Thursday, March 24, 2022

Evie Dunmore - Portrait of a Scotsman

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.
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?

Comment: This is the third installment in the League of Extraordinary Women series by Evie Dunmore. Having enjoyed the previous books, of course I would want to keep up with the series.

In this third novel we follow heroine Hattie, from the group of women we've come to know since book #1. Hattie is a romantic, wants a fairy tale romance and she has joined the suffragists for companionship and to feel she is part of a cause, not because she spends her days dealing with the demands of a woman without choices. However, during one of her escapes to do what she likes, she gets herself in a complicated situation, which only gets worse when she is seen, days later, leaning in to kiss Lucien Blackstone, a man considered ruthless and with murky origins. 
Lucien actually planned the scene a little for he wants to marry Hattie because of the influence of her father. However, she isn't happy to know their being caught was staged by him and they are off to a rocky start. Lucien isn't actually as bad as others say although his plans for revenge are happening, so he tries to gain Hattie's favor by taking her to Scotland, and in there they see themselves in the middle of some business related to the mine he is the owner of. By having to remain in a place so out of her comfort zone, will Hattie have time to think and understand a few things? Will she want to get to know her husband for real?

This was another good installment in the series. I loved the first book and while the second and this one weren't as captivating to me, they are still great novels, with interesting content and swoon worthy romance moments. I just think that the combination of wanting to know what happens to the protagonists because their love story feels so necessary to happen and what actually is happening on the page wasn't as well done in the following novels. Nothing really wrong with them, just not as fascinating to my personal taste.

This time, the romance is centered on two people who are more or less forced to marry, to keep up the reputation and avoid scandal. It's nothing new in the world of historical romance, but the other books by this author didn't have this trope. I ended up liking it, but at first,it felt as if their personalities could not match and I was particularly disappointed with Hattie who, for all purposes, had always been a sweet woman, but was now revealing a more spoiled side.

In fact, she has all reason to be so, but what we had seen of her in the other stories made me think the focus wouldn't be in this detail of her upbringing. Well, it was and while understandable how a young woman in her class would react as she did, this is still fiction and I wanted a connection between her and the hero to happen more naturally. Well, it took some time, but it happened and as the story moved along I was actually curious to see how long it would take them to talk and find the romantic connection I imagined they would have.

Lucien, the hero is one of those protagonists who wants revenge over things in his past, acts as if he's a big bad guy but secretly hides a heart of gold. Sure, he has many flaws and does some things which would not be acceptable, but for the purpose of a romance and of a trope where he does improve and becomes hero material, I think his evolution was certainly consistent.

The romance has many good scenes/situations and closer to the end, something happens to create conflict, which is quite common in romance books, of course they eventually talk and find an agreement, but then, when I thought things were ending and the HEA was going to happen in the next page or the next, the heroine decides to exert her feminist ans suffragist side and makes a decision that, frankly, at that point of the story, when most loose points had been solved, only seemed to be there because the author has an agenda with her stories. Sure, i can recognize the need to do so, but certainly a different tactic could have been used and this made me like the end a little less.

The author clearly investigated several subjects related to women and their role in the British society in the late 1800s (there is a note at the end, explaining some choices, some information) and she tried to insert as much as possible within the plot. At times, I liked learning some facts, some numbers and often the heroine would talk to the hero about some things, including literature which added to the feel they were becoming closer and more in sync with one another. 

However, there were moments where it seemed rather obvious what the author was doing, that there was an intention behind why this was said here or why that was referenced there... the message is certainly important and should not be forgotten but it was a lot of it said/included when it didn't always feel natural that it was so... although, to be fair, the author did try to make it sound as if it could come up in any conversation the characters could be having in that moment.

All in all, this had many great details and scenes but others weren't as fascinating. I still liked the book a lot and by comparing to those that are too superficial and focused on mundane aspects, this worked out very well. But, thinking of the other books in the series, the first in particular, for me this wasn't as beautifully accomplished.
Grade: 7/10

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