Read A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant Online

a-lady-awakened

In Cecilia Grant’s emotionally rich and deeply passionate Regency romance debut, a deal with a rumored rogue turns a proper young woman into . . . A Lady Awakened.Newly widowed and desperate to protect her estate and beloved servants from her malevolent brother-in-law, Martha Russell conceives a daring plan. Or rather, a daring plan to conceive. After all, if she has an heIn Cecilia Grant’s emotionally rich and deeply passionate Regency romance debut, a deal with a rumored rogue turns a proper young woman into . . . A Lady Awakened.Newly widowed and desperate to protect her estate and beloved servants from her malevolent brother-in-law, Martha Russell conceives a daring plan. Or rather, a daring plan to conceive. After all, if she has an heir on the way, her future will be secured. Forsaking all she knows of propriety, Martha approaches her neighbor, a London exile with a wicked reputation, and offers a strictly business proposition: a month of illicit interludes . . . for a fee.Theophilus Mirkwood ought to be insulted. Should be appalled. But how can he resist this siren in widow’s weeds, whose offer is simply too outrageously tempting to decline? Determined she’ll get her money’s worth, Theo endeavors to awaken this shamefully neglected beauty to the pleasures of the flesh—only to find her dead set against taking any enjoyment in the scandalous bargain. Surely she can’t resist him forever. But could a lady’s sweet surrender open their hearts to the most unexpected arrival of all . . . love?...

Title : A Lady Awakened
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780553593839
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 346 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Lady Awakened Reviews

  • Sarah Mac
    2019-03-25 17:06

    Good grief. This was just...I don't even know. Excuse me while I lick my wounds. A LADY AWAKENED; or, MAULED BY TEH FEELZ.MARTHA: I am prim & proper & devoid of emotion. I have successfully smothered Feelz since I was a child. Feelz are good for nothing. Feelz have no place in life. LAWYER: So, hey. There's a problem with your husband's will.MARTHA: It had better not demand Feelz.LAWYER: No, it's demanding your departure from this house. MARTHA: Oh, that's right. My marriage sucked from day one, but I never told anyone. Talking about marriage is acknowledging Feelz, & I can't do that.MARTHA'S BROTHER: What the hell, sister?! Come live with me & my wife. For some bizarre reason, we care about what happens to you.MARTHA: No. I am alone. I want my independence. I'd rather stay here & socially reform my tenants & make all the little children attend school. Did you know women can better themselves through education?LAWYER: Whatever. If you had an heir, you could stay. MARTHA: But my husband was impotent.LAWYER: In that case, his Evul Brother will take the house & rape the female servants. Have a nice day.MARTHA: I can't have a nice day. I devote my energy to emotionally distancing myself from life's hideous Feelz. Oh, the angst. I'd better go to church & talk about my school. PREACHER: I am sending really obvious signals that I'd marry you if you weren't in mourning.MARTHA: I can't acknowledge those signals. I can't show Feelz. Meanwhile, my husband is dead & I've got no baby. How can I circumvent this inconvenience?MARTHA'S MAID: Your new neighbor is a beta woobie-rake.MARTHA: Hmm. If this guy knocked me up, I could claim the baby is my dead husband's heir. I could save the servants from being raped & continue campaigning for my tenant school. It's a perfect solution!THEO: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....church is boring.MARTHA: You're my new neighbor. You're sleeping in church. You offend me with your Feelz. I'll pay you to have sex with me every day for a month. THEO: ...Whut?MARTHA: If you get me pregnant, I'll pay you extra.THEO: Mrs Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?MARTHA: I'm barely 21 years old. And seduction is for Feelz, which I don't have.THEO: Well...okay. But don't you want to get to know me first?MARTHA: I don't care so long as you're free of STDs. Sex is gross.THEO: Well...okay. But don't you want me to caress you a bit & learn what you like? MARTHA: I don't care about caresses. Foreplay is for pansies. THEO: Well...okay. But don't you want me to make you feel nice while we're having sex?MARTHA: I don't care about feeling nice. Feeling nice is unacceptable.THEO: I don't understand why you're determined to hate my cock after you paid to use it.MARTHA: And I don't understand why men are so lame. Men don't acknowledge that women have Feelz! They don't get to know us before sticking their peens between our legs! They don't try to learn what we like! They don't care about making us feel nice while we're being forced to have sex! THEY HATE OUR FEELZ, YOU SEE?THEO: You're an odd woman.MARTHA: Oh, sorry. Is my attitude preventing you from getting a proper erection?THEO: Yeah, actually. MARTHA: You mean...THEO: Uh-huh. You'll have to enjoy yourself to get my all-important juices flowing.MARTHA: But...but...I refuse to like sex. Sex is the devil's road to Feelz.THEO: Okay, seriously. What the fuck is wrong with you?MARTHA: I refuse to talk about having Feelz. THEO: Hey, now! I have Feelz too! I have mommy issues.MARTHA: That's because you haven't invested yourself in bettering society. Have I told you about my reform school?THEO: It's hot when you're an anachronistic feminist. Let me kiss your boob or something.MARTHA: Forget touching my boob. I'll never enjoy sex, so stop trying. It's giving me Feelz.THEO: I'm sorry, Martha. I'm only giving you Feelz because you're giving me Feelz. Let me tell you how I was emotionally affected by visiting my poorest tenants this afternoon.MARTHA: The plight of the children is horrible. I want them to attend school regularly....At which point I reached page 80. When I skipped ahead to page 200-something, Theo was insisting Martha tie him up with her stockings & learn to enjoy being on top & in control of their sexual relationship.NO.NO.SO MUCH NO.Two stars because there were some pretty sentences. But I won't be trying any more of this author unless she dials down the pointless, plotless angst.

  • Jill
    2019-03-23 00:11

    4.5 starsDebut"I understand you to have just proposed to engage me as your whore." He gave one last cough. "Is that correct?"Disapproval thinned her lips again. "The better analogy is to a stud animal. My concern is only with the issue. I have no expectation of pleasure."For Martha Russell her ten month marriage was both unfulfilling and unfruitful. Without an heir her estate will be given over to her late husband's brother, a man whose past crimes against servants has gone unpunished but not forgotten. To protect herself, her servants and tenants Martha knows that she must produce an heir and quickly.Theo Mirkwood has been banished to his family's country property in Sussex adjoining Martha's land. For twenty-six year old Theo his wasteful and irresponsible ways have become too much for his father. He is sent to Sussex in hopes that learning the management of the estate will change him for the better.Theo and Martha's relationship drives this story. There are other happenings that involve secondary characters - their tenants, their servants, and the evil brother who is waiting impatiently in the wings to inherit Martha's home. But they play a minor role to the overall love story. This is a romance of opposites. Theo is city-bred, wasteful, spoiled, irresponsible, indolent and easy-going. Martha is countrified, responsible, practical, upright and uptight.From acquaintances to friends to lovers, the shift in the dynamic of their relationship evolves gently. Almost day-by-day we see subtle changes in their arrangement. Some readers may have a problem with the subdued pacing but it's necessary so that we see their relationship develop and blossom realistically.The author has done a thorough job in researching the historical details giving a credible setting to this romance in bucolic Regency Britain. She portrays the life of the lower classes with stark reality.Written in beautiful prose this slowly simmering romance is deeply satisfying, thoroughly enjoyable. The love scenes depict their growing relationship, developing sensually as their relationship moves from a business arrangement to love. Cecilia Grant has written a lovely romance and an impressive debut. Highly recommended."Turn over," he said, his voice already gone thick.Her eyes flew open. "I did not authorize anything out of the ordinary," she said, the words shrill with alarm."I only want to look. I promise we'll fornicate face-to-face like Christians." He couldn't quite mask his laughter. "But let me finish looking."

  • Jane Stewart
    2019-04-06 17:54

    My mind kept wandering. It did not hold my interest. I did not enjoy the rigid heroine with no emotional interactions.STORY BRIEF:Martha did not marry for love. She married to avoid being dependent on her brother. Her husband died ten months later from a horse accident. She learns that her brother-in-law James will inherit the estate and that he molested female servants when he lived there 16 years ago. She believes it is her duty to keep James away from the estate in order to protect the female workers. She also believes it is her duty to improve the lives of all tenants and workers in the area. She financed a local school and is lobbying the families to send their daughters. In order to keep James away, she must get pregnant within the next 30 days and claim that the pregnancy is by her husband. She hires her neighbor Theo to have sex with her every day for 30 days.REVIEWER’S OPINION:Each time they have sex, she refuses to show emotion and refuses to experience pleasure. She demands he perform as quickly as possible while she lies stiff as a board like a corpse. There are 11 sex scenes like this, for about 2/3 of the book. Talk about boring sex scenes. She makes comments like “I didn’t hire you for pleasure. I’m not paying you to do those things. Can you just get on with it please?” In the 11th sex scene, he’s still trying to talk her into letting him pleasure her, which she will not allow. She says “I’ve told you I don’t want it. My mind rules my body. You’re depraved beyond my worst conjectures.”She has no emotional interaction with anyone during the book. She is uptight, rigid, critical, judgmental, pious, and holier-than-thou. The only thing she cares about is her sense of duty to do good. Her plans are “to see the school’s enrollment double, shepherd a dairy into being on the very next property and then turn her attention to all the good she could do in town. If she remained at Seton Park, the days and years ahead could be gratifying indeed.” Ok, I can admire someone like this, Sister Theresa spinster for life, never smiling at anyone unless it is while she is giving them a gift. She is self-sacrificing. When she has a loss, she does not cry. When she eventually falls in love, it feels wooden. I didn’t enjoy reading about her. Maybe some vulnerability might have helped. I welcome unusual and different character creations from authors, but I need to be able to enjoy reading about them, be they good or wicked. Martha was not fun to read about, and that is the biggest problem.Theo was interesting enough. He had a good heart. He was rich kid enjoying his life of wine, women, and gambling. His father sent him to the country for a while in hopes of providing some seriousness to his life. Of course, living next door to serious Martha definitely brought out that part of Theo. He began taking an interest in the people on his land and their lives, thanks to Martha’s influence. I don’t know why he falls in love with her, probably because he likes himself better as a result of her influence. It wasn’t a fun relationship to read about. Maybe if she had shown some emotional desire for him I would have liked it better.One of my pet peeves is having a character deny their feelings and take actions against those feelings. This is usually done in order to have a conflict. It’s different in this book yet similar. Martha’s entire life is denying her feelings. She has none and never will.She eventually falls in love with Theo, so we are told. But after that the sex scenes were still missing sensuality and hotness. I didn’t feel any desire coming from her. It might have been fun to see her shell cracking with emotions coming through and her confusion about “feelings” be they sexual, love, or other.DATA:Story length: 346 pages. Swearing language: strong, including religious swear words, but rarely used. Sexual language: moderate to strong, but rarely used. Number of sex scenes: 14. Estimated number of sex scene pages: 45. Setting: Around 1814 England. Copyright: 2012. Genre: regency romance.DISCLOSURE:This book is an Advance Reader’s Edition provided to me free of charge through the Amazon Vine Program in return for my writing a review.

