A Rogue of One's Own

A Rogue of One's Own

by Evie Dunmore

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Overview

"Rich with subplot, historical detail and beautifully descriptive writing that keeps the pages turning until the delightfully unconventional happy ending."—NPR

An Indie Next/LibraryReads pick!

An Apple Must Listen Audiobook for September!

A lady must have money and an army of her own if she is to win a revolution—but first, she must pit her wits against the wiles of an irresistible rogue bent on wrecking her plans…and her heart.

 
Lady Lucie is fuming. She and her band of Oxford suffragists have finally scraped together enough capital to control one of London’s major publishing houses, with one purpose: to use it in a coup against Parliament. But who could have predicted that the one person standing between her and success is her old nemesis and London’s undisputed lord of sin, Lord Ballentine? Or that he would be willing to hand over the reins for an outrageous price—a night in her bed.
 
Lucie tempts Tristan like no other woman, burning him up with her fierceness and determination every time they clash. But as their battle of wills and words fans the flames of long-smoldering devotion, the silver-tongued seducer runs the risk of becoming caught in his own snare.
 
As Lucie tries to out-maneuver Tristan in the boardroom and the bedchamber, she soon discovers there’s truth in what the poets say: all is fair in love and war…

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781984805706
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/01/2020
Series: A League of Extraordinary Women , #2
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 14,705
Product dimensions: 5.46(w) x 8.24(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Evie Dunmore is the USA Today bestselling author of Bringing Down the Duke. Her League of Extraordinary Women series 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. Evie lives in Berlin and pours her fascination with 19th century Britain into her writing. She is a member of the British Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA).

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
   
    Buckinghamshire, Summer 1865
   
    Young ladies did not lie prone on the rug behind the library’s
    chesterfield and play chess against themselves. They did not stuff their
    cheeks with boiled sweets before breakfast. Lucie knew this. But it was
    the summer holidays and the dullest of them yet: Tommy had come home
    from Eton a proper prig who wouldn’t play with girls anymore; newly
    arrived cousin Cecily was the type of child who cried easily; and, at
    barely thirteen years of age, Lucie found she was too young to just
    decorously die of boredom. Her mother, on the other hand, would probably
    consider this quite a noble death. Then again, to the Countess of
    Wycliffe, most things were preferable over hoydenish behavior.
   
    The smell of leather and dust was in her nose and the library was
    pleasantly silent. Morning sun pooled on the chessboard and made the
    white queen shine bright like a beacon. She was in peril—a rogue knight
    had set a trap, and Her Majesty could now choose to sacrifice herself to
    protect the king, or to let him fall. Lucie’s fingers hovered over the
    polished ivory crown, indecisive.
   
    Rapid footsteps echoed in the hallway.
   
    Her mother’s delicate heels—but Mother never ran?
   
    The door flew open.
   
    “How could you? How could you?”
   
    Lucie froze. Her mother’s voice was trembling with outrage.
   
    The door slammed shut again and the floor shook from the force of it.
   
    “In front of everyone, the whole ballroom—”
   
    “Come now, must you carry on so?”
   
    Her stomach felt hollow. It was her father, his tone coldly bored and
    cutting.
   
    “Everyone knows, while I’m abed at home, oblivious!”
   
    “Good Gad. Why Rochester’s wife calls herself your friend is beyond
    me—she fills your ears with gossip and now look at you, raving like a
    madwoman. Why, I should have sent her away last night; it is rather like
    her erratic self to invite herself, to arrive late and unannounced—”
   
    “She stays,” snapped Mama. “She must stay—one honest person in a pit of
    snakes.”
   
    Her father laughed. “Lady Rochester, honest? Have you seen her son? What
    an odd little ginger fellow—I’d wager a thousand pounds he isn’t even
    Rochester’s spawn—”
   
    “What about you, Wycliffe? How many have you spawned among your side
    pieces?”
   
    “Now. This is below you, wife.”
   
    There was a pause, and it stretched and grew heavy like a lead blanket.
   
    Lucie’s heart was drumming against her ribs, hard and painful, the thuds
    so loud, they had to hear it.
   
    A sob shattered the quiet and it hit her stomach like a punch. Her
    mother was crying.
   
    “I beseech you, Thomas. What have I done wrong so you won’t even grant
    me discretion?”
   
    “Discretion—madam, your screeching can be heard from miles away!”
   
    “I gave you Tommy,” she said between sobs. “I nearly died giving you
    Tommy and yet you flaunt that . . . that person—in front of everyone.”
   
