Review: A Rogue of One's Own by Evie Dunmore
I am very delighted to share that the second book in this series is even better than the first.
I don't know how much of that, however, has to do with the fact that A Rogue of One's Own hits all my favorite sweet spots for romance novels - historical fiction romance; a fiery, independent suffragist who has a wicked funny inner monologue; a rakehell with a tattoo that just peeks out from under his shirt sleeves in the steamy strip scenes (just typing that is making my loins go all a-flutter); a romance that starts with teenage infatuation and grows into something profound. Hot, steamy sex. Two main characters who compromise because they love each other so much! A Gothic subplot with threats of asylums! There is so much happening and it is all BRILLIANT!
Basically, the story follows Lady Lucie Tedbury, who has been a vocal suffragette for many years, and so is shunned by her family and 'polite' society. She conspires to buy out half of a publishing house so she can have full editorial control over what gets published, as part of their plan to publish their report on the iniquities of the Married Property Act (which set into English law the principle of coverture; that women, once married, were the entire legal property of their husband. If you want to feel real fucking mad at British law, I will just point out that the Married Property Act is still on the books and was amended as late as 2016.) But, lo and behold, the surprise other majority owner of the publishing house is Tristan Ballentine, heir to a tyrannical earl of a father, sexy reprobate, and secret Romantic poet - and, more importantly, an old friend of Lucie's family, and so they've got history. The history, namely, is that Tristan and Lucie have been infatuated with each other since they were teenagers, Tristan used to do all the typical little-boy pranks to get Lucie's attention, and, of course, he's now got a reputation all round London for being a bit of a minx. Also, for just a bit of a secretive intrigue, he may or may not be engaged to be married to her cousin. Oh, dear. They go head-to-head over who should publish what, the power distribution in the publishing house, and, in a trope familiar to all readers of romance, Tristan agrees to give up one percent of his company shares to allow Lucie to become the majority shareholder... in exchange for one steamy night of luuuuuuuuuurve. Cue the fireworks.
All of the strengths that Evie Dunmore displayed in Bringing Down the Duke (book 1 in The League of Extraordinary Women series; I've reviewed it here) are in even sharper display here: the dialogue is witty, banterous, and unbelievably sexy. Tristan's inner monologue is honestly swoon-worthy. The journeys that the two characters go on to end up together is believable, honest, and you're rooting for them so hard from the moment they dance together at a house party (of course there's a house party. This remains a historical fiction romance, and there's always a ball). And the political compromise that the two reach in order to live happily together feels very true to the way their characters had developed up until that point. The setting, as well, feels well-drawn and very vivid, but without ever feeling plot device-y - which is a huge accomplishment on Dunmore's part, as oftentimes in historical romance the setting serves as a plot device to force the happy ending. But in A Rogue of One's Own, the setting and time period doesn't force Lucie and Tristan's hands so much as enable them to buck the trends in the ways they have done since the start of the story. It works really well, and feels more deeply satisfying than it could have done.
And, most importantly for any romance novel - my God the sex is good. It's so good. But the quiet moments when Lucie and Tristan are reflecting on their relationship, and having the grand discovery moments of being in love, are somehow even better. All of the 'romance' bits in this book are pitch-perfect, and they are well augmented by the historical fiction high points of the narrative as well.
I also think that the writing skills Dunmore needed to hone between Bringing Down the Duke and A Rogue of One's Own were well-sharpened: her pacing and plotting tightened up, and the secondary and tertiary characters felt more fully realised and more important to the narrative. The villains in this second book were more complex and nuanced than the ones in the first book, as well, so my attention was properly gripped by all aspects of the story, rather than being patchy in spots.
All in all, this was a violently delightful book, and I loved every minute of reading it. I almost wish I hadn't read it as soon as it came out, so I could still look forward to reading it again for the first time. As it is, I will be shoving this series in the hands of everybody I know. This is such a wonderful, cheery read, that leans well into the underlying cheesiness of its genre, without ever undermining its quality as a love story. And, perhaps most importantly of all, it is legitimately plausible as a love story in a way few other historical romances can do.
Please, please read this series so I can talk about these two books with everyone I know.
Now I will start working on my time machine, so I can skip straight to September 2021 and have the third book in my hot, anticipatory little hands.