A Lady Awakened

A Lady Awakened

by Cecilia Grant

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A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant

In Cecilia Grant’s emotionally rich and deeply passionate Regency romance debut, a deal with a rumored rogue turns a proper young woman into . . . A Lady Awakened.

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?

From the Paperback edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345532527
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/27/2011
Series: Blackshear Family , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 101,236
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Cecilia Grant always knew she’d do something with that English degree. After waiting tables, composing software help files, and answering the carpool-lane-violators hotline, she’s delighted to be writing stories. Cecilia makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her fellow-writer husband, two bookish children, and unliterary cat and dog.

From the Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Not once in ten months of marriage had she wished for her husband’s demise. Nor would she be glad of the occurrence even for a moment. Even for this moment. To do so would ill become her.

Martha sat straighter in her chair, smoothing her black skirts. One’s conduct might owe more to principle than to sentiment at times, admittedly. But principle could be relied upon. Principle steadied a person; braced her up through those same occasions, in fact, where sentiment made only a sluggish kind of mire to sink into.

She finished with her skirts and folded her hands on the tabletop. “Well,” she said into the silence of her sunlit parlor. “This is all legally sound, I don’t doubt.”

Mr. Keene gave a little bow from his place at the table’s foot, affording her a glimpse of the bald spot atop his head. He did not meet her eyes and had not done so since beginning to read. A faint sifting sound came from the papers before him, as his hands lined up the corners and made other adjustments of no particular purpose. Really, he ought to stop that.

Across the table her brother sat tight-­lipped, his jaw working as if to swallow something of fearsome dimension. His temper, that would be. To his credit, he always did try.

“Speak, Andrew.” She knew well enough what he would have to say. “You’re liable to do yourself some injury otherwise.”

“I’d have done injury to Russell if I’d known what he was about. A thousand pounds!” He spat out the sum like a mouthful of spoiled porridge. “One thousand, from what began as ten! What kind of man would speculate with his wife’s settlement?”

A man half lost in drink apparently would. To take just one example. She drew a fortifying breath. “It’s not as though I’ll be penniless. I’ll have my dower.”

“No dower house, though, and but a tenth of what you brought into the marriage. I’m sure I’d like to know his reasoning.” This, rather pointedly, to Mr. Keene.

“I wouldn’t have encouraged the investment myself,” came the solicitor’s reedy voice as he went on shuffling papers. “But Mr. Russell had a taste for those things. His will with the first Mrs. Russell was similar: her portion invested in private securities, and all the rest arranged in hopes of an heir.” An heir, of course. If there was any man on earth more eager to get an heir than her husband had been, she should like to see him.

Well, no. In fact she wouldn’t care to see that man at all. She unlaced her hands and touched her fingertips to the tablecloth. Very pretty, this cloth. Linen, from Belgium, and no longer hers.

“I wish I’d had my own solicitors see to your marriage agreement. I would have had nothing to do with this trust.” More bad porridge. “Father’s people were worse than useless. I ought to have done it myself.”

“How could you have managed?” One had neither time nor patience for this sort of nonsense. I wish I’d done this; I would have done that; I ought to have done some other thing. Blind alleys, those were, leading straight to the swamp of sentiment and nowhere else. “You had your hands full settling Father’s estate. Those were difficult days for us all. What’s done is done. We needn’t say any more about it.”

Andrew held his tongue, then, but his eyes—­large, liquid, dark as day-­old coffee—­glowed with strong opinions. She angled her head politely away. So indecorous, to let the mood of any moment run rampant across one’s face. So undisciplined. For all that she had those same eyes, she’d long since schooled them into sphinxlike calm. It really wasn’t hard.

“So when is she to be turned out of her home?” he said upon reaching the limits of forbearance. “How soon will this other Mr. Russell expect to take possession? Of course you will come to stay with me and Lucy,” he added to her without waiting for the solicitor’s reply. “When we go to the country you may even have your old room.”

And live as a dependent child again, for all that she was one and twenty. A burden to him and his wife. Something stirred in the pit of her stomach: tiny fragments of mutiny, chasing about as pointlessly as rubbish in a windstorm.

