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Pump Six and Other Stories
Paolo Bacigalupi

A Lady Awakened

A Lady Awakened - Cecilia Grant Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed, with one giant caveat at the end.

A cold, distant heroine who is in fact cold and distant, even after she falls in love, and has very good reasons for her coldness and distance. A hero who is a shallow, vain rake, who is in fact rakish and vain and as thoughtless as he should be, if you're gonna slap him with the "shallow rake" descriptor. And, bliss joy, at almost every single beat where one or the other of them would "learn the error of their ways" and melt underneath the charms of the other in most other romance novels, it didn't work.

A romance novel where the discussions of the enclosure act are far more sexually charged than the actual (for the most part) deeply unsexy sex. A romance novel that keeps the hero and heroine very much their own people and not (often thoroughly enjoyable) aspirational caricatures of pretty, entertaining people. (Not that I'm trying to imply that romance readers automatically seek to envision themselves as the heroines, thanks S.Meyer. It's just there's no good word for the better-than-ness of aspirational without implying personal desire. But I digress. A lot.) Essentially, these characters were remarkably well-rooted in who they were, even as who they wanted to be shifted over the novel.

The caveat? While this novel deliberately messes with nuances of consent (I consent to sex; I do not consent to pleasure) in ways that are mostly well done, as the heroine slowly begins to consent to pleasure, it's done in small, explicitly granted ways. And the hero goes and bones her one time when she's mostly asleep, and even though she consents after the fact both to the boning and the pleasure, it's still SUPER DODGY in a book that's mostly pretty good about this sort of thing, and there's nary an eyelash-twitch, narratively, at the whole thing. Meh.