After loving Evie Dunmore‘s first two books – Bringing Down the Duke and A Rogue of One’s Own, both part of the League of Extraordinary Women series – I’ve spent the past year excitedly waiting for book #3. Finally the release date arrived, and I dove into Portrait of a Scotsman as soon as my copy got here. I said it last year and I’ll say it again now: Evie Dunmore is improving with each book. Indeed, as much as I adored the first two books, Portrait of a Scotsman is my favorite one yet!
|Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore|
|Series||A League of Extraordinary Women (#3)|
|Setting||England; Scotland; France|
|Number of Pages||408|
|Format I Read||Hardcover (BOTM)|
|Original Publication Date||September 7, 2021|
Going toe-to-toe with a brooding Scotsman is rather bold for a respectable suffragist, but when he happens to be one’s unexpected husband, what else is an unwilling bride to do?
London banking heiress Hattie Greenfield wanted “just” three things in life:
1. Acclaim as an artist.
2. A noble cause.
3. Marriage to a young lord who puts the gentle in gentleman.
Why then does this Oxford scholar find herself at the altar with the darkly attractive financier Lucian Blackstone, whose murky past and ruthless business practices strike fear in the hearts of Britain’s peerage? Trust Hattie to take an invigorating little adventure too far. Now she’s stuck with a churlish Scot who just might be the end of her ambitions….
When the daughter of his business rival all but falls into his lap, Lucian sees opportunity. As a self-made man, he has vast wealth but holds little power, and Hattie might be the key to finally setting long-harbored political plans in motion. Driven by an old revenge, he has no room for his new wife’s apprehensions or romantic notions, bewitching as he finds her.
But a sudden journey to Scotland paints everything in a different light. Hattie slowly sees the real Lucian and realizes she could win everything—as long as she is prepared to lose her heart.
I’ve loved Evie Dunmore’s League of Extraordinary Women series so far, but Portrait of a Scotsman is the best installment yet. I flew through this book over the past few days, swooning through the chapters and dreaming about Lucian and Hattie every moment I couldn’t spend reading.
First, let’s talk about how excellent these two characters are. I always had a soft spot for Hattie in the first two books of the series. Artsy, warm-hearted, and seemingly more innocent than her friends, Hattie has always dreamed of marrying her own knight in shining armor. Even if her taste in romance novels veers more towards pirates and scoundrels, in real life, she envisions a proper gentleman for her future husband.
Well, Lucian is anything but. He grew up poor in a Scottish mining town, and after losing his family and living on the streets, he eventually made his own fortune. He now has a reputation for bringing respected men to financial ruin, and his manners are lacking compared with those in high society. Lucian is dark and composed, but he seems dangerous, especially to a lady like Hattie.
The first several chapters set up both Lucian’s and Hattie’s characters – their motivations, faults, blind spots, insecurities – as well as their unexpected mutual attraction. Even so, neither is quite ready for what marriage to each other will mean. Hattie, of course, has no power in this situation, and her pain is palpable. Her dreams are shattered and she’s to be tied to a man she barely knows and somewhat fears. Their first days of marriage are eventful and an emotional rollercoaster, and it’s not until their sudden trek to the Scottish Lowlands that Hattie and Lucian will finally get to know each other properly.
One thing I love early on is the care Evie Dunmore takes with describing Hattie’s initial discomfort with sex and how she and Lucian navigate that situation. As an upper class woman in 1880s London, Hattie knows nothing about sex, and her wedding night is a source of anxiety for her. Her nervousness is realistic, but I appreciate how Lucian continuously checks in with her to make sure she’s comfortable with proceeding. He may not be a “proper gentleman,” but he treats Hattie with complete respect and kindness, offering a safe space for her to change her mind and say “no.” And rather than being a source of pressure for her in the following days and weeks, he puts the matter of sex firmly in her control: She must ask him once she’s ready for it. He won’t push her for it.
Respect doesn’t end at their physical relationship. Lucian and Hattie also prove to have great respect for each other intellectually. As they spend more time together, they engage over their opinions on politics and social issues. Specifically, they spend most of their time focused on women’s rights (as with the first two books in the series) and on economic justice. They may come from wildly disparate backgrounds, but Hattie and Lucian frequently engage in thought-provoking debates about social issues and, moreover, how to solve them. I love how much they value each other’s opinions and, eventually, work to support each other in their activism.
(Side note: I’m so excited to see how Sebastian, Tristan, and Lucian will eventually work together – and with this league of extraordinary women – to further the Married Women’s Property Act! The epilogue here offered a small preview, and I am all in.)
Another theme that I adored here is how deep into art, technology, and literature Hattie and Lucian’s conversations get. One of my favorite scenes is when, over a tense dinner, Hattie remarks on how Lucian is unlike Mr. Bingley (her favorite character), worse than Mr. Rochester, and is, in fact, a Heathcliff. Not being familiar with these characters or the novels from which they came, Lucian is unable to defend himself. But later, he decides to educate himself. I love the ensuing debate they have over Wuthering Heights and how unlike Heathcliff Lucian actually is.
(In fact, I’d compare Lucian to another character from history. I won’t say who, in the interest of not spoiling anything, but Hattie eventually makes the same comparison at the end of chapter 22. In any case, his actions and politics are worth swooning over.)
Like the first two books in the series, Portrait of a Scotsman gets pretty steamy. And although Lucian and Hattie are married for most of the book, the real steam doesn’t come in until maybe 70% into the book. But when it does, oh wow! These two are quite busy and potentially kinky. It also worth noting how one of Hattie’s sexual fantasies actually leads to a discussion of society’s expectations of women and of how little power women have. Sex and politics unite for these two!
Additional themes I’d like to give brief praise to include discussion of body positivity (Hattie is plus-sized, and though her mother has shamed her for it, Lucian never does); intellectual or learning differences (Hattie is “word blind,” or what we would now know as dyslexic); trauma (Lucian has a lot of it stemming from his childhood); friendship (Hattie and her friends are so supportive of each other!); and Lucian’s lovely Scottish brogue.
I have a lot of feelings about the last several chapters of Portrait of a Scotsman. There’s a lot of emotional growth, some nail-biting excitement, and a turn of events I didn’t expect, but ended up appreciating. By the last page, I was already missing Lucian and Hattie, and I hope that same day these two can get a full sequel. No, I don’t mean the next League of Extraordinary Women book, which is set to be about Catriona – though of course, I am excited for that! Nay, what I’m talking about is another novel (or novella) about Lucian and Hattie. As it so happens, there is a novella starring Tristan and Lucie coming out soon, so I have high hopes that Lucian and Hattie can get one, too.
From the very first page to the very last, I absolutely loved Portrait of a Scotsman. It’s a worthy follow-up to Bringing Down the Duke and A Rogue of One’s Own, and in fact, it may have usurped them both as the best of the series so far. Evie Dunmore gets better with each book, and I look forward the the fourth in the series – about Catriona – which will likely come out around this time next year.
In the meantime, a novella about Lucie and Tristan romping across Italy is due out later this year! And I’m personally hoping we’ll get a novella sequel to Scotsman in the future, too. Fingers crossed!
About the Author
Evie Dunmore is the USA TODAY bestselling author of Bringing Down the Duke. Her League of Extraordinary Women is inspired by her passion for romance, women pioneers, and all things Victorian.
In her civilian life, she is a consultant with a M.Sc. in Diplomacy from Oxford. Scotland and the great outdoors have a special place in her heart and she goes up to the Highlands whenever she can. Since she cannot take the mountains back with her, she just keeps adding to her already extensive collection of woolly tartan blankets.
Evie is a member of the British Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). She is represented by Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.