  • Kathleen
    2019-03-24 15:51

    ★ Thanks to Jill for recommending this début novel. I closed the book with a deeply satisfied sigh, but at first I totally disliked the heroine. It's not to everyone's taste.A Lady Awakened is book 1 of the Blackshear Family series. The writing style is witty and light (I chuckled several times), balanced by sad, painful, or poignant sections. The plot includes several heartwarming story lines. The romance includes a LOT of sex, progressing from cold, quick sex to blast-furnace love scenes. ツ No lust was so gratifying to a man as the lust that blossomed only after esteem had taken root. He might have gone his whole life without finding this out, if he'd never been exiled to Sussex. The setting is Regency England, about 1815, in a rural neighborhood near Brighton by the Sea, in Sussex County. (The author did not capture the pastoral setting -- she's not particularly descriptive or vivid, but it's fine.)Martha Russell, née Blackshear, is bound by duty, conscience and reason, but unbeknownst to her, she's also a woman of strong passions with mutiny burning in her belly. (The author does a magnificent job showing the metamorphosis of Martha, from a passionless prude to a passionate lover.) She is attractive, with shining chocolate brown eyes and long, honey-colored hair (but Grant does not belabor her physical traits like some authors do). Mrs. Russell is only 21, newly widowed after 10 months of marriage. Theophilis Mirkwood (Theo) is heir to a baronetcy, sexy as they come and 26 years old. He is tall and well formed, with dark blue eyes and pale golden hair. This London playboy has been banished to Pencarragh, one of his father's estates, to learn agriculture and farm management from Mr. Granville, his manager. I loved Grant's development of Theo's character, from carefree playboy to beloved champion of laborers and tenants. ♥When the widow Russell learns that the heir to her home, Seton Park, is a known pedophile, having raped at least two teenage servant girls, she takes instant action to keep him away from her servants, by creating a baby -- an heir -- while her dead husband is still warm. ASAP. Martha pays Theo to "give her his seed" -- every day for a month, starting right now, if you please. ツFor Theo -- so earthy, so bawdy, so passionate -- it's hell. Martha thinks that if she responds or derives any pleasure whatsoever from the "act" it will make her a whore, so she keeps "duty" forefront. Theo employs every means to kindle Martha's desire, but the task "was proving to be a labor worthy of Hercules." (My heart went out to this big-hearted beautiful guy. I was disgusted wtih Martha, yet sympathetic to her dilemma; it felt authentic for the period.)Theo soon stops trying to awaken any responses in Martha and simply mates with her, working on the "heir" project. But meanwhile, a beautiful friendship develops around Theo's varied plans to help his impoverished tenants and laborers -- plans that Martha fully endorses. Theo has such a big ♥. (The pacing dragged a little at one point, and I grew tired of sex served cold, so this is a flaw. However, there were other absorbing story lines that held my interest when I grew irritated with puritanical Martha). At about 70% into the book, Martha's passions FINALLY ignite, because she falls in love with Theophilus. Often at his side, she sees him striding through rural Sussex, bringing hope and support to poverty-stricken laborers, teaching a mentally-impaired girl how to make a paper fan, re-thatching roofs, supporting a new school, and creating a new economy. It takes a while for Martha to realize she's in love with Theo, but after seeing him carry a dying man nearly a mile, she's a goner:To a stunned and star-struck Martha, he'd never looked so powerful. So capable. So suffused with grace and might.Theo finally got the passion he wanted from Martha. And wow! Once Martha knew Theo's heart, she gave herself totally to him, like a wild woman (the scene in the chair!). These guys burned up the sheets. ツA little striptease, some light bondage:"Untie me.""No," she said, and bent to kiss him again.He scrabbled at the knots. He'd free himself."No. This was your idea. You've no one to blame but yourself." She gazed down at him like a governess out of someone's perverse boyhood fantasies.Good God. She was enjoying this..."You want me," he whispered. "Yes," she said.What Martha loved best was that Theo valued her opinion, and sincerely cared about his people. One night, while brainstorming how to improve the local economy, Martha muses: Serious, conscientious, and seeking her opinion: he could have had anything he wanted of her in that moment. What the playboy loved best about the puritan was that she believed him capable of ANYTHING and supported EVERY idea he had. Late at night, Theo tentatively broaches the idea of gaining investors for his dairy scheme. Martha, being detail oriented, readily endorses his preliminary idea and offers several strategic tips. Theo -- no dummy -- realizes her worth:He could go through life forging one nebulous idea after the next, and know that she would hammer each one into practical shape. I thought it perfect, this relationship that began so badly. They complemented each other. Martha's prudent attention to detail only magnified Theo's natural aptitude for visionary leadership. Theo's gift for gab brought VISITORS into Martha's lonely life -- so now Theo totally walks on water in her eyes ツ. He showed her that she was respected, admired, and surrounded by allies. (Sigh. Grant kept me up till 3am, blinking tears away).★ But wait! There's another storyline here. A heartwarming drama unfolds where Theo's underprivileged tenants and Martha's household servants gain a new sense of unity and pride. I loved the secondary characters, especially old Mr. Barrows, the laborer's wife, Mrs. Weaver (Olivia) and the abigail, Sheridan (odd names for servants). The details surrounded Mrs. Weaver were particularly well done. I also liked the vicar, Mr. Atkins. And how original, to cast a man of the cloth in a positive light. ツThere's MUCH more to this story, including the routing of the rapist and the uniting of the community, but enough said. Wondering if they had a baby together? It's best to wait, but if you must know, see the spoiler: (view spoiler)[Martha did "take his seed" with great joy, but she ended up marrying him. She figured out another way to thwart the soul-less heir to Seton Park. These poignant scenes showed how far the cold fish had come. (hide spoiler)]************Adult Content: Numerous explicit sex scenes, including oral sex, some F-bombs, a few instances of religious profanity. Just enough strong language to lend realism, but not enough to seem gratuitous or irritating. I noted only one or two typos.

  • willaful
    2019-03-30 19:02

    Reading this made me realize that one of my favorite things to happen in a historical romance is for the main characters to be forced together in an unusual way that unexpectedly fosters true intimacy. In A Lady Awakened, what initially brings Theo and Martha together is sex -- unwanted, unpleasant sex. Martha, a proper lady to her very core, feels forced to rent her feckless neighbor Theo’s services as a stud so that she can quickly produce an heir, and save her late husband’s estate from going to a man known for abusing his female servants. Theo, at first happy to oblige, soon finds that servicing a woman who is disgusted by his best efforts is deeply disheartening.I’m really making this sound good, aren’t I? Well, while Martha and Theo are meeting each other secretly for sex, they are also slowly getting to know each other. And while Martha’s high principles begin to infect Theo with an interest in his land and his dependents, Theo begins to make Martha aware that there’s more to him than she realized -- and that there can be more to sex than procreation. A Lady Awakened initially seemed a slightly misleading title, because Martha is not a stranger to either sexual desire or sexual pleasure, on her own. She’s at first unbelieving she could have pleasure with a partner, and then unwilling to compromise her ethically shady position any further by receiving it. What eventually wins Martha over is not Theo’s studly skills in the bedroom, but his increasingly stellar qualities as a person: “Serious, conscientious, and seeking her opinion: he could have had anything he wanted of her in that moment. She pressed her lips together. Generosity demanded generosity in return. ‘Think on it. Sleep on it. You’ll make the right choice.’She felt his pleasure as surely as though his skin was shuddering against hers. He was all but a virgin in this, the experience of being taken seriously. Perhaps no woman--no one at all--had ever gazed at him with quiet faith and encouraged him to believe in his own abilities.”I love the emotional symmetry here: Martha, who needs so much to be taken seriously by men herself, discovering that this is something she can give to a man, who needs it as much as she does. That realization of the possibility of reciprocity between a couple, sexually and emotionally, is Martha’s true awakening.This is a leisurely told story, with more information about daily estate life than is currently popular in historical romance, but I never found it boring. Martha’s cold affect made it harder to passionately love the story and the ending is not entirely satisfying, but it was a very interesting and rewarding read, and a promising debut.

