Last year, I read and loved Evie Dunmore‘s debut novel, Bringing Down the Duke, the first in her A League of Extraordinary Women series. I could hardly wait for the second book to come out, and I was thrilled when it was included as a Book of the Month pick for September. As soon as my box arrived, I dove in. Dare I say that A Rogue of One’s Own may be even better than its predecessor?! Quite the feat, considering how much I loved the first one!
A historical romance, A Rogue of One’s Own takes us to England in 1880. We first met Lady Lucinda (Lucie) Tedbury – secretary of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage – in the first book, in which she provided Annabelle with a scholarship to attend Oxford. We’d also briefly met Lord Tristan Ballentine during a dance scene with Annabelle, though that didn’t go so well.
Here, Lucie is working to gain control of a London publishing house so she can spread suffragist information far and wide. The only problem standing in her way is her lifelong nemesis, Tristan. He’s actually willing to give up some of his control of the publishing house to Lucie… for an indecent price. Lucie loathes him, yet she needs that publishing house. What’s a feminist to do under such circumstances?
Meanwhile, Tristan has his own problems to deal with: A ruthless father blackmailing him, with his unwell mother being used as a pawn against him. He’ll do what he can to break free from his father’s chains, but the odds are stacked against him. And, as much as Tristan secretly likes Lucie, she only further complicates matters.
Honestly, I adored A Rogue of One’s Own even more than I’d anticipated. I flew through it in just a couple of days.
Like the first in the series, this sequel is more than just a romance set in Victorian England. It’s also, by and large, a novel about early feminists fighting to advance women’s rights. Even when the romance starts to really kick in, the story never strays away from “the Cause,” as it’s known. Lucie herself remains devoted to her goals of political justice. Evie Dunmore does an excellent job of creating balance between the romance and the political activism. Neither ever outshines the other, and I commend her for that.
Lucie is an unequivocally strong character. She might look small and dainty, but she’s brave, independent, intelligent, and helpful. She’s a leader and a fighter. I appreciate that the heroine here isn’t always likable, nice, or particularly feminine. Instead, she’s to-the-point (sometimes verging on rudeness), and she’s practical (maybe to the detriment of her appearance).
While many other characters see Lucie as highly flawed and an outcast, I love that Tristan always likes and respects Lucie for who she is. This isn’t one of those dated rom-coms where the girl needs a makeover for the guy to see her worth. Quite the contrary, Tristan likes Lucie because of her uniqueness, her ambitions, and her morals. He never once tries to change her. Likewise, she doesn’t try to change him.
Tristan may have come off as unsavory in his sole scene in the first book. Lucie, too, finds him rather detestable for much of this book. Her bad impression is partially based on the rumors surrounding him and partially based on the pranks he used to play on her when they were younger. Fortunately, we the readers and Lucie alike will find that Tristan has his redeeming qualities, too.
Tristan is a refreshing departure from most of the “manly” love interests in romance. Instead, he’s flamboyant and stylish, and he’s creative: he literally writes poetry. Some encounters suggest he’s bicurious, if not bisexual, which is another refreshing point here. Tristan may be a philanderer and use blackmail to get things done, but he’s also intelligent and inquisitive. His backstory also helps to explain some things make readers more sympathetic towards him.
In contrast to Sebastian, who needed a fair bit of prodding to become more politically progressive, I like that Tristan is already a progressive thinker, if not activist. It’s nice to see him fight for the Cause – not to win over Lucie, but simply because he’s empathetic and believes in women’s rights.
A potentially worrying scene is his rather unsavory proposal; things could have turned a bit rapey. Luckily, such issues are avoided, and Tristan proves to be better than that, always waiting for full consent before proceeding. I appreciate the care with this situation, ensuring Lucie never got into anything she didn’t want to.
Without going into spoilers, the feminism comes to a peak when the gender roles are eventually reversed: Instead of a damsel in distress needing a man to save her, A Rogue of One’s Own turns that around. A dude in distress with a lady to the rescue? We love to see it.
Beyond plot and characterization, this book is also just plain funny. From Lucie’s dislike of Tristan to Tristan’s deadpan observations, these characters kept me laughing. I kept sharing random lines with my sister, who has not yet read either book. I just couldn’t keep the hilarity to myself! This bantering helped Lucie and Tristan’s early chemistry, too.
Finally, what is this series without strong friendships? I love that both books in the League of Extraordinary Women series feature solid relationships between women. And these are politically aware suffragists, who do more than talk about boys; they talk about research, work, and advancing the Cause. It further grounds A Rogue of One’s Own as a romance with well-rounded substance.
A Rogue of One’s Own is an excellent book, both as a historical romance and as feminist look back in time at women changing the scope of politics. It’s smart and fun, but also deep and thought-provoking. I ended up loving both Lucie and Tristan by the end, and I can’t wait to read more from Evie Dunmore’s A League of Extraordinary Women series.
Lucky us: We already know book #3 will be about Hattie and a “gruff” love interest; it’s due in Fall 2021. The fourth book will be about Catriona and Peregrin (the younger brother of Sebastian in Bringing Down the Duke); it’s due in 2022.
Evie Dunmore also revealed a couple of exciting bits of news yesterday: First, fans may soon get a novella of Lucie and Tristan romping across Italy — umm, yes please! I want it now! Evie also recently signed a deal with Berkley Romance for two more historical books, so we may be getting even more novels – within the League of Extraordinary Women or possibly otherwise; either way, I’m excited. I’m officially a true and loyal fan.
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