Saturday, February 25, 2012
A Lady Awakened
Martha Russell is not sad when her husband dies, she is more relieved that she will never have to suffer his attentions again and hopes that she can continue to work for the betterment of the families on the estate and help the local vicar open a school for village children. It is not long before she begins hearing rumors about her husband's brother, the man who will inherit the estate, and she fears for the safety of the females who work in the mansion. She knows that there is no chance that she is expecting but she doesn't disclose this information to the family lawyer and enlists the help of her ladies maid to find a way out of her difficult situation. Theo Mirkwood has been exiled to the country for his dissolute ways and his father hopes he will finally show some initiative and give up his womanizing, but the aloof and beautiful widow catches his eye and he thinks his rusticating experience may be more fun than he expected.
Martha has also taken notice of the handsome stranger and sees a solution to her problem and she shocks even herself when she makes her proposition to Theo; she will pay him to spend a month in her bed with a bigger sum to follow if she becomes pregnant but they must conduct their affair with the utmost discretion. Theo believes his experience with women will make the lonely widow an easy conquest but it does not take long for him to discover that all his expertise will not melt her iciness. Martha has no intention of becoming involved with a wastrel like Theo, she wants something more from any man she will give her heart too. Luckily Theo simultaneously sets himself up to work with the estate manager and begins to work out ways to make the farm profitable and, with Martha's help, begins to take an interest in the family's on the estate. Just as the two of them both secretly begin contemplating a future, Martha's brother-in-law shows up with his family and both of them wonder how they can continue their scheme, protect everyone, and find love with the other.
I know that some people found Mrs. Russell far too mercenary in the way she went about achieving her goals but I have to admit I found it admirable that she wanted to look out for the women on her estate and did not feel bad for the man she was "stealing" from given that I don't really have sympathy for rapists under almost any circumstances. I found her rather melancholy, withdrawn, and very un-fun so despite my admiration it was very difficult to actually like her. I can't remember a single incident in the entire book where she smiled or laughed, even during the happy ending. She refused to find the sex with Theo pleasurable and made it decidedly un- pleasurable, for her, for him, and for me to read and while she did have a reason- she didn't want to be just another woman to him- it was too much for me to take because she had to have sex with him anyway. I did not buy into her mind over her body spiel and the sex was painful to read, quite a turn off really, and it wasn't until nearly the end that it became a tad bit hot.
It is always difficult when an author describes a character's past but then gives the reader no real evidence of it and such was the case with Theo the rake. I liked how much he grew and there was a lot of character development on his part as he grew up and began to care about more than himself. Theo was certainly more fun than Martha and that made it very difficult for me to see how these two had a real relationship. I understood that she made him want to be a better man and they both cared about the estate and he helped her make friends but I felt like their personalities were so different that nothing between them could last. I was even more disappointed with the end of the book and the decision Martha makes regarding her estate and I felt like it was an attempt to placate people who would have been upset by her baby making machinations but really just made her look weak to me. The book took me an incredibly long time to read and about halfway through I started to think of it as a horrible slog that I just wanted to end.
Rating: A very slow moving book with characters I could not really like and a relationship that seemed like it was doomed from the start.