford is a bigamist who married one woman, threw her away and then married another woman of society who became his Duchess. From that union he had three children, two sons and a daughter. Now Parford is dying, and after Ash has taken legal action, Parford's children are considered to be bastards. Ash has come to take over Parford Manor, along with his younger brother, the studious Mark in tow.
Ash wishes it didn't have to come down to this, but the former Duke forced his hand. Ash really doesn't need the title, the lands or the money, but it's the principal of the thing. He's not sure what to expect, especially in regards to the staff. But he quickly charms them, mainly by treating them like equals. But one member, former Parford's nurse, Margaret Lowell looks upon him with cold disgust. Ash doesn't know why she has such disdain toward him, but he plans on doing his best to change her mind. But what Ash doesn't know is that Margaret is former Parford's daughter, Lady Anna.
Margret keeps her real identity a secret because her brothers have left her to be a spy and report back to them about anything about Ash they could use against him in court. Not only has Margaret's fiancée dropped her, but her father acts like he can't stand her and says the most horrible things about her dead mother. Margaret is adrift in the world, with no real place or social status. Ash confuses her because he doesn't act like that soulless, greedy thief she expects him to be. Instead he is very kind, as well as makes her yearn for something deeper than she shouldn't feel since he's the enemy.
Ash wants to get to the bottom of the skittish Margaret and have her trust him. He lets her in on his darkest secrets about feeling like an outcast where his brothers are concerned, including something so damaging that if Parliament or the public finds out could make him return to being a commoner. All Margaret has to do is pen a letter to her brothers to tell them what she knows. It all comes down to Margaret and how far she will go to take back what is rightly hers, even if it means betraying Ash who wants her for the woman she is and not her role as a daughter of a duke.
Ash Turner is a man with faults, who beats himself up for things in the past that occurred by no fault of his own. Courtney has written an amazing hero with Ash who doesn't see things as black and white, but all different shades of gray, especially in regards to Margaret. As soon as he sees her, he feels a connection and wants to claim her as his own. He doesn't try to seduce or plunder Margaret as most heroes may do, but takes care with her since he senses her mistrust.
Mistrust is a big underlying theme in Unveiled. This mainly concerns Ash and Margaret, but also the lack of trust with Parford and what he has done to his family. Ash feels he's lost the trust of his brothers, especially the seemingly emotionally distant Smite. Mark is Ash's conscience in a way where he tells Ash what he doesn't want to hear. Even with the strain that appears between the Turner brothers, you do feel the love between them. The same applies to Margaret with her two brothers, Edmund and Richard, who at first may seem as villainous as their father, but surprisingly are not.
Watching Margaret and Ash fall in love is very tender and sweet. You'd think their passion for one another would be tumultuous with everything between them. But it isn't, which is a welcomed relief is because we see this far too often in historical romances, especially when the hero and heroine are at odds with one another. Another familiar, stereotypical trend is the big misunderstanding. Courtney gets even more brownie points for staying far away from that trope and I so wanted to cheer when it didn't happen.
One thing to cheer about is that Courtney can write an awesome, heated exchange in a store-room pantry with Ash and Margaret during a ball.
Unveiled is an absolutely delightful historical romance. With Unveiled, Courtney has shown that she's not on her way to become a master in this genre, but has already arrived there.