A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant
December 27, 2011
Reviewed by Mandi
A Lady Awakened is the debut book by Cecilia Grant, and I’m in love with this author’s voice. It is hard to explain why I love her style of writing so much, but as I read I didn’t want to miss a single word. It is a similar reading experience as to when I read Joanna Bourne books. The way she creates her sentences and the way she creates such small moments that end up so powerful really captivate me.
This story is different in terms of the plot and how things unfold. Martha Russell is a recent widow, and because she didn’t have any children during her marriage (her husband had no children in a previous marriage, so she assumes he was sterile), the brother of her late husband is set to inherit the estate. However, many reasons come into play as to why Martha does not want to lose this estate. First, she is a big supporter of the local school in her town, and if she were to leave, the funding for the school would also go away. She also learns that her brother in-law has been known to sexually abuse the servants at this estate. Fearing for the women in her house, and desperate to continue supporting the school, Martha comes up with a plan.
By total coincidence, Martha has a new neighbor in town. Mr. Mirkwood, or Theo, has been banished to the country by his father because he is a bit of a wastrel. He likes women, and he’s lazy, and his father is hoping he can learn some land management skills if he is banned from coming to town. Martha meets Theo at church (where he dozes through the sermon) and realizes she is the perfect man for her plan. Although Martha knows for a fact that she is not pregnant, no one else knows. She realizes if she pretends there is a chance she is pregnant, with a possible heir, she can stay in town for another month and delay her brother-in-law. She also realizes if she can actually get pregnant this month, then all her problems will be solved. So she asks Theo to have sex with her once a day for a month in hopes that she will conceive so she can pretend the baby is her late husband’s. Theo sees an attractive widow and can’t imagine spending his banishment to the country any other way.
But what is so different is that Martha is extremely wooden and serious. She doesn’t want to experience pleasure with Theo, she just wants to get pregnant.
Theo thinks she just doesn’t understand pleasure and sets out to seduce her, but she refuses all his attempts at anything but completing the act. This is hard for Theo to accept. There are times where he becomes very frustrated and he realizes that sex with none of the intimacy is really no fun at all. And it is not that Martha was abused by her late husband or has any physical or emotional scars that make her rebuff intimacy. It comes down to this:
"You’re not a bad man, Mirkwood. I do think you have promise. But while I find I can be cordial with a man who lives for pleasure, and even come to feel a certain regard for him, I cannot, in the end, truly admire such a man. And I don’t care to give myself up to a man I don’t admire. Pardon my frankness."
Martha holds true to this throughout the book, and I love that her character is allowed to do this. She is steadfast in her beliefs and will not be wooed by his attempts at seduction. It is when Theo becomes involved in the community, when he starts to have a passion for something other than sex, is when Martha is wooed. When he discusses issues he is having with his estate and treats her as a person who is intelligent … that’s when Martha starts to fall in love. Even though these two have sex from the very beginning of the book, this is a true story of courtship.
For all of Martha’s issues in bed, this book is very erotic. There were times at the beginning where I wasn’t sure how I was going to like Martha. As I said, she is very rigid, but Theo is such a charmer and such a warm, kind man that I started to fall in love. And to watch them slowly fall in love with each other is special.
Note: This review first appeared at the Happy Ever After Blog.