Today’s review is about PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMAN by Evie Dunmore. It’s a historical romance set in 19th century England and Scotland. It was a time when women’s suffrage started taking the spotlight. Women had few rights and what rights they had essentially became null once married. This book explores autonomy, suffrage, and economic topics which remain relevant today.
Author: Evie Dunmore
Series: A League of Extraordinary Women Book 3
Age Category: Adult
Publish Date: September 7, 2021
Print Length: 432
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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:
- Acclaim as an artist.
- A noble cause.
- 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 desire for 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 am not someone who reads a lot of historical fiction anymore, much less historical romance. In fact, the first historical romance I read (maybe ever?) was THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEWOMEN WITCHES last year. I picked up PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMAN on a whim and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. I thought this would be somewhat whimsical and light hearted, and it had moments of the latter. But it was also deeper than that and I unexpectedly really appreciated that aspect. (Don’t get me wrong, I love a good light-hearted, not-super-serious read. We all need a break from those heavier stories at some point.)
“Coverture, an English common-law doctrine, demanded that a wife was subsumed in her husband’s legal persona.”Loc 1110
PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMAN is set in late 19th century England when women’s suffrage and rights is finding a louder voice. Hattie is undoubtedly upper class and privileged and has the luxury of attending art school and joining these women’s movements. But while she is a feminist participant, it takes a twist of unwanted fate to make Hattie realize society sees her as an object. There’s nothing like experiencing injustice and inequality firsthand to spur one into action, yes? Or, at least, to understand one’s situation, digest it, and work toward independence to be a woman, a person, and not anyone’s possession.
It seemed like Dunmore researched many of the political topics important to women at the time to properly portray them in the story. (I haven’t researched this. But readers on Goodreads who seem to know more about this time in history felt Dunmore included these topics well.) Additionally, there were a lot of internal, analytical quips by Hattie commentating on how society (men) expect women to behave. Or how the only things that seem to matter are what men deem worthy. For example, this is similar to some book community commentary about are classic works written by White men from the west actually good, or are they judged good because western White men wrote them?
“Just assume people are chiefly motivated by convenience, vanity, or greed. Any product serving those will be a commercial success.”Loc 902
This story also focuses on corporate greed manifested as poor working conditions and poor pay for the coal miners of Scotland. Lucian, the male main character, is sort of like a Scottish Robin Hood, tarnished by his desire for vengeance. But he has a good heart and he thinks a lot about redistribution of wealth, basically economic discourse that is in the news today. Hattie helps him realize the wage gap between men and women. He also acknowledges the injustices women face, even if he uses them to his advantage. This acknowledgment extends to the moral judgment and withheld knowledge utilized to keep women from having an opinion.
“Specifically, a high-society wife, raised to be absurdly modest when supposedly their main use was to bear plenty of heirs and spares–no logic in that.”Loc 2043
There’s a lot more I could share, but I don’t want to make this review too long. In summary, I love the incorporation of women’s rights history and how Dunmore wove that into Hattie’s growth. Lucian, for his faults at the beginning, has an open mind and learns how to trust and let the past go. I love the communication between Hattie and Lucian (because I hate the miscommunication trope) and how that allows them to grow as a couple. The economic political commentary is not my strength, but I have a great appreciation for that subplot as well.
In summary, if historical romances aren’t your usual choice, this is a fantastic introduction to this subgenre. It also has a lot of popular tropes woven well into the plot. Definitely give it a go!
Content warnings: sexism
Reading format: Library e-book