Setting: Regency England
Sweet Awakening is a meticulous novel that covers a period of 11/12 years. It starts from when 13 year old Giles meets 10 year old Clare Dysart and goes thru their childhood friendship. Giles pretty much knows almost from the start that Clare is going to be the woman he loves and marries. Their lives seem pretty much set when Clare turns 18 and has a Season in London. Unfortunately, Clare attracts the attention of the far more dynamic Justin, an Earl who sweeps her off her feet. Clare chooses the darkly jealous Justin over the far less agressive Giles when they both propose on the same day.
Justin and Clare seem to have the perfect marriage so London is shocked when two years later, Clare kills Justin in self-defense. Details of Justin’s increasing violence and history of spousal abuse is revealed during the murder trial.
Farrell seems to have done her research on battered women and she presents the signs in a clear, logical manner. It made for a riveting read.
My quibble (and I feel like a philistine for saying this considering the subject matter) is that I didn’t feel much romance. I think Farrell did a good job of showing Clare becoming a stronger woman after what she had gone through so that she can meet Giles on a more equal level. But with Clare finally finding passion with Giles literally on the final page of the book (as almost an afterthought), there is no doubt in my mind that Clare would much rather have Justin back if he wasnt such a violent sicko. The point is reinforced by the fact that that is Justin on the cover of the novel with Clare, not the lighter haired Giles.
This book was Farrell’s first historical after a bunch of Signet regencies. It reads like a double regency instead of a true historical to me — it’s kinda dry and I get the feeling that Farrell wasnt too happy doing the sexy bits. 😉 I remember loving her Miss Ware’s Refusal and will probably stick to the rest of her Signet backlist if/when I read her in the future.