Debut author Cecilia Grant offers romance readers a look into a storyline that is not often seen. But while the story has the potential to captivate, this reader found it, unfortunately, to be lacking instead.
Martha Russell was only just recently widowed. She doesn't mourn his death, but she didn't plot it either. She is finally free of him...but there's only one problem. Mr. Russell did not leave her pregnant. When she is told that she must move out, for her late husband's brother is to inherit, she makes a sudden decision (after hearing tales of the man's time at the estate years before) and tells a little white lie. It is possible, she tells everyone, that she may indeed be pregnant, and therefore be carrying the estate's rightful heir. In order for this plan to work though, Martha must quickly (and secretly) get pregnant within the next month in order to pass the babe off as her late husband's. But who will she get to do the job?
Enter Theophilus Mirkwood, a typical young man who is accustomed to London and all that it includes. When his father tires of him running around and spending his money with no concerns as to the consequences, he decides it is time for his 26-year-old son to learn how to work and send him off to the country estate in Sussex to learn how things are run there. No sooner then he arrives and he receives a calling card from a neighbor; it's Mrs. Russell, the recent widow he saw in church the other day. Intrigued, he pays her a visit, but he never would have guessed what she was going to ask him for...
Martha decides on Mirkwood to be her "hired stud" for the month, as he already plans on returning to London as soon as possible, therefore leaving her and any babe that may come in peace. She offers him money for his seed with promise of more should she deliver a boy. Though taken back by her proposition, Theo agrees as he figures this easy "job" will help to make his stay in Sussex more enjoyable. He soon finds out, though, that there is no joy in being needed only for his seed, and finds it difficult to come to her day after day while she lies there waiting for it all to be over.
Slowly Theo breaks down the walls surrounding Martha, and by the end of their month together she realizes that with the right man she too can find enjoyment. Meanwhile, she teaches him a few valuable lessons as well, about responsibility, taking care of those less fortunate, and of how to run an estate smoothly. But when Theo declares his love for her, she draws away, arguing that he is young and only thinks he is in love when really any woman would illicit the same response from him. He sets out to prove her wrong-but will she listen?
I tried to enjoy this book, I really did. But the writing was stiff, formal, almost like a report written on how a romance story progresses. This I could have dealt with (maybe). But the biggest flaw in the book's construction lay at the base of its foundation-the characters.
I didn't much care for Martha or Theo; I felt they were about as three-dimensional as the various background characters that showed up throughout the story. There was no emotion from them, no distinction in their characters, and we did not get to see things clearly from their point of view (it read like someone commenting on their outward actions rather than anything internal). In fact, I felt as if, even after almost 350 pages of their story, I didn't even know them. Not as friends, not even as passing acquaintances. Instead, they were as much a stranger to me at the turn of the last page as they were at page one.
If they had been more developed, more defined in who they were and what they stood for, I think the book would have been better off. As it was, the only reason I finished this book was because I had hoped it would improve-and more importantly, I had an honest review to write.
2.5 Stars! Despite the unique storyline potential, the characters and writing was flat, and fell short of my original expectations for A Lady Awakened. The passion, for all the times they joined together in this novel, was often missing, or even worse, felt forced. Personally, I wouldn't recommend this book to others, and I wouldn't read it again myself. However, I try not to cross an author off my list completely after only one book, so I may still look for Grant's book in the future-but I won't go out of my way to do so.
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?