Mr. Keene inclined his head so as to show her the bald spot again. “In these cases, we generally don’t proceed until the widow assures us there is no possibility of a son.”

Well, there wasn’t. Her body had resolved that some three days since, and brought her the news in its usual fashion. For all of Mr. Russell’s most vigorous efforts, on her and presumably on his first wife, no child had ever resulted. Now no child ever would.

Was she expected to say so on the spot? Mutiny stilled her tongue. If she left the matter in some doubt, she could get a few more weeks here. Maybe as much as a month.

Of course if she were truly mutinous . . . well, one heard tales of what desperate childless widows occasionally did. Lurid tales, difficult to credit. What woman could ever be so desperate? Probably it was all some myth got up and passed about by wishful men.

She lifted her chin. “I will send you word when I know that question to be resolved.” She could see to the servants, at least. Mr. and Mrs. James Russell would bring servants of their own, making some of the Seton Park staff redundant. She would take what time she needed to get them placed out.

Andrew fidgeted silently for the several minutes Mr. Keene took to gather up his papers and make polite remarks, and when the solicitor was finally shown out, her brother quitted his chair with vehemence. “For the love of God, sister, will you never speak up for yourself?” He strode away to the table’s other end. “It’s not right, how you’ve been served in all this. Why must I be the only one with the fortitude to say so?”

A familiar coolness blossomed in the middle of her chest and seeped outward. “I see no question of fortitude.” She measured out her syllables, and folded her hands atop the table again. “I could speak of injustice, I suppose, and indulge myself with some show of outrage, but none of that would change the facts of my current situation, would it?” Her voice grew flatter and flatter, like pastry dough under a most adamant rolling pin.

“Not now, it wouldn’t.” He flung out his hand in an impatient gesture. “But this whole thing might have been averted. For the life of me I’ll never understand why you married the man. Why any young girl would marry a widower twice her age when she—­”

“He was nine and thirty. Hardly in his dotage. And no, you’re not likely ever to understand.” What eldest son could? He would never be faced with the prospect of a parasitic existence. He would never come to make those reckonings in which girlish fancy had no place. He would only pity her, provokingly, and wonder at her wrongheaded choice.

As though a love match were the only viable kind of marriage! As though humanity had not prospered for countless generations through unions of other kinds; through respectable alliances between people who happened to prize other things above unbridled feeling!

Her hands had come unfolded and two fingers were tracing over and over a bit of openwork in the tablecloth. She stilled them. Laced the fingers firmly again. Sat silent.

Abruptly her brother heaved a sigh. “I’m sorry, Martha.” She could hear the change in his voice, though she kept her eyes on the tablecloth.

He came round to stand behind her chair. One hand settled on her shoulder. She lifted her chin and looked hard at the wall, where peonies marched in a cheerful red-­and-­white pattern.

“I’m sorry if I offend you.” He was all uncertainty now, casting about for the right way to comfort so perverse a little sister. “Sorry you’ve had this misfortune, and sorry I wasn’t more help to you. But I’ll help you now, if you’ll let me. You’ll have a good home with me and Lucy.”

The wallpaper’s peonies shimmered for a moment, and threatened to swim. She might have been seven again, and he eighteen, that same hand on her shoulder as awkward as a turkey on a pigeon-­perch. They’d done this before, though that day they’d sat side by side on the stone wall where he’d finally found her, and the halting words of consolation had all to do with Heaven, and their mother’s soul.

I’m sorry, too. I wish I could want what you offer. I don’t know why I can’t. She swallowed, and kept the words down. “You were so kind to come,” she said. “You’ve been a great help indeed. These past few days should have been much more difficult had you not been here. I’ll write to you when I . . . I’ll write to you.” That was her one toe dipped in the wallows of sentiment, and quickly drawn out again.

He left for London. When she’d waved at his carriage all the way to where it turned from the drive onto the road, she dropped her hand and began to walk. Away from the house she went, south toward the swelling hills. The August sun showed no mercy to a woman in full mourning, particularly one who covered ground at her pace. So be it. She walked faster.

