Uncovered by Love by Madeline Ash
Destiny Romance 2012
Vera Cole is twenty-five and still recovering from having a heart transplant, after years of suffering the debilitating effects of a disease she inherited from her father, who already died of it. It’s been about a year, and while her family and others in her town are still careful around her, Vera has overcome the guilt and depression she felt after the operation that saved her life, but she still suffers from a deep-seated self-consciousness and belief that men would find her repulsive once they see the large scar that runs down the centre of her chest. But Vera is not about to sit back and let life go on without her: the budding artist and sculptor has booked her flight to Spain where she’ll live with an aunt for a year and study sculpting, and with just six weeks to go before she leaves, she can’t wait.
Everything she felt certain about in her life is shaken when she meets Leeson Stone, her mentor Kelly’s younger brother. Kelly died a month ago, leaving her art gallery in Melbourne empty, and Leeson has been looking for Vera, hoping she will take Kelly’s place to keep the gallery going. Leeson is devastatingly handsome, a young and very successful entrepreneur with a big secret he’s terrified will come out and ruin everything. Because of what he’s hiding, he’s never had a committed relationship with a woman, but his attraction to Vera – who is clearly hiding something herself – draws him back to her again and again. Having her stay in his little-used house in Melbourne for five weeks gives him ample opportunity to see her, and as their chemistry ratchets up hotter and hotter, everything Leeson thought was certain in life becomes shaken, too.
With her time in Leeson’s gallery so short, Vera must make a decision to trust Leeson with her secret and brace herself against his rejection. But can Leeson make the same leap, and trust Vera in turn? Or will he risk a long future with the woman he’s fallen in love with for the sake of a childhood shame that he’s never overcome?
This romance e-book from Penguin’s new imprint, Destiny Romance, won me over from the first line: “How much for the TARDIS?” I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, and the humorous references scattered throughout the story made me feel like I was in the hands of a very good friend. That was just the first little nod: I quickly became enamoured of this story for many reasons, and found it very hard to put down.
Since moving to Canada in 2006, I have read so many American novels and books with an American setting, I have to say it was refreshing and endearing to read a book set in my home country. It’s not that there’s a great deal of referencing to the setting here – it’s a romance, after all, with a focus on the characters – but everything from the way they speak, their expressions and turns of phrase, to how they react to situations etc., is different from the American romances. I felt much more comfortable, reading this, than I ever have reading a contemporary romance set in America. It’s just what you’re used to, right? And I wouldn’t say it was drastically different, not at all – it’s subtle, I think, and I only noticed it because I hardly ever get to read Australian novels these days, while American ones dominate my shelves and reading lists. I don’t at all mean to imply anything negative by this, it’s more an observation and a reminder of just how different English-speaking Western countries really are from each other.
That aside, the characters, the story and the romance were key elements in cementing my enjoyment of Uncovered by Love. Ash writes smoothly and articulately, wasting neither words nor time on padding of any kind, focusing her astute eye on these troubled individuals who together find the strength to face life without ducking and hiding. Romance novels always revolve around conflict of some kind – conflict and/or obstacles (sometimes one word works better than the other). Ash deftly balances Vera and Leeson’s personal obstacles, their secrets and the barriers these create within themselves, as well as the conflict generated by the resulting trust issue.
I could completely sympathise – empathise even – with both Vera and Leeson, even though I’ve never suffered from either of their problems (I won’t tell you Leeson’s, don’t want to give everything away!). It’s a fine achievement in writing this kind of story, when you can create characters that you can relate to no matter how different they are from readers, and personal, inner conflict that has readers both sympathising with them and yet also urging them to take a leap of faith and move on. I had that with Vera and Leeson – I could completely understand why they were keeping things hidden, and why they had trust issues, but I also desperately wanted them to reach out to each other. This nice balance was achieved through the great chemistry that exists between them, and a fleshed-out sense of humanity in both their characters.
Their conversations were often full of witty banter, which I very much enjoyed, and the novel also touches on class issues and disparity of wealth. While the focus is very much on the two main characters and their personal lives, we get to see enough of their working world to get a three-dimensional picture of them, and see how their individual principles and work ethics carry out in a broader sphere. It’s just enough to satisfy my curiosity, at least.
I didn’t mark any pages while I was reading this because I was too caught up in the story and wanting to see how it was resolved. Which is another thing I liked: the ending wasn’t a drawn-out melodrama. It is of course based on a misunderstanding, as romance novels often are, a very believable misunderstanding and both of them handle it very maturely, I felt. The resolution is likewise free of self-indulgent dramatics (if there’s one thing I hate in fiction, it’s self-indulgence); it’s refreshingly simple and clean and quite beautiful for it. Granted, part of me wanted a longer ending, to spend more time with them, but that’s just because I was enjoying it so much.
Uncovered by Love emphasises chemistry and sexual tension over graphic descriptions of sex, but where there is sex, it’s nice and simple and as far as I can remember, never corny or cliched. Though there was a moment where I thought we were getting the famous scene out of Ghost, which I’m sure Ash purposely, jokingly intended. The sense of humour that balanced the darker issues inherent in the characters’ secrets was nicely done. I also loved Jayden, one of Vera’s twelve-year-old twin brothers, and the close bond they shared. For a minor character, he certainly made his presence felt!
This is a really lovely romance story, the kind of story that makes me want to use the cliche “heart-warming” in all sincerity. Ash’s ability to write drama without being melodramatic wins major points from me, and I loved how naturally her characters grew up and matured. They felt like real people, with real problems, even if the hero was a multi-millionaire as romance heroes so often are. The fact that Leeson’s success and the emphasis he placed on monetary wealth were all important facets of his character made it much more interesting and original. Highly recommended.
My thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for a copy of this book.
“This was a very light and sweet read. I was afraid that it was going to turn out cheesy but it wasn’t like that at all. … This is the author’s debut novel and she did a great job with it; the dialogue was enjoyable and the errors were minimal. I will definitely be reading more from Madeline Ash.” I Am a Bookaholic
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