Release Date: December 27, 2011
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
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 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?
I am not going to reiterate the plot of the story because the synopsis above does a good job of that but basically the story revolved around Martha and Theo's business proposition--and for most of the book it was strictly a business proposition. Martha was a no-nonsense woman, she was not given to emotions and was practical. Their agreement was that they'd meet everyday for a month and Theo would do his business. That was it. She really had no interest in sex other than it merely something that had to be done so she would conceive. She truly just wanted a "stud horse" so that she'll get pregnant and be able to pass the baby off as her late husband's to protect her estate and her people from her evil brother-in-law. Theo, being the charming London rake that he was tried to make it good for both parties but to no avail. It was actually a source of frustration and annoyance for him in the beginning when Martha would just lie there "like a corpse" while he did his thing.
What was different with A Lady Awakened was that it wasn't the sex that was the culminating thing in Martha and Theo's relationship, it wasn't the be all end all thing in their relationship. It was actually after the sex when they would talk or during their walks that they got to know each other, learned from each other, become true friends and, eventually, through each other, they were able to grow and find themselves. It was through their friendship that true love between them grew (and the sex did get better too for both as their friendship grew). You truly root Martha and Theo to get their happy ending and I found myself a little teary in the end. I do hope that we'll see Martha and Theo again as secondary characters in a future novel to get an update on them.
I liked Theo from the start. He was charming, easygoing and slightly arrogant. Martha was the opposite of Theo and she wasn't likable in the beginning because of her serious personality but I did eventually warm up her. It did have moments in the novel where I felt that it dragged a bit but for the most part I enjoyed the historical details about landowning in Regency England and the pacing was consistent. But my one minor issue was with the villain of the story. The brother-in-law was mentioned throughout as this really awful person and the reason why Martha tried so hard to keep him from inheriting but he was barely in the story. I felt that with all the build-up about him, he should have been a bigger, badder villain.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend Ms. Grant's debut novel, A Lady Awakened, to all historical romance fans. The plot was well-developed, the characters were well-drawn and the prose was wonderful and articulate (sort of like that of Meredith Duran). I am very much impressed by her debut and I look forward to Ms. Grant's future releases.