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335 pages, Paperback
First published September 3, 2019
"One: identify a man of influence. Two: approach him firmly, but with a smile. Three: remember they can sense if you are afraid, but they are usually more afraid of you."How difficult can it be? Miss Annabelle Archer thinks. Instilling the rightness of the cause into the minds and consciences of that handful of men who could truly help breaking the other half of the population’s second class citizenship status quo. Inspiring in them even just a kernel of that same passion for evolving, improving, changing that has led and sustained her during these difficult first months in Oxford. At 25, the offer of a stipend at Lady Margaret Hall, the first college recently allowing female students to attend, has been the miraculous, and last, opportunity to flee a life of frustration as an unpaid poor relation drudging her days away in her cousin’s house in Kent. Once rid of such confining environment and able to resume the literary and classical studies her father had introduced her to, joining the National Society for Women’s Suffrage has been the logical continuation in her quest for independence and a fruitful way to return her scholarship.
"No decent woman would talk to a stranger in the street, certainly not while brandishing pamphlets that boldly declared The Married Women’s Property Act makes a slave of every wife!"Yet, here she is, in front of Westminster on a chilly October day, her first suffrage meeting, a cold mist dulling Parliament Square. And then the ideal target in sight, whoever he may be, "the kind who had his confidence bred into his bones, who oozed entitlement from the self-assured way he held himself to his perfectly straight aristo nose," and she the only activist among the ones in her group having the courage, or the foolishness, to accost him. The brief exchange has come to naught, of course, the icy façade he’s presented her has been answer enough, tough an instant sort of awareness has sparkled between them, "bright and disturbing like an electric current." And oh, he has been staring at her mouth. "No matter their position in the world, they all liked her mouth." Well, a duke no less, but he’s never going to be one of their political allies, so no use in keep glancing back in the direction his carriage has gone off...
"The woman had had the softest, most inviting lips he’d seen on this side of the channel. [...] But what was more remarkable was that she had looked him straight in the eye.Sebastian Devereux, nineteenth Duke of Montgomery, has no time for brash suffragists. A protagonists of Britain’s politics and at only 35 one of the most powerful peers of the realm, with an unruly younger brother to manage, a scandalous divorce in his near past, the ancestral ducal seat to regain and now the Queen appointing him chief strategic advisor for the Tory party in the upcoming elections his life is already complicated as it is and, though not opposed on principle, adding support to women’s rights campaign on his agenda is out of the question. After all, it’s not as if he’s going to run into “Green Eyes” ever again...
She might not exactly like him. But she very, very much wanted to make sense of him.Though if it is as they say that the personal is also a little bit political and vice versa, in this case a battle of wills, wits, hearts and souls is inevitable, or to put it in Annabelle’s own words:
[...] and 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.
“Perhaps this is not a question of staying out of trouble, Your Grace. Perhaps this is about deciding on which side of history you want to be.”And a question of whether love or reason will prevail... or even better, a rare compromise between both...
His kisses had lifted a loneliness off her she hadn't even known she carried.SOOOOOOOO wonderful!
Something tore inside his chest, something vital, and briefly, he wondered if a man could die from it. The pain all but took his breath away. What a way to find out he did have a heart.
He does have a heart, you see, a restrained, honorable heart, but it bruises just like yours and mine, and I wager it is a hundred times more steadfast. He is a rare man, not because he is wealthy, or powerful, but because he says what he means and does what he says.
She belonged here, right here wrapped in these strong, nonjudgmental, protective arms, and she wasn’t sure where to begin again without him.
“Darling,” he said, “I have only just begun to love you.”