    “Saints, grant me patience—why am I shackled to such an overemotional
    female?”
   
    “I love you so, Thomas. Why, why can’t you love me?”
   
    A groan, fraught with impatience. “I love you well enough, wife, though
    your hysterics do make it a challenge.”
   
    “Why must it be so?” Mama keened. “Why am I not enough for you?”
   
    “Because, my dear, I am a man. May I have some peace in my library now,
    please.”
   
    A hesitation; then, a gasp that sounded like surrender.
   
    The thud of the heavy door falling shut once more came from a distance.
    A roar filled Lucie’s ears. Her throat was clogged with boiled sweets;
    she’d have to breathe through her mouth. But he would hear her.
   
    She could hold out. She would not breathe.
   
    The snick of a lighter. Wycliffe had lit a cigarette. Floorboards
    creaked. Leather crunched. He had settled into his armchair.
   
    Her lungs were burning, and her fingers were white as bone, alien and
    clawlike against the dizzying swirls of the rug.
   
    Still she lay silent. King and queen blurred before her eyes.
   
    She could hold out.
   
    Black began edging her vision. It was as though she’d never breathe again.
   
    Paper rustled. The earl was reading the morning news.
   
    A mile from the library, deep in the cool green woods of Wycliffe Park,
    Tristan Ballentine, the second son of the Earl of Rochester, had just
    decided to spend all his future summers at Wycliffe Hall. He might have
    to befriend Tommy, Greatest Prig at Eton, to put this plan into
    practice, but the morning walks alone would be worth it. Unlike the
    estate of his family seat, where every shrub was pruned and accounted
    for, Wycliffe Park left nature to its own devices. Trees gnarled.
    Shrubbery sprawled. The air was sweet with the fragrance of forest
    flowers. And he had found a most suitable place for reading Wordsworth:
    a circular clearing at the end of a hollow way. A large standing stone
    loomed at its center.
   
    Dew drenched his trouser legs as he circled the monolith. It looked
    suspiciously like a fairy stone, weathered and conical, planted here
    before all time. Of course, at twelve years of age, he was too old to
    believe in fairies and the like. His father had made this abundantly
    clear. Poetry, too, was forbidden in Ashdown Castle. Romantic lines ran
    counter to the Ballentine motto, “With Valor and Vigor.” But here, who
    could find him? Who would see? His copy of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s
    Lyrical Ballads was at the ready.
   
    He shrugged out of his coat and spread it on the grass, then made to
    stretch himself out on his belly. The fine fabric of his trousers
    promptly grated like chain mail against the broken skin on his backside,
    making him hiss in pain. His father drove his lessons home with a cane.
    And yesterday, the earl had been overzealous, again. It was why Mama had
    grabbed him, Tristan, and he had grabbed his books, and they had taken
    off to visit her friend Lady Wycliffe for the summer.
   
    He tried finding a comfortable position, shifting this way and that,
    then he gave up, unhooked his braces and began unbuttoning the fall of
    the pesky trousers. The next moment, the ground began to shake.
   
    For a beat, he froze.
   
    He snatched his coat and dove behind the standing stone just as a black
    horse thundered into view in the hollow-­way. A magnificent animal,
    gleaming with sweat, foam flying from its bit. The kind of stallion
    kings and heroes rode. It scrambled to a sudden halt on the clearing,
    sending lumps of soil flying with plate-­sized hooves.
   
    He gasped with shocked surprise.
   
    The rider was no king. No hero. The rider was not a man at all.
   
    It was a girl.
   
    She wore boots and breeches like a boy and rode astride, but there was
    no doubt she was a girl. A coolly shimmering fall of ice-­blond hair
    streamed down her back and whirled round her like a silken veil when the
    horse pivoted.
   
    He couldn’t have moved had he tried. He was stunned, his gaze riveted to
    her face—was she real? Her face . . . was perfect. Delicate and
    heart-­shaped, with fine, winged eyebrows and an obstinate, pointy
    little chin. A fairy.
   
    But her cheeks were flushed an angry pink and her lips pressed into a
    line. She looked ready to ride into battle on the big black beast . . .
   
    She made to slide from the saddle, and he shrank back behind the stone.
    He should show himself. His mouth went dry. What would he say? What did
    one say to someone so lovely and fierce?
   
    Her boots hit the ground with a light thud. She muttered a few soft
    words to the stallion. Then nothing.
   
