Expected Release Date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Random House Publishing
Author’s Website: http://ceciliagrant.com/
My Source for This Book: Won in a contest
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 1
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy
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?
Martha Russell has a problem. Her husband has died in a riding accident, and as she never managed to conceive, she will soon be turned out of her home with nothing more than a small amount of money with which to fund the rest of her life. More than that, however, she learns from her household staff that the man set to inherit her home is a rapist who forced himself on several housemaids, who were then turned out without a reference when they fell pregnant after his assault.
Determined to protect both her servants and herself, she seeks out the aid of her newest neighbor — Theo Mirkwood, a dissolute wastrel and a rake who has been exiled to the country by his exasperated father in hopes that he will finally take responsibility for himself.
What Martha proposes is beyond scandalous — if Theo will agree to sire a child for her, that she can then pass off as the heir to her dead husband, she will pay him more than a small fortune — provided he never speak to anyone of their bargain.
Theo is intrigued by the cold widow’s improper proposal. Supposing that if nothing else, he can enjoy the sensual attention of a woman without having the annoyances that usually come with engaging the services of a courtesan, he agrees to the bargain, only to find himself more in the position of a stud animal than that of a lover.
Determined to bring out the passions he knows Martha is hiding, he quickly discovers that while she may seem to abhor lovemaking with him, she is quite passionate in other areas of her life. As their time together passes together, however, both Theo and Martha begin to discover the hidden depths of the other, and soon, what started as nothing more than a bargain of commerce turns into something far more. But when complications arise, and what was once black and white is shown to actually be shades of gray, will the newfound passion between them be enough?
What Worked For Me:
- I loved the reason that Martha didn’t enjoy lovemaking. At first glance, it would appear that she had found the act between husband and wife to be distasteful, and as such, couldn’t fathom that it could be pleasurable. However, this is far from the case, though she did find it a bit repulsive with her late husband, and initially saw her time with Theo as an act of commerce and nothing else. Her real reasons for not allowing herself pleasure in bed with Theo were both surprising and strangely admirable, and I loved watching him work his sensual magic on her.
- Martha and Theo have sex at least once every single day for an entire month. As such, the sheer volume of sex in this book had the very real potential of bogging the story down. However, Ms. Grant found the absolute perfect balance of explicit sensuality and glossed-over lovemaking to keep the pacing and the steam level right where it needed to be. There were several times where she and Theo quickly got the lovemaking out of the way simply so that they would have time to talk, which was far more romantic than it sounds when I say that.
- Theo was delicious. Watching him transform from wastrel son into a man passionate about the minor estate he’d been given and the people living on his land, as well as watching him learn to care for Martha outside of their “arrangement” was absolutely beautiful.
- I loved the originality of the storyline in general. It’s very rare that a romance novel takes me by surprise, and yet this story was truly a breath of fresh air for a historical, with intricate protagonists, intriguing minor characters, and no true villain.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
- Despite my love for Martha and Theo, I couldn’t help but be slightly put off by the entire bargain. While Martha’s motivation was admirable, I think the fact that Theo would intentionally sire a child that he could never acknowledge made me a little wary of him in general.
- While the ending was as satisfactory as could be given the circumstances, it was a bit of a bittersweet ending to me, as any public relationship that Martha and Theo had would be a scandalous one — a scandal that would then be borne by the child they’d created. As such, I couldn’t help but feel that theirs was not a truly happy ending.
While I tend to prefer my historicals to have sexually inexperienced characters, the entire storyline was absolutely fascinating, and I came to care for every single character in the novel. Martha was not nearly as cold-blooded and passionless as she first appeared to be, and I admit that I was thrilled to discover that she grew so much as a character over the course of the story. Theo was incredible as well, transforming himself from a wastrel and a rake to a man of passion and integrity.
I am very excited to have discovered this debut author, and greatly look forward to her future novels.
A very solid 4/5 Stars.