April 7, 2012

Review: A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant

Hot, funny, touching, a controlling heroine and featuring scenes where she ties him to the bed.

I thought I'd get that in right away, before you look at the cover and title of this book and think WTF. But this book is not quite what you expect, whatever you expect. Clearly this is a more of a historical romance than anything else, but the love scenes are subtly femdom, as is the whole relationship dynamic.

Martha has been recently widowed and when she discovers that the heir (her late husband's brother) is rapist misogynistic pig, she has to do something to protect the female servants. 'Something' is hiring her feckless neighbor Theo Mirkwood to impregnate her so that she can have a son who will inherit. They're opposites - she holds herself tightly together, repressed even and antisocial. He's an aimless, reckless boy.

Martha (Mrs Russell) is determined not to enjoy fornication, and nothing Theo can do will persuade her. She's stubborn; he's stubborn. If you've ever read a romance novel you think you know what to expect - but no. They don't have fantastic sex their first time together and she isn't set alight by him when they touch. They both have (especially Theo) their own character arc, independent of the relationship. When they finally do fall in love, it's explosive. Martha is a strong, principled character and Theo has to find a way to work with her on her own terms, and he does this, without giving up who he is (a sociable, fun loving person). They genuinely meet in middle and the changes in power dynamic are great to read.

The reason I've included this otherwise straight romance book here is that the love scenes (as opposed to some of the sex scenes) have a definite femdom tint. The emotional relationship between the two protagonists also has a F/m slant. I don't want to spoil it for you if you read it (and I strongly recommend that you do) but if you need more persuasion...

****Spoilers *****
The love scenes of the book, unusually, occur late in the book. The concept is that Martha needs both to know Theo and to be in control - and that he needs to allow himself to trust her to be in control both in real life as well as in the bedroom for them to come together as a couple. And for her to come. So when he gets her to tie him to the bed, in some ways she has already decided that she wants to take her pleasure with him. In a lot of these 'men tied down' scenes I'm frustrated that the man is still running the show. But I didn't feel like that about this book. I felt that if anything, Martha was always controlling their sex - permitting him, paying him actually - to spill his seed, but controlling her pleasure and severely limiting his by refusing to engage with the process emotionally until she was ready.

In one of the other love scenes, they play out a scene of a stablehand servicing his Queen. That felt distinctly femdom! Early in the book he jokes that men pay good money in London for the scowls and hard looks she gives him - love that.

****End Spoilers****

This is a very unusual novel and will not be to everyone's taste. The phrasing, especially the use of 'one' (as in: 'One tries not to think of him') takes a little getting used to, but I like it as it is very much in character for Martha. Personally I love the jokes about 'duty sex' and the way that they begin to dispatch the sex in order to talk about agriculture. But I understand that some people might find this book a bit slow in terms of the 'good bits' (sex), or a little facetious.

The whole book is written beautifully - thoughtfully. It's a touching book but it's also laugh out loud. I couldn't stop reading.


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