Soon she was ascending, feeling her stride shorten as she started up the face of the highest hill. Somewhere nearby she could hear the discourse of sheep, plaintive and petulant by turns. A dog barking as well, and a man’s voice giving terse commands. Round a fold in the hill she came upon them: one of her tenants training a new dog by guiding it round and round a clutch of three disgruntled sheep. Mr. Farris caught sight of her and removed his hat, and then she must stop to make conversation.

One could say only so many things in praise of a sheepdog. She said them all, while the tenant turned his hat round between thick fingers, nodding with a sage expression. “My Jane set me to ask, if I should see you,” he said once these pleasantries were concluded, “whether we may expect you to stay on here.”

“I’m afraid it’s unlikely.” More than unlikely. But her answer to the tenants must coincide with the answer she’d given Mr. Keene.

“There’s many will be sorry to hear.” He whistled, and the dog reversed direction, circling in its half-­crouched stance. “Jane says it’s to you we owe the new roof.”

“Well, chiefly to Mr. Russell’s generosity.” She bent her head and brushed a speck of something off her sleeve.

“The first Mrs. Russell never did take any interest in improvements. Nor did he, before you come along. So says Jane. She gives you the credit.”

“Her good opinion honors me.” She brushed another speck before raising her head. “She’s well, I hope? And the children?”

“Aye, everyone’s well.” He made a signal with his hand and the dog changed direction again. “Ben and Adam look forward to the school opening.”

“The school?” Delight surged up from her toes, flushing out the morning’s disappointment and boosting her voice into some very strange octave. “They weren’t on Mr. Atkins’s list, the last time I spoke to him. Will they be attending after all?”

“Just three days out of the five, to start. My youngest girl as well. Everett’s boys will help me out some, and my boys help him, and we’ll scrape by with the rest of it.”

“Do you mean the Everett children will go to school, too?” She wrestled her voice back down to a range that wouldn’t frighten the sheep.

“Three days out of five, aye. Maybe more in the winter.”

“I’m so glad to hear it. You do your children a great service by schooling them.”

“Well, they’ve got some cleverness.” He shrugged and turned his hat over again. “Pair that with education and a boy might choose his own course.”

She recognized one of the many lines of persuasion Mr. Atkins had rehearsed with her, and couldn’t suppress a smile. She’d done some good at Seton Park, even in her short stay. She’d been useful. When discontent threatened to overtake her, she would remember the new cottage roofs, and her part in realizing the curate’s long-­cherished scheme for a tenant school.

She’d like to remember her improvements to his scheme, as well. “What of your Laura, and Adelaide? They’ll be attending the class on Sundays, I hope?”

“I cannot say they will.” He set his head on an angle and rubbed the heel of his hand along his jaw. “We’ll need them at home all the more with their brothers going to school.”

“Of course.” She’d heard this same discouraging response more than once. “Still, it’s only an hour of instruction, once a week. Perhaps in time you’ll find you can spare them after all.”

“Perhaps. Just now I’ve got Laura learning more of this work.” Mr. Farris nodded toward the dog. “She takes to it, you know. Ordering creatures about.”

“Well, a gift for command is certainly to be admired.” Cultivated, as well. A girl of such talent deserved education, more education than the reading and ciphering with which feminine schooling began and ended. She would speak to Mr. Atkins tomorrow. A stronger case must be made to these parents, and with her time here cut short, he must be the one to make it.

From the Paperback edition.

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"Tantalizingly sexy, heartwarming, and oh-so funny, this romance is unforgettable; a stunning debut." —-Library Journal Starred Review

