Much to my surprise, I finished this book and liked it well enough. Praise the Lord I have finally broken out of my 2 stars book phase, however temporarily, we shall see.
Ms Grant's style isn't showy. A lot of hints you cannot miss and a clever use of undertone which gives you just enough to appreciate the scene without being overtly obvious. I liked that, especially in the first 40%. Theo's internal dialogue made me literally laughed out loud. Oh what is a man to do when treated like a stud animal!
I however, cannot say that I like all the talks about tenants and agriculture. I skim-read whenever Theo and Martha visited the tenants and the pastor. I know this was supposed to build up Theo as the dependable man that Martha wanted him to be. But I was bored whenever they are out of the bedroom (shame shame).
And the bedroom. I don't think the sex was very hot. There certainly are a lot of it, since Theo was really supposed to be the stud. The sex scenes are rather uncomfortable, but I expected this entire business to be uncomfortable so I thought that was how it should be. I would be appalled if all of a sudden they have some earth-shattering sex because "it must be love". I would have thrown up in my mouth I think. However awkward the sex scenes are, this is where they got to know each other, the bedroom had my attention, unlike all the tenant visits and talks about dairy products and agriculture.
Overall, I liked the writing and will read from the writer again. The lead characters in this book do not have a lot of chemistry between them but somehow their relationship did not require that. Once Theo supposedly fell in love with Martha, well, chemistry mattered less and esteem took over. So somehow it worked for them. Ms Grant was very successful in painting Theo out to be a playful character. Their initial meeting at the church where Ms Grant wrote about Theo breaking out a smile when he met Martha's eyes, I could see the scene in my mind, very cleverly done. I know some reviewers did not like Martha. I can only say that I did not mind her, which is a feat itself because normally I would have really despised such a heroine: scheming, calculating, cold, mother hen, etc. etc. but somehow I did not mind her. The plot is simple: Martha wanted to be impregnated by Theo to keep the estate to protect the servants and tenants (how noble). Theo was chosen as the stud and they went about this impregnating business while affections grew. Basically it is a woman finding her physical desires and Theo happened to be the man present. A woman's road to sexual satisfaction rarely spells a great story for me. So I am happy that at least I liked the story and was able to finish it.
There are not many surprises in the story. After 70% I had the feeling that the story had no material to continue because at 70% Martha realized that she actually desired Theo. And Theo realized that he loved Martha and went as far as telling her that and proposing, only to be shot down by Martha, of course because the book still had to go on for another 30%. I thought the ending was rather artificial but hell this is fiction, I will let it pass.
I am beginning to realize that I would only rate a book 4 stars or more if I can establish some kind of a personal connection to the characters. That alone makes 4 and 5 stars rating a rarity. This book is precisely what a 3 star read for me: interesting read which I was able to finish but I felt no personal connection. It was not a compelling story for me for that reason.