TITLE: A HEART REVEALED
AUTHOR: Josi S. Kilpack
PUBLISHER: Shadow Mountain
PUBLISHED: First edition, April 7, 2015
GENRE: Fiction. Regency Romance.
FORMAT: Paperback, 336 pages.
IDENTIFICATION: ISBN-13: 978-1-60907-990-1
MY REVIEW: 4.5 Stars out of 5
REVIEW TITLE: "BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN AND WELL-DESERVING OF APPLAUSE."
Amber Marie Sterlington is "introduced" to London society as the most beautiful and eligible young woman of the social season. Her social grace and beauty are well known, and she’s considered desirable by many eligible young men of varying status and fortune. It’s unquestioned that she’ll certainly have her pick of a husband that will secure her future in society, the world of the wealthy, and forever be highly favored.
However, her path is abruptly threatened when a medical condition robs her of her hair at an alarming rate leaving her devastated, aghast, and desperate to keep her condition a secret. After her family discovers her secret, and with no sure hope from medical professionals, they cannot abide this disgrace which they’re certain will reflect poorly on the entire family. The only solution, according to her parents, is to seclude her from society and send her away to a private location for a hopeful period of respite to encourage recovery.
A drastic change of residence, an emotionally charged confrontation of her circumstance, a troublesome adjustment to her new yet lesser life in hiding, and family-imposed financial restrictions are overwhelming to Amber. Her loneliness is unbearable, and her maid is her only companionship in exile. The eventual discovery of unspoken secrets related to her family causes her to fear a hopeless future of isolation and poverty. Amber’s only consolation through the duration of her hardship is seeing the gradual personal growth in her character. That growth helps Amber to nurture hope as she endures her circumstance, copes with her condition, and faces whatever fate it may bring.
With the help of her maid, Suzanne, the prospect of possibly building new relationships is introduced, but the chances for Amber seem lacking, as does her fragile courage. In time, Amber’s courage grows, and she embarks on a path that will help her embrace a hopeful destiny in spite of some things that will be beyond her control forever. What she once considered being of the utmost importance for her future is abandoned for something that she discovers to be of infinite worth...forgiveness, acceptance, love, and the chance for new life.
This novel is the first published Regency Romance for Author Josi S. Kilpack, though it certainly isn’t short in any way when introducing the reader to the Regency era or holding their interest until the final page. The author skillfully utilizes the period and geographically influenced language and cadence of speech to breathe life into the characters. Within the first few pages, formative characters are lively and visual in the reader's mind, and the period is viable with societal and familial expectations and limitations clashing with personal desires. As a reviewer, I can honestly extend an early compliment to the author for this accomplishment. It certainly isn’t an easy task for a writer to achieve so much in just the first few pages of a novel, much less a new genre. However, the author seems to glide with finesse as the beginning of the story invites the reader to step into a very different period than the contemporary world in which we live.
The preeminent task at hand for the protagonist, Amber Sterlington, is acquiring an acceptable match in marriage. Likewise, is the same goal for Thomas Richards, though these two individuals are certainly "worlds apart" in their respective social and financial circumstances. Regardless of his intense attraction to Amber, his existence isn’t remotely memorable to her in spite of being in his presence on numerous occasions. As emotions and relationship conflict increases, the reader is enticed to continue reading and become invested in the clash between these two individuals.
The author brilliantly orchestrated the moment of Amber Sterlington's public humiliation with the skill of an expert literary choreographer. I wanted to set the book down and stand on my feet and cheer the author for the way the scene played, but the event captivated me so much that I had to suppress that urge and continue reading. Likewise, the banter between Thomas and his friend, Lord Fenton, at the humiliation scene was skillfully penned giving the less financially accomplished Thomas the strength of the moment both verbally and physically as he took command with rescue and chivalry. Well-done!