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A Lady Awakened 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
tmurrell2 More than 1 year ago
Martha has been recently widowed. She can't really say she's sorry, except the part about losing the estate if she doesn't have an heir. So she sets about to get one. I have no idea if the author intended it this way or not, but I laughed my way through this book. It was hilarious. The main character, Martha, was married young and spent the entirety of her brief marriage at a country estate. She is naive about everything. She doesn't relate well to others and is always thinking something hilarious. Think trading babies, weird pigs, and trying to convince poor peasant girls to read Shakespeare. The story plot was very predictable, even for a romance. What I enjoyed was seeing the world through the character's eyes. It was a fun, fast read. I received this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review.
Beguile_Thy_Sorrow More than 1 year ago
Ok this was one of those rare books that makes me the tenacious kind of reader I am. What I mean by that is I am a reader that rarely ever DNF's a book I start. There may be occasions where my mood changes and I put it down and don't pick it up again for a month but I almost never leave a book unfinished. One reason is I'm pretty good at determining and choosing books I'll like, so it isnt too often I pick up something that I totally hate. The other reason is books like this one. Books that I'm thinking "aw man, I thought I was going to like this but it's so not working for me". I had even given this 3 stars already. Then suddenly this book took a turn for the awesome! The basic premise is like the summary says: Martha, a young widow plots to save herself and her female servants from dire circumstances by engaging in an affair with her rakish neighbor Theophilus to conceive an heir. But for me the beginning was dragging and mostly I was having a hard time with the absence of any romance or true intimacy. The characters don't flirt or even have any fire between them because, after all, their relations are a business deal. And because of this the sex is terrible and made me just wince from all the awkwardness and obvious lack of pleasure. And I get it; I know it was totally because of the situation but geez it was hard going! Without that connection between them (for at least the first 100 pages if not more) and cringing at how awful it must be to just have such mechanical sex I was almost about to DNF this one. However the author does a good job of showing the main character's personalities outside of each other and we get to know them in a way that builds just enough to hold on. Actually, the slow story/character building and humor kind of reminded me of Jane Austen-ish/Elizabeth Gaskell type stuff. The kind where overall it's a romance you're reading but there's all this crappy stuff that happens too, and not a lot of sexy stuff that modern readers are used to in historical novels from this century. The only difference is we know going into those older books to somewhat expect that. Once I got into this book though, I began loving it as I got to know Theo and laughing at some of the hilarious remarks he'd make. He also has some really funny scenes with a pig from the farm, and I started looking forward to those scenes with the pig lol! I sort of liked Martha right away and her private conversations with her maid and cleric helped show who she was. Once Martha and Theo started really talking and opening up I liked it. So it starts slower than most historical romances but it's written so well and comes together in a way that makes it pay off:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hadn't read a romance in years, and what a way to come back to the genre. We're presented with two characters that aren't very likeable, one cold and disciplined, one hot with no discipline whatsoever. The woman hatches a scheme to get pregnant so she may keep her dead husband's brother from inheriting the estate, using the man for stud. Not very admirable, to say the least. But as we read we get to know these two people, and they get to know each other, and they grow as we grow in knowing them. Which is the best kind of romance novel. It makes the slowly growing regard and love so believable. Not only that, the novel surprised me. I've read thousands of romances, and I know all the cliches. This one *surprised* me. That alone made it worth reading. But oh, there was more. The writing itself. The style reminded me of some of my very favorite romance writers of the Golden 90's, the ones who could take my breath away with a single paragraph, all the words perfectly chosen. This romance probably isn't for everyone. It's not a Mary Sue self-insertion romance. But it's an intelligent one, beautifully written, and if you miss the romances of the Gaffney, Putney, Ivory of yore, I think you'll be glad to read this one.
Kim4 More than 1 year ago
Newly widowed and childless, Martha Russell knows that her rapacious brother-in-law will inherit the estate. In order to circumvent the laws of succession, Martha devises an audacious plan: If she can somehow become pregnant within 30 days, she will secure her future and those dependent on her. Coincidentally, her neighbor, the charming and handsome Theophilius Mirkwood, has recently been exiled to the country. His father hopes that a little time away from London will mature the profligate Theo. Fortified with the knowledge that Theo is on a strict financial leash, Martha approaches the young gentleman with her daring offer. Although Theo knows it's wrong to agree to such a faustian bargain, he also believes that it will be quite entertaining to bed the lovely widow. What is unusual about this book is not what happens in bed, but what occurs during Theo and Martha's subsequent conversations. The author takes on such topics as land managment and the benefits of educating females. It would spoil the plot to say more than this, but we learn why Martha chances utter ruination and how Theo is more substantive than Martha first assumes. I will say that it took me awhile to warm up to Martha. She is cold and self-contained throughout the first half of the novel. This is somewhat resolved as I learned more about her marriage, but she's definitely the more complicated and conflicted character. Conversely, Theo grows on the reader almost immediately with his warmth and charm. So if you want a different sort of love story than that found in the usual romance novel, this debut book by Cecilia Grant is a nice place to start.
