A Lady Awakened
Bantam/December 27, 2011
From Goodreads ~
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?
A different twist is spun on the hiring of a lover. A desperate woman looks to her neighbor for his services in the hopes of keeping her home. All he needs to do is get her with child then fade into the background. It sounds simple enough especially when you consider the neighbor in question is quite fond of women. But everything doesn't go as planned when emotions become involved.
Martha Russell is a widow with only one option if she wishes to keep her home from her late husband's reprobate of a brother. She contrives to get with child and her sights land on Theo Mirkwood, whom she first sees across the aisle in church. She hears of his reputation with women and decides he would make the perfect candidate for hire. So that's what she does, hire him for stud service as he puts it. I had a very difficult time warming up to Martha and so did poor Theo. She is very proper and exact in her demeanor. Theo finds this out rather quickly as well as her fridged complacency in bed. She looks upon their arrangement as a task that must be done, and done quickly. Nothing more.
Theo Mirkwood has been sent to the family country estate in an attempt to mend his ways. His father sent Theo from London after one too many indulgences and now Theo is rusticating and growing quite bored. Then Mrs. Russell propositions him with a highly unusual request. But Theo thinks quickly on it and agrees. No surprise there. But it turns out this "job" isn't as easy as he expected. Theo really has to work at getting Mrs. Russell to loosen up and not be a "corpse", as he refers to her at one point. The beginning scenes of the attempts at conception left me feeling quite sorry for Theo and feeling his frustration. Martha might as well have been doing needlepoint for all the encouragement she gave him. Theo has a lot of work ahead of him to awaken his lady.
In between trying to conceive the heir that will save all, Theo is learning more about the estate where he has been banished. There is talk of fields and cows and the repairing of roofs. All of these topics seem to hold more interest for Martha than anything they do in bed. It was very odd and I kept wondering if she would ever thaw out. She did eventually because Theo is nothing if not persistent. Their romance didn't start out very romantic and took a long time to get to the romance. There was too much frustration on Theo's part and too little warmth on Martha's. I will say that Martha did try but she was not an affectionate woman by nature and her attempts came across as too analytical rather than emotional. While both Theo and Martha did alter their thinking regarding not only each other but the environment they found themselves in, it was Theo who showed the most progress with Martha still having a ways to go.
A Lady Awakened is not a fast paced romance, instead it takes it's time with the relationship. You could say Theo and Martha start at the customary end as they start off with a physical relationship that progresses to a friendship and emotional bond. The writing is good, if a bit slow in spots and I look forward to reading more from this new author.