  • ♡Karlyn P♡
    2019-03-24 19:09

    4.5! I've been hearing this author mentioned a lot lately, and now I know why. This historical romance is easily on par with some of the best authors of this genre - Balogh, Quinn, Kleypas...etc.I think the one thing I enjoyed most about this story is how I got to see the romance evolve from a cold and simple business association to a deeply warm and passionate friendship all the way to a heart stopping love. Both characters evolve emotionally as well, when they realize the circumstances of which they created may not have the intended outcome. A Lady Awakened was a great tale that kept me fully engaged, with a strong storyline and two well developed, interesting characters. I will definitely be reading the next in this series soon.

  • Caz
    2019-03-24 18:14

    I don't think I've ever read a romance novel like this, which should be a recommendation in itself, seeing as so many of them follow one of the "standard" plots. You know the sort of thing - hero and heroine hate each other on sight but gradually fall in love; hero/heroine has to marry money to restore the family fortunes and gradually fall in love, etc.The gradual falling in love bit DOES happen, but it's done in such an original manner. The heroine is a widow who wants desperately to remain in her marital home - but her desire to do so stems from her sense of obligation to the local community rather than from any selfish desire to keep a roof over her head. What I liked so much about this book was the way in which the two central characters, come together through a shared sense of community and duty. It's not a traditional seduction and there are no mind-blowing first-time orgasms - in fact, the sex is initially perfunctory and not at all sexy, which is rather a refreshing change from the majority of the romantic novels published nowadays. This book is warm, and funny and also manages to include social observation through the ways in which the protagonists interact with their tennants and workers.I know this is an odd way to review a romance novel - but what makes it so enjoyable is the fact that it's so DIFFERENT. It's romantic (of course) and funny and tender and altogether a fabulous read. Go on - treat yourself!

  • Ally
    2019-03-26 23:09

    Nothing Traditional About This...ok maybe a few thingsLook, let me start by saying, there was NOTHING about either the hero or heroine that made me swoon. Never. Ok, there was that one scene...but back to the review...I cannot say enough about this book. For once, we get a romance that has sex that's well, so not perfect. And a relationship that's well, so not perfect. I don't even know where to begin other than to say, this ain't yo mamma's regency romance. Hero - meh, the name. I can't get over it. Mr. Mirkwood. Theophilus. Isn't that an asthma medication? Such a child in a man's body. Then again, aren't they all? But he tries. And he keeps trying. And then he tries some more and then he gets it and I go all melty like. Heroine - good lord, a bigger stick in the mud I just don't know. But dammit, she has to go and be so honorable, so good, so giving. And that's the issue. She gives to everyone but herself. Until she finally does. And then, I go all melty like. Watching these two unfold in to fully realized grown ups is delightful. Everyone should, must, has to, read this book. Please!

  • Duchess Nicole
    2019-04-18 18:11

    I wanted to love it but didn't :( I felt a disconnect with the heroine for most of the book, and I'm not sure what it was that held me back from her. She's a bit introverted, socially awkward, straight-laced and frumpy, and I tend to like that type of heroine, especially when she's paired with the quintessential rake. And I did like watching her sort of come out of her shell, I just think it took her too long to do so. By the time she's personable, the book is ending, and I felt like I didn't get to know the "new" her. The story was new-ish, though, and I did love how the entire countryside was involved. The little bit of subterfuge that goes along with the love affair was an honorable one, though the ending was kind of disappointing to me...although I suppose it kind of had to go there. Listened to the audio, and this is the same narrator who does the "In Death" series by J.D. Robb...Susan Ericksen. She did a fantastic job, as always.

  • new_user
    2019-04-16 22:06

    Historical romance A Lady Awakened breaks ground in a genre infamously frivolous and milkshake frothy (thank you, Georgette Heyer). Cecilia Grant injects maturity into Heyer's legacy- that sounds envelope-stuffing boring. Don't picture a sober, didactic tale. Grant writes subtle humor and surprising heat, often together at once, but she doesn't idolize the idle aristocrat, the party-hopping, tea-sipping, walking in-your-face to anyone who's had to work for a living. You wouldn't know that straightaway. Theo Mirkwood arrives in the Sussex countryside a womanizer. He meets Martha Russell, a stiff, if upright, widow, and Awakened chronicles their journey as Theo teaches Martha love and joy and learns himself the fulfillment of purpose and contributing to a community. I liked the bait-and-switch. Grant dangles out the Casanova and immediately fleshes him out beyond his pastimes into a complex man kind, funny and loving. I liked that though Theo's strained relationship with his father affected him, Grant didn't explain away his habits with a tragic backstory, and best of all, she eschewed stereotypes. Far from a fountain of emotional warmth, love and all things stereotypically "feminine," Martha expresses her feelings only with difficulty and pursues Victorian morality more than love or passion. It is Theo who is patient, warm, and open, comfortable with his feelings and expressing them. "You know how to say things I don't know how to say," she tells him once. He saves her, and I don't mean from monsters or dungeons. Many women, like Martha, have trouble with vulnerability or expression, etc., and I appreciated that an author finally acknowledged them and drew a more complex portrait of women (and men), diversified the landscape.For example, despite her apparent frigidness, Martha isn't asexual. She fantasizes with enough regularity to indicate a healthy libido. (Hilarious, by the way!) In fact, Awakened approaches sex with refreshing realness and humor. (The pillow talk cracked me up.) Belying the popular wisdom that women like men whom other women like, Theo's womanizing doesn't endear him to Martha, but Grant prevents Martha from becoming the condescending heroine by addressing her judgmental attitude early on.While Theo's experience comes to use, he doesn't win Martha with his wicked bedroom tricks, again defying lust-winz! romance tropes that seem to imply that by golly, if you're just good enough in the sack, then maybe she'll stay with you. Ultimately, "stimulate my mind" Martha warms to Theo because she comes to love him as a person, by accident. He asks her help outside the bedroom, she's like, "okay, nothing better to do except mourn my douchey husband," and she sees he's actually a nice dude when he's not playing with himself. Contrary to trope, he thinks about other things and often. He is, in fact, very nice and probably the most lovable "rake" I've read. Know how some readers say men should read romances to understand women? My usual answer to that is, "No! No! Good God, no!" But if the book were A Lady Awakened, it might be all right. Theo knows how to treat a ladeh. Also, 500 points for treating the lower class like people too, boring farming aside, and period accuracy. The book reminded me of our period dramas with the "earnest young men," only with less angst and more heat. I really liked the noble, middle class characters, light prose, and the insight peppered throughout. Also, the relevance. Without any anachronisms, Awakened manages to be more modern than many contemporary romances. While Awakened's slow pace requires patience, it's well worth it for a trope-trouncing romance without cheesiness or inexplicable misunderstandings. Mmm, brain candy! Read it now! It's so different, it's glorious! Thanks for the recs, friends!

  • Willow
    2019-04-17 20:04

    This book has the novelty of having two likable people, full of goodwill, who both act in a mature way, and fall in love with each other. I actually have a lot of good thoughts for it because of that. It’s also well written.On the other hand though, I thought it was kind of dull. The basic story is about a young widow, Martha, who will be left with little money if she does not have a son. Her late husband has left the house and estate to his lecherous brother-in-law who is known for pouncing on servant girls and getting them pregnant. Martha is horrified at the thought of someone abusing the servants. So being very practical, she comes up with a plan. She decides to ask her neighbor’s playboy son, Theo, to be her gigolo for a month in the hopes that he will get her pregnant. Theo is surprisingly not insulted by this and agrees, simply because he’s super randy and he thinks she’s hawt. This begins their odd relationship. Since they are strangers and Martha is frigid, their sex is quite awkward. Martha’s kind of bossy too, lying on the bed, stiff as a board with her legs open, telling him to hurry up. Consequently, Theo is somewhat unnerved by her. So of course they fall in love. How could they not? LOLTheo is a super nice beta guy. He sort of lacks self confidence, which at first Martha crushes, and then she builds up. I think of him as wanting a woman to mother him, so he’s attracted to Martha who scolds him all the time. Martha needs Theo because she’s way too uptight and needs to get laid. I didn’t mind Martha, although I can see why some reviewers said they didn’t like her. I think she’s kind of fascinating, and I love how pragmatic she is. She sees herself as a very moral person, yet her questionable actions don’t portray her like that at all. Here is a woman who married an older, wealthy man she didn’t love (for practical reasons.) Then she decides to commit fraud by passing off another man’s child as her late husband’s, (to save the servant girls from a lecher.) Then she hires a gigolo to get her pregnant. Obviously, in Martha’s eyes, the end justifies the means, which makes her not very moral at all. I liked her determination, but I think she's fooling herself if she thinks her motives are completely altruistic. These characters are well rounded. I think their attraction to each other makes perfect sense, and their romance is sweet. They both go through a nice character arc. I was rather touched by the sweet ending.This book has so little suspense though. The villain is weak, and doesn’t show up until the end of the book. There’s no sexual tension, since both Martha and Theo had sex from the beginning. I didn’t feel a sense of danger or dread. There’s no secret intrigue or mystery. In fact, very little happens. Not to mention, the book felt very modern, with modern point-of-views. Consequently, I never did get that cool feeling of being transported back in time.I’m giving it three stars. Since I see all the positive reviews, I’m thinking maybe I’m just not into Regency Romance. Are all Regency books this slow? It may be awhile before I try another. I must admit though, the second book in this series looks better than this one.