SaraO More than 1 year ago
Great Voice and Unique Premise The reviews are right about this read: the voice of the book (really the juxtaposition of Mrs. Randall and Mr. Mirkwood’s voices) are utterly unique. Mrs. Randall’s [Martha's] character shouldn’t be someone readers like. She’s cold, stiff, and hell-bent on gaining absolutely no pleasure inside or outside the bedroom. And she’s not an iceberg that melts quickly. She spends almost the whole of her month-long daily baby-making activities distancing herself from her body’s ability to enjoy sex. Mr. Mirkwood [Theo] on the other hand is a sensualist. Charming, witty, a lover of women, and a lover of beauty for beauty’s sake. On the surface you want Martha to fall for him. You expect her to fall fast and hard for a man who is making it his day job to bring her pleasure. Any other romance heroine would have given into the pleasure an experienced rogue can provide…Not Martha. Nope. She’s a holdout – this woman can maintain focus like no one you’ve ever seen. And while I find her to be – restricted – I understand her need to feel special or unique to a man/lover. While, like most women, I wouldn’t feel as insulted to have my body or beauty praised (quite frankly the practical talk of sheep wouldn’t turn me on, lol) what Martha wants is an emotional connection from a man who is seemingly only interested in a bodily one. All that practical talk of sheep, roof fixing, and crop rotation is really Martha connecting with Theo on an emotional level that should (seriously) come far before sex. Ultimately, it is Martha’s emotional isolation that breaks down Theo’s immaturity and forces him to grow up and gain a conscience. He wonders…if he’s not good at pleasuring women…If he can’t do that – What is he worth? Martha unhinges him and he blossoms because of it. Theo’s sudden caring and leadership in turn break through the ice wall Martha has built around her heart. By the end of the story you realize it took the mismatched pair to make the best of each other. To push each other to places they wouldn’t have traveled otherwise. They both end up being better people because of it. And it must be noted that simply because Martha doesn’t want to enjoy sex, that there isn’t a healthy dose of the erotic spun throughout the book. I’m really not lying when I say Martha does nothing to ‘help’ Theo in the bedroom. He gets über excited when she touches his back at one point! However, Martha’s lack of participation causes Theo to come up with some pretty sexy fantasies involving Mrs. Randall herself and a few other women to help him fulfill his sexual errand. Lots of mirror work comes into play, and as Mrs. Randall thaws and becomes Martha its heartwarming (and then fraught with sexual tension) as we see how she begins to try to please Theo and how inspired and hopeful Theo becomes toward her. Theo is nothing if not a character with a bottomless amount of hope. Rating: 5/5 Can’t stop my admiration for the voice of this novel and its unique premise and plot flow. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book...not only for the romance,but becuase the characters were so real. Especially the female lead. The storyline is typical, but her personnality, dry observations and humor were so enjoyable. I laughed outloud many times. The emotions and reactions to there situation were very real and funny.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is Martha and Theo's story in this series and I enjoyed it. It was much better than the prequil.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed the story and the way the characters evolved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JHines More than 1 year ago
Wow! What an excellent book. The author has given us well rounded characters, and turned them loose to act in accordance with their characters. And the story rolls out naturally as each character does what they would do under the circumstances. This is something rarely seen in any genre. I highly recommend this book. Well researched, well written and well edited too. I hope Ms. Grant has many more books to give us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I suppose this book requires some patience, but the author's terrific writing can carry you thru as the relationship develops. A beautiful and subtle portrait of two people opening to love.
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cbhorsefan More than 1 year ago
Good idea, but very boring...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Who were the characters in this book? You never really know why they are the way they are and after a few chapters you could care less! Your waiting for something interesting to happen and it never does. This book was a waste of time and money! It doesn't even deserve one star!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not worth 7.99
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book seems to make me think of M. Balogh's 'APrecious Jewel' I simply adored this book. I am a critical audience but this one was unique enough to keep me glued.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is okay. It's good enough that I'll for sure read the next one when it comes out, but it is just alright. Didn't care for the lingo all that much. It was also slow going...took FOREVER for the plot to thicken. If you want high intensity this is not the book for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago