Ash Turner has waited for years to get revenge on the Duke of Parford and his family. After uncovering evidence that proves the Duke’s children are illegitimate thanks to Parford’s bigamist marriage, distant cousin Ash is now heir to all. Margaret Dalrymple hates Ash before she ever sets eyes on him – the Duke’s only daughter, Ash has ruined her life by taking everything from her: her place in society, her dowry, her family’s stability, even her name. Acting as her father’s nurse, Margaret is determined to act as spy for her brothers and help them discover Ash’s secrets so that they can petition Parliament to be reinstated as the rightful heirs. But Margaret doesn’t count on Ash’s charm and kindness. Torn between her loyalty to her family and her growing desire and admiration for Ash, Margaret’s choice will determine her future.

Courtney Milan’s Unveiled is an engaging, well-written and carefully complex story about family, loyalty, secrets and forgiveness. It’s a bit darker than some of the other historical romances I’ve read, with interesting twists and turns surrounding the legitmacy and entailment issue. Milan does a wonderful job at making the reader care for both Ash and Margaret – you want Ash to prevail with his pursuit of the dukedom, and yet you also feel deeply for Margaret because you know how much she’s already suffered. Both hero and heroine are fully developed, complicated characters, struggling to figure out their identities and trying to balance their mutual attraction with their unwavering devotion to their respective families.

*sigh* I want an Ash of my own. He’s one of the best historical heroes I’ve read. Strong, self-made, charismatic and genuinely kind, Ash makes people feel like they have worth, no matter who they are. He treats everyone with respect and he plays by his own rules, not content to be bound by the dictates of society. And yet, even with all of his outward confidence, he is still heartbreakingly human and vulnerable. The scene where he reveals his secret to Margaret is practically perfect – his feelings of insecurity and uncertainty are so intensely palpable, you just want to wrap him up and give him a hug.

It took me a little longer to warm up to Margaret. At the beginning of the book, she’s still fiercely angry and bitter (justifiably so) towards Ash for his actions and their consequences. It’s also frustrating to watch her support her father and brothers when you as the reader know they don’t deserve her loyalty. Still, she is strong, independent and smart. Eventually, as Margaret gets to know Ash and begins to understand him, it’s satisfying to watch her fall in love and realize she can depend on him. I especially loved when she finally decides to stand up for herself and, with her take-charge attitude, goes after what she wants.

I do wish Milan had explored Ash’s relationships with his brothers a bit more. There’s so much more to the story beneath the surface. I hope the sequel focuses more on the relationships between the brothers Turner. It was so refreshing, however, to see adults acting like actual adults (even when Margaret is angry with Ash for declaring her illegitimate, for example, she can still acknowledge that he’s not truly to blame for her father’s mistakes). Overall, Courtney Milan has written a fabulously detailed story filled with heart – one that manages to avoid romantic cliches. Fans of historical romance will not want to miss Unveiled.

[Photo Credit: Courtney Milan’s website]