Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Unveiled by Courtney Milan

Why I read it: Having enjoyed Unclaimed so much, I went out and bought Unveiled to see what happened in the first book of the series.

What it's about: (blurb from Goodreads) Ash Turner has waited a lifetime to seek revenge on the man who ruined his family—and now the time for justice has arrived. At Parford Manor, he intends to take his place as the rightful heir to the dukedom and settle an old score with the current duke once and for all. But instead he finds himself drawn to a tempting beauty who has the power to undo all his dreams of vengeance….
Lady Margaret knows she should despise the man who's stolen her fortune and her father's legacy—the man she's been ordered to spy on in the guise of a nurse. Yet the more she learns about the new duke, the less she can resist his smoldering appeal. Soon Margaret and Ash find themselves torn between old loyalties—and the tantalizing promise of passion….

What worked for me: My notes say "unexpected", "different", "surprising", "romantic", "unusual", "excellent".  And mostly, this was about Ash.  Just when were were about to head into predictable romance territory, Ash would turn it on it's head.  I loved that about this book.   Ash is not your usual would-be Duke and he doesn't react the way one expects.  I don't want to give away spoilers so I can't go into too much detail, but pretty much, when almost every other romance hero would go tack right, Ash jibs left.  I very much liked how he saw something important and special in Margaret and that he fell in love with her thinking she was a "commoner" and worked for her living.  I very much liked his reactions to just about everything in the story. I liked that he wanted her to shine.
Miss Lowell, you magnificent creature. I want you to paint your own canvas.  I want you to unveil yourself.
I was sad for Ash about the distance he felt with his brothers and I liked that Margaret championed his cause.  He was someone who was everyone else's champion it seemed, but not many people seemed to realise he occasionally needed some of that treatment himself.
Margaret herself doesn't always act predictably either and I also liked her very much too.  I remember reading along and thinking "oh no! don't do that!" and then, she didn't and I sighed with relief.   I'm not usually a fan of plots based on lies or misunderstandings but Ms. Milan can pull it off because she her characters are smart and unpredictable.
As much as the blurb sets the book up as being about revenge, I didn't really feel that was Ash's main motivation at all.  There was a little bit of that sure, but mostly he wanted to secure his brothers' futures and he absolutely believed (and he was right) that he'd be a better Duke than the heretofore heir.  Ash has mountains of self belief, but the thing is, he's mostly right.  It's not actually arrogance if you're correct! :) I think Ms. Milan can do something really rare - make a genuinely good man an interesting hero without him being boring, or doormat material.    It is so uncommon and it sucks me right in.
I also appreciated that the old Duke was a miserable old sod and (*mildly spoilery*) he stayed that way.  There was no miraculous recantation of previous wrongs.  He was just a pig.  I liked how Margaret dealt with him; how she chose her own behaviour towards him for her own reasons and not because of any reaction to his cruelty. 

What didn't:  The ending was just slightly predictable which was a tiny bit disappointing after having been so refreshingly different a story up til then.  However, it's not as if I could come up with a better ending and how else could it satisfy?  I am clearly being too picky here! :)

What else? I'm actually glad I read this one second.  As much as I enjoyed Unclaimed, I enjoyed this one even better and I don't think anything was lost in reading the books out of order.  I'm going to have to pick up Ms. Milan's earlier books now too and I'm even more looking forward to Smite's book now.

Grade:  A-

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