The May theme for the 2013 TBR Challenge was More Than One--i.e. books by an author with more than one work in your TBR pile. I had many choices, especially after my discovery last month of a box in the basement, unopened since we moved into this house back in 2010, containing most of my old, pre-Kindle TBR shelf.
As a result, this month's book, Sweet Awakening, is the first book I've read for this challenge that isn't available as an e-book, though if it sounds like your kind of thing, it looks like there are plenty of affordable used copies out there.
I've read 2 or 3 of Farrell's books already, and I always enjoy them as a change of pace. They tend to cover a longer time period than today's historical romances, and though the central love story is important to the plot, they often have saga or adventure elements that might get them tagged as "mainstream with strong romantic elements" in today's hyper-niched market.
This book was a harrowing read, but I found it hard to put down. The heroine, Clare, was always expected to marry her childhood friend, Giles--and she expected the same until she was swept off her feet by a dashing, mysterious, intense, and darkly handsome aristocrat. The new man, Justin, has all the usual romance hero markers, until after Clare marries him. Even then all is wonderful at first, but soon he shows his true colors as a jealous abuser, especially while drunk. Eventually Clare kills him in self-defense, and Giles is there for her to help her pick up the pieces. But after all she's been through, it isn't easy for her to learn how to function in a healthy relationship, or for him to accept that he can't make it as if her years with Justin never happened.
It was painful to watch Clare keep forgiving Justin and letting him back into her bed and her life. I know she had fewer options than a modern woman in her situation, but she still could've returned to her parents, gone into hiding, etc. But I also know her behavior isn't uncommon, even now, and Farrell made me understand the combination of hope and despair that might make a woman forgive the unforgivable better than I ever have before.
Though I definitely enjoyed the book, it would be remiss of me not to include two caveats, one serious, one less so:
1. The abuse is graphically described enough that I expect it would be very triggering to some readers.
2. I forgave certain anachronisms and errors (e.g. incorrect titles and forms of address) I'd normally have very little patience for because the story and characters worked so well for me.