A month or so ago, I was waffling about looking for something to read. I wanted a book that wasn’t full of all the things that make me want to throw my tablet across the room—like alphaholes, and too stupid to live heroines, and sexist/misogynist BS. So, when a friend recommended this particular historical, I gave her some side-eye. I’m not proud of it, but I really didn’t think that a book where the heroine was paying a recently exiled rake to knock her up so she could keep her late husband’s home was going to meet my criteria. I was so very wrong.
I would now like to expound on all the ways I was wrong and tell you all the reasons you should totally read this book.
Okay, so Martha, our heroine, is staid, proper, and honestly a little awkward. She’s not great with people, really. She’s also recently widowed. So recently, in fact, that her late husband’s solicitor delicately suggests that she should take a month to figure out whether or not she’s pregnant. If she’s pregnant, and the child is a boy, she’d get to keep the estate for her son. If she’s not, the estate would go to her late husband’s awful, abusive brother. Now, our girl, Martha isn’t selfish—that’s not why she wants the estate. She wants it because she’s dedicated to making life better for others. If she keeps the estate, she can continue to implement the school she’s helped create for the children of her tenants. And she also wants to protect the female servants from her horrid brother-in-law. So, basically, she’s trying to get pregnant for the greater good.
Our hero, Theo, is absolutely charming, but he’s also a notorious rake. He’s been banished to his family’s country estate by his father for publicly embarrassing the family a few too many times. Theo misses London, hates the country, and is bored and hungover a lot. Worse, as far as he’s concerned, his punishment is to learn to become a responsible land owner. He’s never even had a thought to what the lives of the people who work his land are like, and the idea of studying land management is torturous, at best. His reputation as rake precedes him, and when the widow on the neighboring estate propositions him, offering to pay him to be her sperm donor, he takes her up on it. A large amount of cash and daily sex—what’s not to love? Turns out a lot. Especially since the prickly widow seems utterly determined not to enjoy the mating process at all. In fact, he’s quite disturbed by the realization that she doesn’t take any pleasure at all from their coupling, and worse, has no intention of even attempting to do so.
Neither Theo or Martha particularly care for one another, but they grow to. And that’s where much of the magic in this story lies—especially since that affection doesn’t happen through sex as one might expect. Even though they’re physically intimate almost immediately, they don’t become emotionally intimate until much later in the story. And that growth is so beautifully and believably developed that I stand in absolute awe of Ms. Grant’s storytelling ability.
I want to say more, but I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, but I will add that the author’s command of pacing, dialogue, narrative arcs, and character development are all spectacular. She’s an absolute joy to read, and I absolutely love the humor in this story. At several points, I laughed out loud and woke my husband. (Oops.) And there were a couple parts that made me teary. I don’t reread very many books—I just don’t have that kind of time. But, I’m positive that this one will be reread more than once.
Does this book contribute to or help crush the romance stigma?
Crushes it! This one is clean and sober. No rehab needed.
Other Reading Suggestions:
Check out Cecilia’s Grant’s backlist! I’m on my way to Amazon to grab the rest of the series as soon as I save this review!
About guest reviewer Bronwyn Green
Bronwyn Green is an author, blogger, and compulsive crafter. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two children and four somewhat psychotic cats. When not frantically writing, she can be found binge-watching Netflix while working on her latest craft project.
NOTE: Check out our review of Bronwyn’s Rewritten, and Drawn That Way!