  • Wollstonecrafthomegirl
    2019-04-20 17:06

    In my idle hours, and in my less idle ones, I spend more time than is reasonable pondering the following questions: what’s my favourite romance novel? If I was sent to a desert island and could only take one with me, which would it be? The answer usually changes with my mood. But my God, Cecilia Grant’s magnificent ‘A Lady Awakened’ wins out very, very frequently. Because, to me, it is perfection. When people roll their eyes on finding out I read romance and are all: ‘bodice rippers!’ ‘members!’ ‘Fabio!’ ‘rapey heroes!’ [ok, no one actually says ‘rapey’], I give them a short list of brilliant, modern romance novels and Grant is always on it. I read it for the first time back in 2014 when I first started reading romance and long before I discovered goodreads in any significant way. Since then I have re-read it all the way through twice (I don’t re-read all that much) and gone back to passages very, very frequently. Not to over-egg this pudding, but, if you haven’t read this: get on it, immediately.I will now attempt to review this book in a way that does some semblance of justice to just how much I love it and to just how good it is.The plot. Heroine needs to get pregnant to steal an estate away from her dead husband’s brother. Pays the hero to act as her ‘whore’ (his definition), ‘stud animal’ (hers). This seems a bit over the top when written down in this simple way. But Grant makes it work with magic words and magic characters.And, oh, what characters. Heroine, Martha Russell. She’s rigid, pious, blunt, principled, clever and brave. Martha isn’t ‘likeable’, and I like her for precisely that reason. Grant isn’t trying to sell her as a character to the reader, she just let’s her be and she is absolutely committed to the heroine she’s written. On seeing the hero’s torso for the first time:“That mattered to some woman. Muscles and so forth. Those taut flat ones across his stomach, for instance… Women who didn’t place the proper priority on a man’s character had doubtless taught him to be vain of his physique, and even a woman of principle could enjoy, on some aesthetic level, the picture he made with his shirt removed.” (14%) No swooning at the body of a Greek Adonis for our Martha, absolutely not. And she’s decidedly less impressed with what’s beneath the trousers:“Where she was molded, he was rough-hewn… he looked rangy, haphazard, his male parts an ill-placed afterthought. Like the last leftover bits of clay scraped together, rolled into primitive forms and stuck onto the middle of him, the stones in their rough red sack and that improbably appendage dangling to the fore… Nor could she respect Mirkwood’s exemplar, despite it’s apparently remarkable size, and the jaunty [JANUTY!!!!] air suggesting confidence of its welcome anywhere.” (15%)This really captures Martha in a nutshell. And it’s made all the more delightful because Theo thinks she’s admiring him and struts about like the rake he is. The juxtaposition is amazing.This is a novel which does character growth like no other. Martha remains quintessentially the same person throughout, but slowly, like a flower opening to sunlight, our hero, Theo gets into her mind and then into her heart (because, with Martha, ever practical woman that she is, you cannot get into the latter without finding your way into the former). Whilst that’s happening, partially because that’s happening, she becomes more social throughout the novel, she sees some of her own weaknesses and she starts to remedy them.Theo Mirkwood. A rake, exiled to his Father’s country estate for his profligate spending in London. He can’t wait to get back. The proposition from Martha that they have sex and he gets to make money from it is snapped up by him with very little thought. At the start of this novel, that’s just how he is. By the end, he’s a leader of men (as Martha points out, he always has been, he just didn’t see it yet). He finds that all the characteristics in Martha that he disliked at first are the things he’s come to love:“But she was never lovelier than when she spoke this way, all afire with the knowledge of wrongs to be righted and good to be done.” (59%)She’s a woman it’s difficult to impress and impressing her makes Theo feel more of a man than all the legions of women that came before her. There’s a small moment late on which shows just how much Theo has grown (Grant does these small moments very well):“With one finger he crushed the painstaking folds of his cravat to bare his neck to the breeze on that side. A month ago, his cravat was sacrosanct.” (65%) Their love story is the very definition of a slow burn, despite the fact that they’ve had sex by about the 20% mark. At first, Theo is everything Martha dislikes: frivolous, lazy, overly sexual. Theo doesn’t dislike Martha in the same way, but it’s fair to say he doesn’t understand her, she’s a young woman completely outside what he has experienced to date in his easy London life. Slowly, Theo finds himself, Martha starts to appreciate there is more to him than she first thought and Theo starts to court Martha’s good graces, at first because he wants to master her sexually and then because he falls for her:“ “You’re a leader of men, Mirkwood. I should never have guessed it.” They were the most thrilling words a woman had ever said to him… His head felt light and his legs unsteady; who’d have known a man could get drunk on a lady’s good opinion.” (71%) It’s wonderfully subtle in its execution and beautiful to boot.Then there's the sex. Oh, my, the sex. It’s the best kind because it’s hawt but absolutely integral to the story and the characters. Martha hates being in bed with Theo at first (she wants to get her seed and get out). As she comes to like him, then respect him, then love him, the sex gets good. One of my favourite things about this novel is Martha’s internal dialogue as she finds some enjoyment in the sex and then eventually, wanting Theo to have a whirl at pleasuring her. She’s put him off about it so many times, she’s worried the ship has sailed for good and then she finds to her delight, that it hasn’t. Theo learns the merit of having to work to get a woman to enjoy herself and introducing Martha to the wonders of sex with someone you like and who likes you in return:“No lust, it developed, was so gratifying to a man as the lust that blossomed only after esteem had taken root.” (76%)This is as true for the reader as it is for Theo. It’s delicious. Grant achieves the story and the characters and the romance with a command of language and imagery which drives me mad with jealousy. A few examples:“ “Because that is not what I choose to do.” The words had such clean edges, she might have sliced them on a tiny guillotine.” (9%)And, how’s this for a description of a heroine?“So many different ways women had of being beautiful. Mrs Russell’s beauty was of a kind that spoke in whispers, veiled her like mist. As though she has some hope of keeping it to herself, and granted her curves might escape a careless man’s notice, so gradual were they. She wanted a discerning lover. One who saw all her sensual promise. One who knew how to tease out the voluptuousness from an understated form.” (10%)Theo’s feelings on Martha unexpectedly helping him with a task:“He felt as though he were suspended in air, or floating on a strange warm sea. Time might stop all round them and here he would be, washed with the music of soft feminine modulations, working away in the pleasure of unspoken companionship. Why she should have confidence that his project must be worthy of her own industry, he could not fathom.” (43%)Martha, on being invited by Theo to tie him up:“For an instant she felt as though someone had flipped her skin raw side out: she was one furious blush head to toe.” (72%)Martha’s perfectly in character declaration, as observed by Theo:“ “Yes. Duty.” Her whole body tensed with sweet,self-conscious effort, as though she must find the way to deliver her next words through a mouthful of rocks. “My heart as well. I love him.” Her cheeks went scarlet. Any observer might conclude she’d just confessed to some mortifying mishap.” (95%)There are so many more quotes I could have chosen. I have half the book highlighted on my Kindle. It’s just brilliant. I would not change any part of it and I look forward to re-reading it periodically for the rest of my days.

  • Bubu
    2019-03-26 16:54

    I must admit, this book is one of the weirdest I've read lately. It has the push-all-the-wrong-buttons features, and yet, I loved every bit of it. If you want a different take on Historical Romances, different approaches, this one may be something for you. You're in for a treat.The wrong buttons?- A yuck-worthy plot. Heroine's husband dies, she needs to produce an heir in order to keep the estate, etc. She'll pay hero money for one month of sex. And everything goes eeewwww. But the execution. Oh wow! Nothing was as expected.- A fairly unlikable heroine. I was never quite sure why Martha was so emotionally cold to begin with. Was it her experience with her first husband? She sure didn't like it. Something in her childhood? A mix of both? At times, I was extremely frustrated with her. At the end of the day, I was reading a romance, so her coldness was bewildering, to say the least. Despite all that, she cares for those who are under her protection and - most importantly - she has a spine! She has her goals and she'll move heaven and earth to achieve them. But not in a Wham!-Bam!-Boom!-I'm-feisty-and-loud kind of way. - A fairly unlikable hero. So many so-called rakes in HRs turn out to be anything but rakes. Theo, on the other hand, is a rake. Banished to the country by his father for his scandalous and reckless lifestyle, he engages in an illicit affair with Martha to get her pregnant. His motivation? He's bored, he needs money and why not have some fun during his exile. But, but but...where's the romance? Where are the emotions? Where is the I-must-shag-her-or-I'll-die feeling? No, Martha is tolerable enough for him to get a hard-on. He is not an arsehole. Just someone who's been quite careless. Or I could simply call him shallow.Back to the execution of the plot and the character development. Everything is different about this book. The first sexual encounters between Martha and Theo are awkward, at best. In one scene, Theo has to watch himself shagging Martha in a mirror in order to finish and he feels like he's having sex with a corpse. Now, that's disgusting, but the way Cecilia Grant tells the story is so compelling, so poignant, that I wanted to know how she would make these two unlikable characters fall in love and make me care for them at the same time. She does a tremendous job with it. She does it with Theo. Theo is a happy-go-lucky person, the complete opposite of Martha. He may find the first times with her sexually frustrating, but he's open to learn more about her, and he asks. I don't think I could have finished this book if it hadn't been for Theo. Like Martha, we learn that there's more to Theo. He isn't as shallow and careless as he appeares to be at the beginning. He's smart, loves having fun, and has no problem making fun of himself. Martha, confused by his constant questioning, as his only job is to give 'his seed', starts responding. Unwillingly, at first, because at the same time she's scared that Theo may not hold his end of the bargain, but the more time passes, the more natural it comes to her to talk to him about herself. Obviously, because of her rather cold character, it takes longer to warm up to Martha. It's all about the layers. Layer by layer, her character is revealed and by the end of the book, I loved her. I loved them both, actually. All the wrong buttons had turned to the right ones. I was captivated by a story of two so different people, not only compared to each other, but to the usual characters we find in the run-of-the-mill romances.And that's because they talk. It sounds simplistic, but in essence, it's what makes love believable, in my opinion. Two people talk, share, listen, experience and they fall in love. It's brilliantly done. I could feel them falling in love with each other and it was bittersweet.The end of the month, and with it the end of their 'contract', approaches. Martha and Theo start realising that something deeper has grown between them. Deeper than friendship. They find themselves in a proper dilemma. There's a lot going on in the story. But to keep it simple: If Martha is pregnant, Theo won't be able to claim the child as his. He was fine with it at the start of their affair, but as he has fallen in love with Martha, the thought becomes intolerable. On top of it, he knows that he will lose Martha to the duty of being the ward to the heir. If she isn't pregnant, it'll destroy Martha's dream of making a real change to the lives of those who are under her protection. The way Cecilia Grant brings everything together is well done. We even get a little bit of drama in the end, in a book that shows us two so un-dramatic people falling in love.By the way, 'well done' is an understatement. Grant is a great storyteller.

  • Ingela
    2019-04-07 21:52

    Review written June 29, 20174 1/2 Stars - A great historical with a bit different touch and feeling. Terrific audio narration as well. A Lady Awakened (a very clever and fitting title) is the first #1 in the HR series Blackshear Family (ones recommended by my friend Sofia) by Cecilia Grant. A romances author new for me. This was a good one — My big applauseI was listening to the 12:39 hours audiobook very well with lot of feeling narrated by Susan Ericksen. Twelve perfect good audiobook listening hours. Recommended!**********************************************« Martha Russell is a proper, laced-up widow, who finds more pleasure in charitable acts than she ever did in her marriage bed. Theophilus Mirkwood is a known rake whose all-too-true reputation has basically gotten him thrown out of London. »A "grown up romance" in my taste with a interesting, sensitive and witty storyline. I couldn't guess...I feel I probably have longed for heroes of this kind (even if I didn't know). You admirers of for example Courtney Milan's historicals will probably recognize this storyline style with a bit "unusual" male main character. — A slightly unsure, not overly strong or always secure about himself male to start with. Different from the most common ones in this genre at least. Not the perfect always sexy caveman like man, but instead the type of man you typically know from real life ... and hopefully love for his big and good heart and for all his ordinary human weaknesses. — Mr Mirkwood was just perfect. Loved him from start to end. ... As I also felt about this so very admirable strong, to start with also a bit cold hearted, nice heroine. **********************************************‘If one believed, as the Bible and the Greek myths had it, that man had been created first and woman after, then one must conclude there had been some dramatic improvement in the process following that amateurish first attempt. Where she was molded, he was rough-hewn. Where her form curved with logic and precision, not to mention breeding parts tucked neatly away, he looked rangy, haphazard, his male parts an ill-placed afterthought. Like the last leftover bits of clay scraped together, rolled into primitive forms and stuck onto the middle of him, the stones in their rough red sack and that improbable appendage dangling to the fore.’**********************************************Oh, so much I enjoy to be really surprised about a new author and read (don't let the HR typical book cover fool or trick you). As now after just finished, to just sit here in the sofa with that wonderfully satisfied and positive feeling. — Conclusion? I just must keep on choose more historicals by this so wonderful clever HR story teller. What a marvelous good surprise this was. Sincerely enjoyed and "loved" A Lady Awakened in all ways. **********************************************I LIKE - to be so pleased about a book as this one

  • Daniella
    2019-03-27 17:53

    A Lady Awakened was my first Cecilia Grant book and most probably my last. To put it bluntly, this was just mediocre at best, and painfully boring at worst.I have three main issues with it:First, the writing style was verbose and confusing. I was surprised to find it reminiscent of the stream of consciousness style of narration, which, for me, would be a very odd style to employ in writing a romance novel. I think this was the first time I encountered this in Romancelandia. I don't know what effect it was supposed to have, but it did not go well. It was just... weird.For example, there were so many passages like this:Oh, for God’s sake. He was a disgrace to whoredom. To stud-animaldom as well. What bull ever felt a moment of concern for whether the cow actually desired him? Quickly he moved into position. Put a hand down to brace himself. Filled his lungs again. And with one mighty push, he was in. Mere mechanics would take care of the rest. Enough times in and out would get him there. Her tight grip on him—had he ever been so exquisitely sheathed?—might get him there even sooner.She ought to touch him, though. Her right arm lay slack on the mattress; her left bent to keep that fist at her shoulder. “Can you put your hands on me?” he said in a hoarse whisper. Hark at him, asking politely when the occasion called for command.Imagine a whole book filled with interior monologues like that. Ugh, no.Second, the characters were flat, uninspiring and annoying. This held true especially for Martha. Dear Lord. She was so dour and grave most of the time that I failed to connect to her. Can you believe she said things like "Please get on with it already" during her first time with Theo? God. Girl, you don't do that.At least Theo was kind of interesting. But aside from him, the others in the novel had personalities of a dust pan. Meh.Third, there was no chemistry between the leads, and the sex scenes were so cringeworthy and awkward. Yeah, I blame the heroine for this one. Like I said, she was just so hard to put up with I actually felt bad for Theo. I don't even know how he managed to get turned on when she was such a bitch most of the time.Honestly, I was so relieved to finish this book. I don't think I could stomach Martha and the horrible writing for another minute. Good riddance, Martha.

  • Kinga
    2019-04-14 16:55

    Here is the wonderful premise of this: A recently widowed Martha Russell will lose her estate and her much valued independence unless she proves she is carrying an heir to her late husband. Only she isn’t. Therefore she needs to get pregnant fast. Enter Theo Mirkwood, an exiled good-for-nothing playboy. Martha decides to strike a deal with him - he is going to fornicate with her every day for a month and she is going to pay him a certain amount of money. It seems like the book will just be a long list of sex scenes, but there wouldn’t be a story if it wasn’t for the fact that Martha is as prim, proper and uptight as they get. Theo tries all sorts of tricks on her but she just lays there like a piece of wood with her eyes closed thinking of England. The romance and even physical attraction take forever to develop. To the readers who like to have sparks flying from the page one, I’d like to dedicate this:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ7uXX...Slowly and surely, Martha makes Theo grow the fuck up and Theo makes Martha loosen up a little. Finally the Lady awakens and it all culminates in one of the hottest sex scenes I have read in a romance novel. I shit you not. I intend to send my boyfriend a copy of those few pages asking him if he is interested in historical reenactments. Yeah, I think in general this book was psychologically almost realistic and historically almost accurate. It would’ve got five stars from me (very rare for a romance novel) and become my ultimate Regency Romance if it wasn’t for the awful head hopping every half a paragraph. But after all it was Cecilia Grant’s debut, so I am going to cut her some slack here. As far as girly porn goes, I am expecting great things from this woman.Also, see that hair on the book cover? I want that hair. Oh, and that dress, too. Ok, I am done here. Over and out.

  • Joanna Loves Reading
    2019-04-05 19:02

    This book is certainly unique. I am not quite sure what to think of it. The comparison I keep coming back to is it's the Chevy Chase movie of HR. It started with many awkward funny moments that primarily took place in the bedroom, and I was amused, laughing out loud at times. Then the joke went on too long, and I got bored and annoyed. It probably does not help that I am not a fan of comedy of errors where the MC(s) are almost solely to blame for their misfortune. I have a fairly sizable dislike of the vacation movies and other similar ones in that vein (I am looking at you Meet the Parents). Ultimately, while this book has some funny parts, it really lacked in the romance department. It wasn't a total fail, but I just didn't care much by the end of it.Besides the early funny bits, I did enjoy the growth of the hero from being an immature scapegrace to a responsible land owner, who cared about his people and wanted to provide for them. That was very well done and props to the author for that development. I felt the heroine didn't have as much of a transition and her sudden change in direction at the end felt a bit forced. I was hoping for an easier time for both of them as they decided to be together, but instead it ends with a scandal. The premise is unusual-- the only one I have read that comes close is Darius by Grace Burrowes. The story telling is unique, and it has a comedic tone to it. There is plenty of detail, that showed the research put in by author. I can see why people like it, but it just didn't fully work for me.

  • Alexis Hall
    2019-04-17 22:09

    I read Cecilia Grant's A Lady Awakened not so much over Christmas as on Christmas, ignoring my partner’s family, the Queen’s speech, and even Toy Story 3 to finish reading it. Because it’s honestly that good. I think it’s unavoidable to make more of the things you read at the end of the year compared to the beginning, but A Lady Awakened simply has to stand has one of the most original, intriguing and tiny-mind-blowing books I read in 2013.The book opens with the heroine, Martha Russell, childless, newly widowed and about to return to her brother’s home to live out the rest of her days as a quiet burden upon his family, a fate she has no choice but to resign herself to enduring. Her solicitor, however, encourages her to remain at her late husband’s estate until it is absolutely certain that no heir has been conceived. Martha knows that she isn’t pregnant, but she has her own commitments to Seaton Hall: specifically the servants and tenants, who rely on the family for their livelihood, and the building of a local school, to which she has given her support. She also learns that the man who stands to inherit is a dissolute character, who previously forced himself upon some of the women of the household. Realising that all these problems would be solved if she was pregnant, Martha strikes a deal with her new neighbour Theo Mirkwood, temporarily exiled from London for extravagance and general debauchery. They’ll have sex every day for a month, and Martha will pay him, “regardless of issue” to quote the lady directly.What follows, I suppose, is a lovers-to-friends story, except they’re not really lovers because while their daily sexual engagements are...something. What they’re really aren’t is lover-like, much to Theo’s dismay. Martha is determined that the arrangement remain strictly business, and while the first half of the novel is this excrutiating awkward-off of unsexy sex it’s also completely fascinating to watch two people with completely irreconcilable worldviews, motivations and value systems clash, fail to understand each other, and then gradually, and subtly, begin to move through acceptance, and understanding to friendship and love. And to situate the most visible expression of all this emotional and intellectual development in the bedroom is unbelievably bold, clever and impressive. Ms. Grant, I totally take off all my hats.Full review is over here at Heroes and Heartbreakers. Yay!

  • Vintage
    2019-04-14 21:49

    It’s not often I get a case of hero pity, but I have a serious case now. Our charming reprobate and all around really nice guy is propositioned by the very recent widow to bed her in order to impregnate her so she can, hopefully, gain control of her husband’s estate. More nice guy evidence: he takes food and gifts to his workers and is horrified and literally sickened when one of the mothers thinks he is there to seduce her slow daughter.It’s an uphill battle as the widow simply lays there with the occasional impatient sigh of a hostess that wishes a boring guest to leave. He loses his cool and asks her to act less corpse like which shames her a little.As for our heroine, she has a good heart even if she does suck all the joy out of pretty much any room she’s in whether she’s doing her imitation of a cold fish with the hero or unknowingly belittling one of her tenants daughter’s reading material. Why read a frothy novel when you can read a novel about Scotland from a historical view? Ms. Tiny H would certainly disapprove of Goodreads HP circle of readers.The h is an honorable h. Her reason for defrauding the rightful heir is not only because of the school for local girls she wants to open but because the rightful heir is known as a rapist and already has at least one bastard in the area as well as several women he abused.The h warms up eventually, and her humor is as dry as the Sahara especially when she's thinking about men's penises. Just take my word; she has a different take on the male anatomy than most romance heroines.

  • Lindsay
    2019-03-28 23:58

    I first saw this one on NPR's 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances list last summer when I was just beginning to read HR. The premise sounded a bit silly to me then, and honestly still did a bit when I started this a few days ago. Martha is made a widow in circumstances that will leave her with hardly anything to live on, forcing her to be dependent on her brother unless she were to produce an heir from her late husband. (Which she already knows to be impossible.) She finds out that her late husband's brother, who is to inherit the estate, raped two housemaids years ago when he lived there. She decides that he cannot possibly inherit and thereby put the current staff in danger, so she hires the new guy in town, a rake whose family forced him to the countryside from London, to try to get her with a child that she can pull of as her late husband's, thereby leaving the nasty brother with nothing.I mean, that in and of itself is a bit ridiculous. (It very much put me in mind of the things I've read of Lorraine Heath's- always with the baby mama drama, if you will.) I wouldn't have started this had I not seen it so positively reviewed by Goodreads friends, so I proceded. What I found was an incredibly engaging, well-written story that I absolutely flew through. And pissed me the hell off at times. The problem? The h is incredibly difficult to like. She's sanctimonious, preachy, prudish, rigid, pious, judgemental....you name it. She insists that she can't enjoy any of the "attentions" bestowed upon her by Theo, her hired "stud" as she calls him, and essentially tells him for the good portion of the book that she can't hold him in any esteem....even though she's hired him to commit fraud herself. Her transgressions are okay because she's doing it to save the housemaids. His aren't because he was just a rake out for fun. Um, huh? Needless to say, this makes for some awkward scenes, especially for the first half of the book or so. Theo, on the other hand, has been a rake in the past, but he's not a bad guy. And throughout the book, he rises to the occasion time and time again, becoming an upstanding citizen, a hard worker, and all around swoon-worthy hero. He puts up with all of Martha's preachy crap, taking it all in stride, and does manage to become a better man because of it- which I take issue with. Not the becoming a better man part, but the fact that Martha wouldn't think of Theo in kind terms until he changed to fit her expectations. I don't like storylines where one character has to change for the other. I don't think it's realistic or fair. But change he did, and Martha (view spoiler)[ still turned him down when he told her he loved her and wanted to marry her. Well...until the end, anyway.(hide spoiler)]Without giving everything away, Martha's meddling in the affairs of the estate doesn't go the way she planned, and it turns out all of her sanctimonious nonsense could have actually done more harm than good. Which I thought served her right...but not Theo. I felt bad for him on several occasions, feeling he deserved someone better. Maybe he needed a stern woman to straighten him out, but stories like that aren't my cup of tea. She was always so rigid and prim and...nunnish. Everything always had to be by her rules. Yet, she justified things that most people would consider very wrong by saying they were for the good of others. Whatever. So....what kept me reading? The writing is really, really good. It flows so easily off the page, and I got swept up in it. I had to know what was going to happen to these two. Theo was fantastic throughout, almost making up for Martha's inadequacies. His constant subtle changes from rake to redeemed were expertly crafted. It was definitely different for HR, and I did like not knowing what to expect as a result. The physical comes quickly, but there's a long wait for romance. I know I've bashed Martha a lot here, but there were times that I found her strength and resolve admirable. She was just incredibly difficult for me to relate to or understand, being so unemotional and not giving poor Theo much for the longest time. He becomes almost unrealistically perfect in every way- almost. I like how it really wasn't anachronistic at all- even the sound of the writing seemed not modern to me- except for one "love" scene about 3/4 through, which considering how prudish Martha had been seemed out of place. I had a hard time rating this, but I settled on 3.5 stars rounded up. The writing and Theo deserve as much.

  • Mary B.
    2019-03-30 23:04

    I enjoyed parts of this, but disliked others. Theo is a man who has been sent to his family's country estate in Sussex to 'reform' in a sense. For the most part, he is unremarkable. I read him as a character who has a serious lack of self-esteem, although he generally puts up a good front of confidence. Martha is a recent widow who cares very deeply about the humanity of all people, which the author portrays in her selfless care and concern for the education and well-being of her servants, tenants and their families. She is very proper, and even a bit stuffy. Indeed, this is a perfect example of an starchy-heroine-gets-unstarched. When her husband leaves her without heir and without a dower to support herself, she is devastated. Not for her own lack of support (she has an invitation to go and live with her brother), but because without an heir, her husband's estate will fall into the hands of his younger brother, a man remembered in the area for his predatory actions towards the female servants of the house. Martha resolves that, one way or another, she must protect the people for whom she cares so deeply. One way she sets about to accomplish this is to get with child - in the hopes it might be a son - who she can pass of as her late husband's issue. Then she learns about her new neighbor, who has a slight reputation for his wantonness. And this very proper widow makes a very improper proposition.And so begins a very odd relationship between Theo and Martha, which slowly unfolds and develops very naturally and realistically. This author puts us deeply into the characters' psyches - letting us read their thoughts and feelings as if we were thinking and feeling them ourselves. This, interspersed with Theo's slow ascent towards a greater understanding of himself, and his realization of his capability as a landowner and farmer. And Martha's ascent into a greater understanding of herself as a woman and a lover. Truly, this story shows how two partners can fulfill in one another each one's missing parts. Martha provides Theo with her strengths - intellectual companionship and the practical advice he needs to run his estates. Theo provides Martha with his strengths - awakening her to the joy that can be had from loosening her stays (literally and figuratively), and showing her that there is nothing wrong with needing and wanting another person. The romance itself was beautiful. I almost rated this three stars, but in retrospect, I have little to criticize in the execution of this story. Primarily, it is laborious to get through. And while the writing was excellent, it didn't seem to have the smooth flow that I tend to enjoy in a well-written romance. Plus, there were lengthy technical passages that got a tad boring. I admit, there were parts I had skim through simply because I was completely bored with them. All in all, I wouldn't read this one again. Time will tell if it is a memorable read or not.

  • Melanie♥
    2019-03-27 16:04

    Goodreads Giveaway win. Looking forward to receiving this book in the mail. I always enjoy the opportunity of discovering a new author.+++++++++++++++3.5 stars. I must say I found the first half of this book slow going. It was hard to connect with the lead characters, especially the heroine. As I neared the mid-way point, the writing flowed and I found myself enjoying the story.I certainly look forward to more from this promising author.

