I’ve read a lot of historical romance over the years, and this book was so much more than I was expecting! It’s not the typical tale, and maybe the romance doesn’t fit the mold of the traditional genre but I devoured this in very short order and wanted more. Thank you narfna for your wonderful reviews of this series that prompted me to pick this up.
This is book one in the Blackshear family saga, and tells the tale of Martha Russell, who is newly widowed after a short and somewhat lackluster marriage. Now her future is uncertain due to the fact that her odious brother-in-law is set to inherit the estate unless she is pregnant. Not only does she want to keep the home for herself, but she has discovered that said brother-in-law had been abusing the female staff on past occasions so she wants to protect them. The only problem is that she knows she is certainly not pregnant and after seeing a handsome stranger attending church services, she forms an outrageous plan to proposition him for his seed.
Theo Mirkwood has been exiled to the neighboring estate by his father, in order to grow up and learn how to manage the land. So far he’s been bored to tears, so when Martha proposes her plan to him, he’s intrigued but also shocked, especially since she says she will pay him for his “stud services”. Still, she appeals to his sensual nature and believes that it will be mutually agreeable so he goes along with her plan. What he doesn’t realize is that she wants no pleasure from this transaction; their intimacy will only be for the purpose of getting her pregnant and she is quick to point out that any deviation to that plan won’t be welcome. In fact, when he sees her naked for the first time, he asks her to turn around so that he can see all of her, and she panics until he reassures her that they “will fornicate face-to-face like Christians”. There’s several instances of subtle humour in this book and Theo is the one who is patient, sweet and willing to take things at her pace for the most part.
I can see where some readers may find Martha a dry stick, but I believe that Ms Grant has done an excellent job of portraying her and showing us just why Martha is the way she is. Her marriage may not have been happy, but for her it was the only option she had. She’s not the typical romance heroine who wants to save the rake from ruin, even though by spending time with Theo she begins to see him for more than just a womanizer. They begin to share thoughts on the land and the people that they are responsible for, and see each other in a different light. And just as slowly, Martha finds her sexual awakening with Theo, even though she tries to fight it because it’s against the very nature of her plan. Still, as she learns to admire Theo, the heat between them is more scorching and I liked this passage particularly: “His eyes opened. He knew just what she wanted, and he gave it. If eyes could devour a person, there’d be nothing left of her but a cracked bone or two. She sat up straighter, that he might see right down to the scattering of curls, feral and primitive and private, where her body joined his. She would hide nothing from him.”
I just loved so many aspects of this book – the slow building of feelings between them, the character growth for both of them and the lack of the angsty tropes are so often over-used. Martha and Theo were realistic characters that I could believe found their soul mate in each other and had their happily ever after. For a debut book by an author, it was so well written and I look forward to the rest of the series!