Featured Guest Review: Eloisa James on A Lady Awakened
Eloisa James holds an M.Phil. from Oxford University, a Ph.D. from Yale is currently an associate professor and head of the Creative Writing program at Fordham University in New York City. Her "double life" as an academic and a romance writer is a source of fascination to the media and her readers. In her professorial guise, she's written a New York Times op-ed defending romance, as well as articles published everywhere from women's magazines such as More to writers' journals such as the Romance Writers' Report.
Martha Russell is a proper, laced-up widow, who finds more pleasure in charitable acts than she ever did in her marriage bed. Theophilus Mirkwood is a known rake whose all-too-true reputation has basically gotten him thrown out of London.
There couldn't be a couple less likely to fall in love--which is exactly why it's so satisfying when they do. Cecilia Grant has given us an incredibly sexy and surprisingly sweet debut that hits the perfect note for a classic "opposites attract" storyline.
Like so many great romances (and maybe real-life love stories too), A Lady Awakened starts with an indecent proposal. Martha's husband just died and she needs to become pregnant immediately--yesterday!--in order to pass off her baby as the heir to the Russell estate. If she doesn't, not only will she be destitute, but the estate will be seized by her late husband's cruel, lascivious brother.
There's one problem: in order to become pregnant, she needs to go to bed with someone. Well, who better than her notorious new neighbor Theophilus? Martha doesn't expect to get any pleasure from their bargain … and at first she doesn't. But everything changes when their relationship becomes more than just physical.
There's so much I adore about this novel--from the hilariously awkward scene in which Martha propositions Theo to the immensely sensual one in which she first succumbs to pleasure. It's not just that Theo is great in bed: there are plenty of historical novels featuring heroes with remarkable skills in that area. What makes A Lady Awakened stand out is that Cecilia Grant pulls the heartstrings of a much deeper story, the tale of how both Theo and Martha change and grow together. I really loved how they transformed one another. Martha, in particular, gives Theo a sense of purpose that allows him to escape a fairly meaningless existence.
I kept thinking about these two long after finishing the last page, and I'm sure you will, too. It's the kind of romance that sticks with you. If you read only one debut this year, this is the one to read.