  • Miranda Davis
    2019-04-04 20:49

    Masterful. Lapidary precision in creating the two main characters. Spare, evocative language, though one must become accustomed to it. Each is profoundly affected by the other in a situation utterly antithetical to anything either would've ever sought under normal circumstances. She's a strictly proper widow who needs a pregnancy pronto to forestall a predatory brother-in-law from inheriting the estate. He's a baronet's heir who is exiled to the country to mend his ways and who considers sex his greatest skill. She proposes to buy his seed over the course of a month - a pregnancy might produce a legitimate heir - and he agrees. Their regard for each other develops slowly despite this inauspicious beginning. Their business-like trysts play out with sly, biting wit, and slight, seismic rumblings eventually lead to more. In terms of history, I don't think I've read a better blending of historical context and fictional events in a Regency. The highly stylized manner of her self-reflection also reinforced a feeling of constraint and the weight of propriety that felt appropriate given the time and her rigid, remote character. Speaking of which, despite all the author's literary restraint and stunning craft, I have to admit I found Martha to be an uptight, relentlessly preachy killjoy beyond bearing for most, no almost all, of the book. Yes, I know there were glimpses of something else warmer but...As far as I can tell, Theo simply decided he found her off-putting demeanor charming, challenging and arousing. And she does mean well, that was made abundantly clear. Then there's Theo, the charming ne'er do well, who finds admirable purpose beyond being the widow's stud. I liked him from the first, throughout and to the end. The best explanation for why he tried so hard with her was this: "No [woman's] lust...was so gratifying to a man as the lust that blossomed only after esteem had taken root." But this is what I admired most about the story: I felt disgust for her, as he must've, when he was toiling away and she lay there night after night. Until finally, he let slip he "may as well be swiving a propped-up corpse." I agreed with him. I wondered, just as she did, whether or not he would return. When he appeared the following day, she reacted by loosening up and giving a tiny morsel more of herself, and I understood her desire to reward him for honoring their bargain. I felt his frustration and incomprehension over a woman resisting physical pleasure on principle; I understood her resisting pleasure from an act as dishonorable as it was necessary, (such a killjoy). I understood, but as I say, I didn't much like her rigidity in all things. And that is what makes her such an extraordinary creation, she is someone I don't particularly like -- as a person. However, it was a beautifully told story of two unlikely people finding love together.

  • Steelwhisper
    2019-04-04 20:03

    Short review: I don't like heroines who're man-haters. Such an obnoxious, skeevy woman!Long review: Someone appears to have watched too much "Whitechapel" and "Downton Abbey" without truly understanding it.The author's voice was so dry and laboriously stuffy I had trouble reading it at all. If that was an attempt at making the heroine unlikeable it was a full success. In addition the staccato, curt sentences mixed with quite peculiar similes and metaphors made for something which came over as pretentious, very strained and also quite boring.The author appears to think that she managed to represent a "typical aristocratic and prim Englishwoman". Well, maybe she should have a long talk with Maggie Smith for some help with that. Because unlike Smith's able performance of the Downton dowager Grant's Martha Russell hasn't got even a mild spark of life, passion or interest hidden behind her prim mask. Instead the author appears to think that the mask people then presented was the person. The result is a truly obnoxious character who I was disliking heartily not even ten pages into the book.What's worse, the plot--in itself interesting enough so I bought the book--didn't go with the character, nor was it even truly researched. *Any* offspring born within the year after a husband's demise was perforce considered being a rightful heir at the time. Which is why women of that era were over one year in strict mourning and incapable of having another marriage within that timeframe. As to that dead wood of a heroine: I plainly disbelieve such a woman capable of even thinking up such a scheme, not to speak of going through with it, and the author never sold me on that. I also had problems accepting such a limp git of a wimp as a hero, who must have been terribly needy and of extremely low expectation to even get it up for such a heroine.There were more factual errors, enough so that together with the distancing, dour main character I never really connected with this book. The premise was intriguing, the execution lacking, and so sorry, this sure as hell wasn't a romance or lovestory. At 20% or so I skimread and then skipped to the end without finding anything improving.

  • Keri
    2019-04-19 19:09

    It took me a bit to get used to CG's style of writing, but eventually the story caught me. It took me most of the book to warm up to Martha, but loved Theo from the start.

  • Carol *Young at Heart Oldie*
    2019-04-08 23:16

    This was Cecilia’s Grant’s debut novel in 2011 and it has to be one of the most unconventional Historical Romances I have read. While the premise bears similarities to other books I have read, it is Ms Grant’s unique voice and wonderfully flawed and interesting characters that make this book exceptional.When Martha Russell’s husband is killed in a riding accident, she knows that, as a childless widow, Seton Park will pass to her late husband’s brother, James Russell. With very little means of supporting herself, she has no option but to live as her brother’s dependent. Then her solicitor advises her that it is normal to wait sufficient time to ensure that she is not carrying her late husband’s son and heir. She knows full well she is not pregnant but it offers her a few more weeks or a month at Seton Park. She is not only concerned for the future of her tenants and servants but she has given her support to the building of a new school for the local children. This could be in jeopardy because James Russell will decide whether it is to be built or not and Martha also learns of his reputation for taking advantage of female servants. Desperate to protect both the tenants working on the estate and the females of her household, she formulates a plan…to get pregnant. All she needs is a gentleman who is willing to have sex with her once a day for a month, for which service she is willing to pay five hundred pounds regardless of whether it is a boy or girl, and fifteen hundred pounds more if she gives birth to a son. Learning of his disreputable reputation, newly arrived Theophilus Mirkwood seems like the perfect candidate.This could end in a dozen different kinds of disaster. There’d be no guarantee of success. And how to get through it without losing all claim to principle, she couldn’t begin to imagine.So be it. She could wait for Providence to come to these women’s aid, or she could make use of what Providence had already put in her path. “Sheridan.” She twisted to face her maid squarely. “Tell me again about Mr. Mirkwood.Tired of his son’s spendthrift and dissolute ways, Theophilus (Theo) Mirkwood’s father has stripped him of his allowance and banished him to the country estate in Sussex in the hope that Theo can improve himself by learning some land management skills. Theo is surprised to receive a request that he call on his neighbour, the widowed Mrs Russell, but he is totally unprepared for what follows!“I can get you funds, Mr. Mirkwood, in exchange for something from you. I need to conceive a child.”Only by heroic will and quick use of his napkin did he prevent a mouthful of tea from spewing straight into his lap. He choked and sputtered, and groped for the fresh napkin she held out to him as his teacup met its saucer all clumsy and percussive.Somehow the prim, stern widow, dressed head to toe in black, intrigues him and he finds himself fantasising about what she would be like in bed. Despite her insistence that this is purely a business arrangement from which she has no wish to derive any pleasure, Theo is sure that, as an experienced lover, he will be able to seduce her. But Martha seems completely immune to all his efforts and, if he is to fulfil their bargain, he may have to rethink his strategy.What I love about this book is the understated way in which Ms Grant builds the relationship between these two disparate people. Theo is charming, funny and good-natured with the ability to put people at ease, but he is honest enough to admit to being a spoiled, lazy wastrel because that’s all anyone had ever expected of him. Martha is the complete opposite – serious, stubborn, highly principled with a genuine desire to better the lives of her tenants and provide education for the young estate girls.Their ‘afternoon appointments’ are awkward and totally unsexy. Martha wants Theo for one thing only…his seed and nothing else. I’m so pleased Ms Grant didn’t make Martha frigid. She has experienced pleasure (albeit at her own hand) but she refuses to compromise on her principles. Although she comes to like Theo, she can never have any emotional connection to a man she cannot respect and whose sole purpose in life is the pursuit of pleasure. I admire how Martha stays true to her principles throughout the story. Poor Theo. The one thing he really excels in is knowing how to please a woman but having Martha shrinking from his every touch has him questioning his own self-worth.Surprisingly, Ms Grant imbues these impersonal sex scenes with considerable humour and these inner thoughts of Martha’s are my particular favourite.Where she was molded, he was rough-hewn. Where her form curved with logic and precision, not to mention breeding parts tucked neatly away, he looked rangy, haphazard, his male parts an ill-placed afterthought. Like the last leftover bits of clay scraped together, rolled into primitive forms and stuck onto the middle of him, the stones in their rough red sack and that improbable appendage dangling to the fore.Through their regular after-sex discussions, they get to know each other better and an unlikely friendship develops. They take walks and start to learn from and help each other. Although initially feigned to gain Martha’s approval, Theo’s interest in land management and his tenants becomes genuine and Martha encourages him to believe in his own abilities, something no one has ever done before. Martha’s reserved nature means that she finds it difficult to socialise and when Theo discovers that she has no friends, acquaintances or callers, he arranges for people to call and I loved Martha’s response when Theo asks her…“And what worthy things did you accomplish today?”I didn’t accomplish a thing.” Her smile deepened, sweet and bracing as a bite of lemon cake. “I had callers.”Gradually this friendship grows into affection, admiration and finally love and I like how their sexual encounters undergo subtle changes to reflect their evolving relationship.It seems improbable that such a morally principled woman like Martha would be willing to cheat a man out of his inheritance but, for her, it is the only way to protect her female servants, her tenants and ensure that the school is built. When she meets James Russell’s wife and children, I could feel that she is troubled over cheating these boys out of their future inheritance and has great sympathy for Mrs Russell.The secondary characters, Mrs Weaver and her children, Mr Barrow and Mr Atkins, the curate, all add depth to the story and highlight the ways in which Theo and Martha grow and change in the course of the story. Look out for the Weaver’s devious pig who steals the show with his antics every time he makes an appearance.I like how Ms Grant portrayed the villainous James Russell as an “unimpressive figure”. As was frequently the case with such men, it was his position and power which allowed him to prey on the women in his employ.I thought the ending was well thought out with everything tied up in a satisfactory and believable way and allowing Martha and Theo to finally marry. As a devotee of the Epilogue, the lack of one was my only gripe, but not enough for me to give the book less than 5 stars.I can’t end this review without reference to Ms Grant’s wonderful writing and here are a few of my favourite quotes.“Shouldn’t you have seduced me first? Or drugged my tea, and let me wake up chained to a bed?”She colored, and looked more disapproving yet. “This is a business arrangement. I should like to conduct it accordingly.”★✩★The pig heaved forward, but Theo blocked it with one boot. “May I present Mr. Mirkwood, the proprietor’s eldest son? I’m showing him round the estate today.” With surprising agility, the pig feinted left and then surged right. He just managed to get his boot in front of it again, prompting an indignant barrage of squeals and grunts to round out the general cacophony.★✩★ His blood hummed and tingled as though tiny benevolent hornets were racing through his body. ★✩★Damnation, but she did make him feel like a king. She made him feel as though he’d always been one, muddling along just waiting for her to kiss him out of some enchantment into his birthright.MY VERDICT: Definitely recommended and I look forward to reading the other books in the series with relish.Blackshear Family series (click on the book covers for more details):This review is also posted on my Rakes and Rascals Blog:https://rakesandrascals.wordpress.com...

