Posts Tagged ‘A League of Extraordinary Women Series’

(A League of Extraordinary Women #1)

Genre: Historical Romance

Blurb (Goodreads)

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke….


This delightful debut novel from Evie Dunmore is a perfect blend of a sensual romance and a well-researched historical backdrop. The ‘opposites attract across the social divide’ is one of my favourite tropes and she pulls it off brilliantly by pairing women’s rights advocate, Annabelle Archer, with the austere Sebastian Devereux, Duke of Montgomery.

 For the past five years, since her father’s death, Annabelle Archer has accepted her narrow existence as her cousin’s general dogsbody, until she discovers that Oxford University has opened a women’s college. The National Society for Women’s Suffrage has granted her a scholarship, and all she has to do is persuade her cousin to let her go. No easy task when, like most men of the time, he believes that ‘too much education derails the female brain’, but Annabelle cleverly manipulates him into agreeing, with certain conditions attached. In return for the scholarship, Annabelle has agreed to support the society’s efforts to further the cause of women’s suffrage by infiltrating the home of the Duke of Montgomery. What she didn’t expect is to feel so attracted to a man who is everything she despises.

The attraction was now firmly back in place, yes, she was beyond denying it: she was hopelessly preoccupied with the grim-faced aristocrat across the footwell.

Sebastian Devereux was only nineteen when he assumed the responsibilities of becoming the Duke of Montgomery. During the last 16 years, his life has been devoted to duty and, at the age of 35, he has become the most powerful duke in England; even the scandal of a divorce failed to mar his reputation. Clever, self-assured and uncompromising, he has earned the position of Queen Victoria’s most trusted strategist. Now she has charged him with the position of advisor to the Tory election campaign. What he doesn’t need is a group of suffragettes invading his home, particularly as Queen Victoria regards them as ‘wicked, foolish creatures’. If only he didn’t feel so attracted to the totally unsuitable Annabelle Archer.

…he didn’t even feel inclined to question why a most unsuitable woman—a commoner, a bluestocking, a suffragist—would give him so much pleasure.

I liked Annabelle from the very first scene. Her intelligence shines through when she cleverly manoeuvres her ignorant, pompous cousin, Gilbert, to her way of thinking. Although low-born, her father and her maternal great-grandmother had ensured that she received a well-rounded education and I admire her determination to fulfil her dreams of going to Oxford.

Sebastian was harder to like at first with his aloofness and obsession with duty above all else. As details of the circumstances surrounding his father’s death are revealed, I came to see him in a more positive light and understood why it was so important for to him to restore his family’s legacy.

I love how Ms. Dunmore really takes the time to develop the relationship between these two. Annabelle’s recuperation at Claremont affords an opportunity for them to talk and get to know each other. When Sebastian sends her a certain book to read, Annabelle realises that a sense of humour lurks beneath his cool exterior. Sebastian finds her stubborn, witty and unpredictable. Each time they meet, I could feel all the sexual tension simmering beneath the surface…

Mundane gestures became infused with meaning; her senses opened and sharpened, and there was an unnerving awareness of the rapid beat of her heart against her ribs.

He wanted to frame her laughing face in his hands and kiss it, anywhere, forehead, cheeks, nose. He wanted to feel her against his mouth.

With all the pent-up longing and desire, it is inevitable that they will eventually succumb, and I enjoyed seeing the role reversal of the heroine seducing the hero.

Sebastian’s protective instincts come to fore when he arranges for Annabelle to be released from prison despite knowing how this will anger the Queen. When she tells him about her past, I love how he listens as a friend and isn’t judgemental.

I like how Annabelle sees beyond his cold, severe ducal facade to the man beneath – a man with a steadfast heart, who can be charming and makes her feel cherished.

I admire Annabelle for being willing to give up the man she loves because she doesn’t want Sebastian to lose his reputation, his political standing and everything he has worked for, but thank goodness Sebastian is not willing to give up the woman he loves. I enjoyed the scene in Parliament and later when Sebastian says to Annabelle…

”A very clever woman once told me to think about on which side of history I want to be,” he said. “I made my choice today.”

I am always disappointed when there’s no Epilogue but the final chapter provided a charming end to the story.

Ms. Dunmore introduces a number of secondary characters who I am sure are destined to have their own books.

* Lady Lucie Tedbury, secretary of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage.

* Lady Catriona Campbell, assistant to her father, Alastair Campbell, who is an Oxford professor, Scottish earl, and owner of a castle in the Highlands.

* Miss Harriet Greenfield, daughter of Julien Greenfield, Britain’s most powerful banking tycoon.

* Lord Tristan Ballentine -a rogue with a diamond stud in his right ear

* Peregrin Devereux – Sebastian’s unruly, younger brother

A brilliant debut novel in what promises to be a must-read series. Highly recommended

Originally posted on Goodreads

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