    He craned his neck. The girl was gone. Quietly, he crept forward. When
    he rose to a crouch, he spotted her supine form in the grass, her
    slender arms flung wide.
   
    He might have moved a little closer . . . closer, even. He straightened,
    peering down.
   
    Her eyes were closed. Her lashes lay dark and straight against her pale
    cheeks. The gleaming strands of her hair fanned out around her head like
    rays of a white cold winter sun.
   
    His heart was racing. A powerful ache welled from his core, an anxious
    urgency, a dread, of sorts—this was a rare, precious opportunity and he
    was woefully unprepared to grasp it. He had not known girls like her
    existed, outside the fairy books and the princesses of the Nordic sagas
    he had to read in secret . . .
   
    An angry snort tore through the silence. The stallion was approaching,
    ears flat and teeth bared.
   
    “Hell,” Tristan said.
   
    The girl’s eyes snapped open. They stared at each other, her flat on her
    back, him looming.
   
    She was on her feet like a shot. “You! You are trespassing.”
   
    She had looked petite, but they stood nearly eye to eye.
   
    He felt his face freeze in a dim-­witted grin. “No, I—”
   
    Stormy gray eyes narrowed at him. “I know who you are. You are Lady
    Rochester’s son.”
   
    He remembered to bow his head. Quite nicely, too. “Tristan Ballentine.
    Your servant.”
   
    “You were spying on me!”
   
    “No. Yes. Well, a little,” he admitted, for he had.
   
    It was the worst moment to remember that the flap of his trousers was
    still half undone. Reflexively, he reached for the buttons, and the
    girl’s gaze followed.
   
    She gasped.
   
    Next he knew, her hand flew up and pain exploded in his left cheek. He
    staggered back, disoriented and clutching his face. He half-­expected
    his hand to come away smeared with red.
   
    He looked from his palm at her face. “Now that was uncalled for.”
   
    A flicker of uncertainty, perhaps contrition, briefly cooled the blaze
    in her eyes. Then she raised her hand with renewed determination. “You
    have seen nothing yet,” she snarled. “Leave me alone, you . . . little
    ginger.”
   
    His cheeks burned, and not from the slap. He knew he had barely grown an
    inch since his birthday, and yes, he worried the famous Ballentine
    height was eluding him. The runt, Marcus called him. His hand curled
    into a fist. If she were a boy, he’d deck her. But a gentleman never
    raised his hand to a girl, even if she made him want to howl. Marcus,
    now Marcus would have known how to handle this vicious pixie with
    aplomb. Tristan could only beat a hasty retreat, the slap still pulsing
    like fire on his cheekbone. The Lyrical Ballads lay forgotten in damp grass.

Reading Group Guide

Reader's Guide
A Rogue of One's Own
by Evie Dunmore

Discussion Questions

1. Throughout the course of the novel, Lucie discovers her sexuality.How would you describe this journey? What do you think were the main drivers behind Lucie’s risky decision to accept Tristan’s offer, knowing that a sexual relationship outside of marriage would be socially unacceptable?

2. Can you relate to Lucie’s concerns that working hard on a causewill automatically pose a conflict with married life or a romantic relationship? Do you agree or disagree? Be specific.

3. How would you describe the conflict between Lucie and her mother? Did your opinion of Lucie’s mother change throughout the story? Why or why not?

4. Tristan does not immediately turn into a suffrage activist, despite witnessing how little protection the law provides his mother from the abuses of her husband. Why do you think that is?

5. What role does Annabelle play in this story? How is her approachto the Cause different from Lucie’s?

6. Fashion is a frequent topic of discussion among Hattie, Lucie, Annabelle, and Catriona. In the Victorian era, women of means were expected to present themselves fashionably and dress immaculately at all times. Fashion was also one of the few ways through which a woman could express her personality. How is fashion used in this story? Do you think fashion is political for Lucie and her friends? Why or why not? Do you feel fashion is still more than just fashion today?

7. Women’s magazines in the Victorian era were frequently edited bymen, and usually aimed to inform and facilitate women’s correct conduct in society and in the home. How has this changed?

8. While we do not see Lucie tackling an over arching political event in the course of her story, she is regularly confronted—due to her political work—with what we today would call microaggression. Do you recall any of those instances, and how do you think these experiences would shape an activist like Lucie over time?

9. Lucie tells Tristan women have been explicitly fighting for equality for nearly a hundred years—ever since Mary Wollstonecraft wrote The Vindication on the Rights of Women—yet here we are, still fighting—another 140 years on. Do you feel this is still applicable, why or why not?

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