  • Lisa
    2019-04-06 21:58

    Well, I have been wanting to read this book for a long time it seems. First I was drawn to the gorgeous cover (although the modes hair color is wrong and I do believe Ms Grant acknowledged that but its still pretty) then I was drawn to the interesting sounding plot. So when I saw this up on Netgalley I grabbed it and happily dove in. It started off great but then the middle dragged a bit too much for me. Thankfully the ending picked back up and it finished out strong. Here are some of my thoughts. . .~~Martha Russell is newly widowed and when the terms of her late husbands will become known, she is desperate to keep the estate for some pretty selfless reasons. She comes up with the idea to hire a lover for a month in a desperate attempt to get pregnant and pass the child off as her late husbands and hopefully keeping control of the estate. The resulting actions portray Martha as a cold woman who is very intent on her one purpose and has no room for pleasure so for most of the book it seems a bit clinical. But like I said, her reasons are truly selfless so I did warm to Martha a bit in the beginning but it took almost until the end for me to truly like her.~~Theophilus Mirkwood has just been given a set down by his father for his rather frivolous lifestyle and when the unassuming Martha proposes her plan to him, he accepts as he is in need of funds due to the fact his father has cut him off. But he is quickly met with the glacier wall of Martha and it takes a whole lot for that wall to finally thaw and for him to teach her the true delights of the bed. Theo was fun and I really enjoyed him during his scenes. He has a natural charm with his tenants but still bungles that up from time to time and Martha is the perfect counterpart to that. Theo is extravagant in his life and unconstrained yet generous and as a result, enjoyable to read.~~The secondary characters add a nice balance of normalcy to this book. There is alot of talk about opening a school and Martha is almost like their champion to help all the underprivileged boys and girls get some education. But on the flip side of that...I almost felt like there was a bit too much talk about the poor and their needs and found myself skimming bits of it. It was great to see both Martha and Theo develop proper relationships with their tenants and come up with a solution that would benefit both. Overall I liked this book but I didn't love it as much as I hoped. I really struggled with the first half and felt like the pacing was a bit slow for me. Miranda is unfortunately compared to a corpse for her lack of response during all the intimate moments and I feel like that is sort of a decent comparison for her. Her heart was in the right place but she would not open her mind to Theo and I just wished that had happened a bit sooner. It really picked up halfway through though and I really enjoyed the ending. The writing was good and seemed to flow well and I chuckled a few times, which is always a bonus. This is Cecilia Grants debut novel, and though I struggled, I am looking forward to more as I am sure she has a wonderful career ahead of her! 3 1/2 starsCouple of quotes that stood out for me"Why me? I suppose you've heard I'll rut anything that moves""Martha...it suits you.I should say so. A plain, solid name.If you wish it to be. Or music, if you prefer. All composed of breath and murmur, and sounds that never stop until you want them to."I received this eARC from Bantam via netgalley.com

  • OLT
    2019-04-11 18:01

    When you set down on paper the plot to this HR, it doesn't look all that appealing and might even seem offensive to some persons' sensibilities. Newly-widowed Martha Russell wants to retain control of her late husband's estate and can only do so by producing an heir within the appropriate number of months of her first year of mourning. Unfortunately, she was not pregnant when her husband died. What to do? Hire the stud services of newly-arrived neighbor Theo Mirkwood, whose father has exiled him to their nearby Pencarragh estate as punishment for his wayward ways. She has one month to conceive or it's off to live with her brother and his wife and her brother-in-law will come to take over the Russell property.Well, she's not as mercenary as that sounds. Said brother-in-law is not a good person. He seduces helpless women, wastes money, neglects his wife, and would care not at all about the welfare and education of the tenants at the estate or even about the condition of the estate itself. Martha wants desperately to protect those people who have been relying on her during her time as mistress of the Russell property.Since there's a deadline for getting pregnant, we have sex scenes early on in the book, but it's business-arrangement sex for a good part of the story. Martha is bound and determined not to have any pleasure in their encounters and encourages Theo to just do it and get it over with every time they have sex. No dawdling around with unnecessary kissing and foreplay. Enjoying the experience would only add to the guilt she's already feeling about what she is doing.Well, the rest you just have to read. Theo isn't into necrophilia so he's working towards getting some response from her in bed, while she is blocking his attempts at all cost. And at the same time, out of bed they are becoming acquainted with each other as real people, not just sex partners. Martha begins to see the goodness and responsibility hiding in Theo's fun-loving persona. Theo sees the real caring and feeling woman that cool and aloof Martha works so hard to hide from others.The best thing about the book is the beautiful writing. I venture to say I enjoyed the way the story is written much more than the story itself. This is polished, flowing, wonderful writing and was a joy to read. Very few authors of mass market paperback HRs write this well. IMO, Grant is in a class with Joanna Bourne and Meredith Duran, two exceptionally talented writers of HRs.Other books and movies have tried variations on this theme of using or hiring someone, not a lover, to procreate but this one by Grant is by far the best HR with that theme that I have read. Other recent attempts have been Lorraine Heath's Waking Up With the Duke (London's Greatest Lovers) and Anna Campbell's My Reckless Surrender but Grant's is better than those. Perhaps comparable in romance and poignancy to the Grant book is the movie Firelight (Le lien secret)- Sophie Marceau (Import - All Regions), a beautiful movie set in the 1800s.

  • Cristina
    2019-03-22 21:57

    4,5 starsHa sido toda una sorpresa y muy agradable. Nuevo, refrescante y sumamente creíble. Me atrevería a decir que sigue la escuela de Judith Ivory y para ser su debut literario francamente me parece brillante.

  • Zoe
    2019-04-06 21:58

    Much to my surprise, I finished this book and liked it well enough. Praise the Lord I have finally broken out of my 2 stars book phase, however temporarily, we shall see. Ms Grant's style isn't showy. A lot of hints you cannot miss and a clever use of undertone which gives you just enough to appreciate the scene without being overtly obvious. I liked that, especially in the first 40%. Theo's internal dialogue made me literally laughed out loud. Oh what is a man to do when treated like a stud animal! I however, cannot say that I like all the talks about tenants and agriculture. I skim-read whenever Theo and Martha visited the tenants and the pastor. I know this was supposed to build up Theo as the dependable man that Martha wanted him to be. But I was bored whenever they are out of the bedroom (shame shame). And the bedroom. I don't think the sex was very hot. There certainly are a lot of it, since Theo was really supposed to be the stud. The sex scenes are rather uncomfortable, but I expected this entire business to be uncomfortable so I thought that was how it should be. I would be appalled if all of a sudden they have some earth-shattering sex because "it must be love". I would have thrown up in my mouth I think. However awkward the sex scenes are, this is where they got to know each other, the bedroom had my attention, unlike all the tenant visits and talks about dairy products and agriculture. Overall, I liked the writing and will read from the writer again. The lead characters in this book do not have a lot of chemistry between them but somehow their relationship did not require that. Once Theo supposedly fell in love with Martha, well, chemistry mattered less and esteem took over. So somehow it worked for them. Ms Grant was very successful in painting Theo out to be a playful character. Their initial meeting at the church where Ms Grant wrote about Theo breaking out a smile when he met Martha's eyes, I could see the scene in my mind, very cleverly done. I know some reviewers did not like Martha. I can only say that I did not mind her, which is a feat itself because normally I would have really despised such a heroine: scheming, calculating, cold, mother hen, etc. etc. but somehow I did not mind her. The plot is simple: Martha wanted to be impregnated by Theo to keep the estate to protect the servants and tenants (how noble). Theo was chosen as the stud and they went about this impregnating business while affections grew. Basically it is a woman finding her physical desires and Theo happened to be the man present. A woman's road to sexual satisfaction rarely spells a great story for me. So I am happy that at least I liked the story and was able to finish it. There are not many surprises in the story. After 70% I had the feeling that the story had no material to continue because at 70% Martha realized that she actually desired Theo. And Theo realized that he loved Martha and went as far as telling her that and proposing, only to be shot down by Martha, of course because the book still had to go on for another 30%. I thought the ending was rather artificial but hell this is fiction, I will let it pass. I am beginning to realize that I would only rate a book 4 stars or more if I can establish some kind of a personal connection to the characters. That alone makes 4 and 5 stars rating a rarity. This book is precisely what a 3 star read for me: interesting read which I was able to finish but I felt no personal connection. It was not a compelling story for me for that reason.