Thursday, April 2, 2015

Review: A Heart Revealed

A Heart Revealed
By Josi S. Kilpack
Published: April 7, 2015

Amber Marie Sterlington, the Rage of the Season in Regency-era London, has her pick of men, and she knows what she wants most in a husband: a title and a fortune. Why would she ever marry for something as fickle as love? And why would she ever look twice at Thomas Richards, a third son of a country lord?
But when Amber’s social standing is threatened, the character of her future husband becomes far more important than his position. After a public humiliation, she finds herself exiled to Yorkshire. Alone except for her maid, Amber is faced with a future she never expected in a circumstance far below what she has known all her life. Humbled and lonely, Amber begins to wonder if isolation is for the best. Who could ever love her now?

My review:

Amber Sterlington is considered the most beautiful girl of the London Season. Any time she enters a room, the men all take notice (as do the jealous young women). She isn't a very kind or sincere person. She continually outshines her younger sister Darra whom she forces to go with her to balls even if Darra isn't feeling well just so she has someone to talk to since she lacks female friendship. This is the person that Thomas Richards first encounters. He finds himself strongly attracted to her but when he witnesses her character, he determines to try to forget her. 

Amber is on a path to a successful marriage that would please her status conscious family when she begins to lose her looks. After the truth comes out in a very embarrassing way, she is banished to the countryside with only a maid for company. It is here that Amber realizes the truth about herself and how she has behaved.

I initially found Amber hard to like. Even after her health condition became apparent she still is very class conscious and snobby. Her poor maid Suzanne had to put up with a lot but Suzanne is a kind and caring person and chooses to stick with Amber anyway. Thankfully the time in Yorkshire and her reduced circumstances cause Amber to change her ways. She starts to see Suzanne as a real person and to become a more genuine and kind person herself. When Amber no longer has her looks to hide behind she spends her time developing her character instead.

Thomas Richards is a really kind man. While he is initially drawn to Amber because of her looks, he is also looking for a wife with a good character. When he accidentally finds her living in a cottage near his lands, he decides to befriend her as he sees that she has changed. She is living under an assumed name as a widow, a conceit that allows her to protect her privacy and her family's reputation. She doesn't know that Thomas knows who she really is. It is nice to see them develop a friendship and genuine feelings for each other. She has to let go of her own fears and understand that Thomas could love her as she is even though she no longer finds herself attractive.

I really enjoyed this novel and the way it explored the idea of beauty and acceptance and character versus social standing. Amber grows a lot as a character over the course of the book. She has a lot of lessons to learn about herself and what she has always been taught to believe is important. I also liked all the historical details of the Regency setting. Usually Regency romances focus on the pretty dresses and the balls but because Amber is living in exile in genteel poverty, we get to see the nitty gritty details of daily living, similar to what is described in Longbourn by Jo Baker. The eventual romantic relationship is "clean" and sweet and well developed. While it is not Christian fiction, there are some mentions of God and faith and prayer. I think readers who like Christian historical fiction would enjoy this too as well as those who like Regency romance without any racy scenes.

So many times a romance novel features a stunningly beautiful and physically and internally flawless heroine that it made me take note that Amber is imperfect. She struggled with self esteem issues relating to her looks the same way many women do. I was glad that Josi Kilpack chose to write about a female character who initially had seemingly physical perfection and lots of inner flaws and then develop her into someone with outward "imperfections" and a beautiful heart.

Note: There are some minor spoilers below regarding Amber's condition. Amazon mentions it in their description of the book but Goodreads and Barnes and Noble do not so I chose not to include it in the main part of my review. If you don't mind knowing, read ahead. It isn't kept a secret for long in the book and is part of the reason I really wanted to read it and I hope you will too.

I wanted to read this book because I've enjoyed the other titles in the "Proper Romance" line and I found out it dealt with alopecia areata, a kind of hair loss that I also have (but not the same extent that Amber has). I didn't realize there are three different kinds of alopecia areata. The kind I have occurs in circular patches of hair loss. Alopecia totalis is the loss of all hair on the head and alopecia universalis is the loss of all hair on the body. 

Modern people have treatments like injections available to them and for me that has helped in the past with some regrowth. Unfortunately for Amber those treatments didn't exist in her day. While hair sometimes grows back, sometimes it doesn't. There is some description of the treatment used in Regency times and it is horrifying. While wigs are a possibility, they aren't perfect. 

I liked the portrayal of hair loss and its effects on the protagonist's view of herself. Although Amber is rather conceited about her looks, hair is considered a woman's "crowning glory" and the author explores what it is like to lose that. People may be more understanding in today's society but not necessarily. Amber's parents ship her off to hide so they don't have to face embarrassment themselves and so it won't harm Darra's chances for marriage. Amber herself chooses to stay secluded from her neighbors in Yorkshire. It takes a long time for her to find acceptance within herself and to dare to stop hiding. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss


  1. This sounds like an interesting read. I find there are not enough historical fiction books that revolve around a character with illness, though there must be many more with illness in the past than there are now.

  2. This sounds like my kind of read. I like that the heroine has to deal with health issues and isn't the "perfect" beauty like they always portray in some of the historical romances. The setting of Yorkshire also sounds like something I'd like. Thanks for putting this book on my radar, Christina, and also sharing your own experience....I know how difficult hair loss can be and I feel for you. I suffer from a thyroid condition that has thinned my hair terribly. :( It's getting better now, but for a time there, I was devastated. Anyway, thanks for your honesty and I definitely want to check out this book now!

  3. Looks like an interesting read! I wanted to let you know that you won the giveaway I was hosted at Book Journey. I wrote about it this morning.

  4. I said last week I loved the cover, now I'm keen to read this one. Love the Yorkshire setting and that sort of character growth. Being self conscious about my hair loss/thinning thanks to thyroid and iron deficiency seems trivial compared to alopecia. Thanks for your lovely review Christina!


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