She had never really known her place. Where others were appropriately intimidated, she seemed oddly intrigued by the challenge.
It’s a little hard to describe a book that has a little bit of everything. Angst, drama, romance, fun, friendship, politics, history, philosophy… You name it and this book has it. Thankfully, Evie Dunmore is a writer of great caliber and thus, this little bit of everything turns into the right amount of everything.
I know the blurb and cover sound and look like a rom-com. An intelligent, spinster bluestocking falls for the mysterious, callous Duke and hilarity ensues. Any HR reader would presume it’s a plot they’ve encountered before. But the story is told so originally that the tried and tested trope feels renewed.
The story is set against the fascinating backdrop of 19th century Women’s Suffrage Movement. Annabelle Archer, penniless daughter of a country vicar, is proud to have joined the first female class of students at the University of Oxford. The catch: her scholarship is funded by the National Society of Women’s Suffrage and she must now support and advocate their movement to continue to receive the stipend.
Her fist task as the new member of this prestigious society: recruit aristocrats to support their cause, especially the most prestigious and important of them all: the Duke of Montgomery, Sebastian Devereux.
She knew then that she would never be able to unsee him again.
The heroine is intelligent, warm, funny and feminist. The hero is cold, abrupt, handsome and not remotely interested in her agenda. These polar opposites happen to be attracted to each other both physically and intellectually and thereby the complications begin.
This was intimacy, knowing he could look this way. Very few people would ever see him like this, Montgomery the man, not the duke. How she wished he were only a man.
Despite the countless political overtones, this book is a love story between two intelligent and practical souls who have their eyes wide open. Socially disparate but intellectually equals, Annabelle and Sebastian are two adults who not only understand the constraints of their time but are also aware that to love may mean to gain but to give in to love can mean losing a lot, too.
Which makes their instant connection and eventual surrender a million times more poignant.
“Would you have me change my place in history to prove how much I want you?”
I can say without doubt that this is one of the best debut’s of 2019 I’ve read so far. I was practically glued to the pages and the characters don’t just leap but dance off the page. The setting is remarkable, the history relevant, and though the drama quotient is high, it is by no means overblown or worst, under-wrought. The authentic, organic development of the two main leads towards each other and the brilliant female friendships developed are some of my favorite things about this novel.
I am already desperate for the stories of the fellow members League of Extraordinary Women. It’s going to be a long wait.
RATING: 4/5 BRILLIANT STARS