It’s not often that you get a chance to read a Regency romance with people of color in focus. Vanessa Riley challenges the usual norms of Regency romance with her latest novel, Unmasked Heart, an inspirational romance with a biracial heroine as its heart and soul. All of her life, young Gaia has felt that she is not as loved or cherished as her siblings. She thinks it’s because she resembles her mother, who was rumoured to have Spanish blood. Gaia is gentle, good-natured and patient–exactly the sort of daughter her father should love, but still he is distant with her and treats her like she is a step above the servants. What Gaia wants most in life is to marry the neighbour’s son, a botanist with a fickle heart. Enter to the scene the Duke of Cheshire. He is in need of help from someone like Gaia–someone who will be kind and patient with his mute daughter. He’s not looking for love. He thinks himself incapable of love. But when he and Gaia meet, and they have two meet-cutes, it’s obvious that Fate has already got something planned for them.
I really enjoyed reading Unmasked Heart. I am not someone who usually reads inspirational romances as I generally find them too preachy. However, Vanessa Riley does a great job of
NOT being preachy and focusing on what is at stake–the relationship, the growing respect
Gaia and the duke have for one another and–when Gaia uncovers the secret of her past–the soul-searching necessary for her to come to terms with who she really is. I thought the question of race was handled quite well–it makes sense that there would be gossip, and that her father would assume that his actions could shield Gaia from disappointment without realising that he is doing his daughter a disservice.
A positive and interesting take on the Regency tale with a sweet heroine you want to cheer for.