I picked this book up on impulse after reading alwaysanswerb’s review. The idea of a romance novel that takes a very tropey premise and almost aggressively refuses to wallow in it intrigued me. It ended up being a really good read, even if the author’s refusal to give my id exactly what it wanted frustrated me. The part of me that appreciates good characterization and realistic plotting and development was very happy with this book.
Our heroine is Martha Russell, a newly widowed woman who never loved (or even much liked) her alcoholic deceased husband, but who was just beginning to relish the chance to use her newfound station to effect positive change in the lives of those who live and worked on her husband’s estate. Her passion is setting up a school for the tenant’s children, especially the girls, but she also sees to their welfare in other ways. All of that is about to be taken away from her, unless it is found that she is pregnant with an heir.
Martha is tightly wound and a rule follower, so it’s a tough decision for her to make, but she goes crafty. Her husband was not able to have children, so she knows she’s not pregnant (even though he kept trying, and trying, much to her displeasure). So if this is going to happen, she’s going to have to secure herself a stud. Enter Theo Mirkwood, Martha’s new neighbor, a carefree young man who’s just been banished to the country by his father to become responsible. Theo is amused and eager to take on the task Martha wants to pay him for. He believes he will enjoy seducing the poor, uptight widow who seems to hate sex.
Neither one of them gets what they signed up for. Martha steadfastly refuses to be seduced, and Theo, while failing to get in Martha’s good graces using his usual tricks, accidentally does it anyway by the novel tack of engaging her mind and treating her first like a person. The book also engages with social ideas of class and gender in a way that I haven’t really seen in romance novels before.
This was an interesting book. I’m excited to see what Cecilia Grant does with other tropes after reading what she did with this one. I kept wanting to feel that guilty pleasure feeling you so often get with romances, and while this book never gave me that feeling, it did give me a good story that was ultimately satisfying because it refused to give me what I wanted up front.