Without question, the sharp personalities of Amber's mother and sister in response to the events are stark. Narrowmindedness, selfishness, and being self-absorbed are traits that the reader can easily see common among the three women in the family. In contrast, Amber's father is unemotional, aloof, somewhat of a stoic patriarchal personality, and one that I would like to have seen developed further. But, I admit his portrayal is appropriate for his role in the family and regarding what was expected of him to meet the family's dilemma regarding Amber. I was pleased, however, to see that the author did revisit his character later in the story when Amber discovers some family secrets, thus, allowing the reader more fully to understand his personality and his decisions regarding Amber.
The mandated drastic change of residence for Amber, the emotional and physical separation from society and family, and feelings of abandonment and being discarded in exile renders Amber feeling devastated and heartbroken. The tragedy of this also leaves the reader feeling the undeniable emotional slap and hurt for her. Kudos to the author at this accomplishment because Amber's early characterization reads as superficial, snobbish, unfeeling for others, and not very likable to the reader. As the circumstances deal a hard blow to the protagonist on several levels, at this point in the novel, the reader is well-invested.
The author excelled in her creation of Amber’s maid, Suzanne. Her depth of compassion for and devotion to her mistress, as well as her empathy and life skills are certainly a catalyst for the women to survive and thrive during their exile. After much time and enduring many hardships, Suzanne helps Amber to reclaim her confidence one thread at a time, accept her condition, and hope for possibilities. Far removed from her former life of privilege, perhaps the most significant victory for Amber is to see value in purpose and contentment in spite of her condition, and the author accomplishes this in a plausible manner to satisfy the reader. Additionally, as Suzanne shares stories of her family, Amber eventually finds hope for some recognition of genuine love between herself and her family, even though it may be small in comparison. The author allows Amber’s character to grow and mature through her trials and the experiences shared between the two women. Through this journey, the reader can foster admiration for Amber as they see her finally be able to think of someone else's happiness and well-being, desire for it, and be willing to sacrifice for it. Bravo!
Thomas Richard's plight is no less challenging as he struggles to temper his unrequited feelings for Amber, settle into his birthplace within his family, and secure a proper portion of his family's inheritance. His quest for rightful property ownership, as well as carefully treading upon the mysteries of his exiled cottage neighbors, causes the reader to cheer him onward. The author successfully makes Thomas and his genuine goodness endearing to the reader as his masculinity, sensitivity, and fortitude continues to build throughout the story. His strength of character easily outweighs any societally imposed lack of position of importance. I often found myself with a grin on my face as I read his parts throughout the novel. I commend the author for creating this delightful, visionary man.
I’ll leave the bulk of the story’s journey and the very satisfying conclusion to the reader to savor. Each aspect that I’ve illustrated is an element of praise for Author Josi S. Kilpack and her work. It’s heartwarming to see how she uses the weakest of the characters, as one would think of them in that societal setting, to provide the strength that is needed for the protagonist to be a victor. I’m particularly fond of the point well-taken in Suzanne's words to Amber when she says, "there are people in every society who would prefer the heart you have grown, to the beauty you left behind to find it." Likewise, I genuinely appreciate that there’s a valued definitive thread throughout the rich tapestry of this novel which shows a belief in God's hand directing one's life. As a reader and a reviewer, I feel very satisfied with the strength of resolve found at the conclusion of the novel by sensing that it’s courageous not to let the will or opinion of others determine one's fate or shape one's life.
Much well-deserved applause to Author Josi S. Kilpack for her first published Regency Romance novel, A HEART REVEALED. I have no doubt that her readership will embrace this novel and new genre, but not just because of their already proven loyalty. It’s evident that she’s significantly researched the Regency era, the geographic location of the story, and the medical condition of her protagonist. Furthermore, the story is emotionally rich, enjoyable to read, impressive in its composition, and it’s a triumph of the human spirit. For these reasons, the novel is deserving of recognition, praise, and recommendation. I look forward to her further writing in this genre, and I hope she’ll stay with it for a long time because she certainly has the knack for it.
ALICE M. BATZEL
Published Playwright, Journalist, Freelance Writer
Review posted 6/6/2016 on:
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