So here's the summary of The Suffragette Scandal:
An idealistic suffragette...
Miss Frederica "Free" Marshall has put her heart and soul into her newspaper, known for its outspoken support of women's rights. Naturally, her enemies are intent on destroying her business and silencing her for good. Free refuses to be at the end of her rope...but she needs more rope, and she needs it now.
...a jaded scoundrel...
Edward Clark's aristocratic family abandoned him to die in a war-torn land, so he survived the only way he could: by becoming a rogue and a first-class forger. When the same family that left him for dead vows to ruin Miss Marshall, he offers his help. So what if he has to lie to her? She's only a pawn to use in his revenge.
...and a scandal seven years in the making.
But the irrepressible Miss Marshall soon enchants Edward. By the time he realizes that his cynical heart is hers, it's too late. The only way to thwart her enemies is to reveal his scandalous past...and once the woman he loves realizes how much he's lied to her, he'll lose her forever.
We saw little bits of Free in the previous books, most especially in Oliver's and it was always clear that of the Milan heroines that Free would be the most outrageous. She is fierce and determined and does not back down from her cause. She is optimistic but also realistic. She knows that she alone isn't going to change the world, but she's not going to be the one to quit giving it her all. Even a tiny bit of change, a thimbleful, is better than none. If Free has a vulnerability I did not see it.
Edward, on the other hand, is all vulnerability. He hides it from everyone, but he really can't trust anyone, including himself, for good reason. Except for his childhood friends Stephen and Patrick, he hasn't ever had ANYONE he could trust. Every other person has always betrayed him, and he learned in war that he couldn't even trust himself. So when he finds himself falling in love with Free he yearns to trust her- and realizes that he can- but still can't trust himself. He is so sure that he will let her down and bring her to hate him too. My heart just ached for him, wanting love so badly.
I loved the interactions here. The dialogue is so smart, especially between Edward and Free. The scene where Edward and Stephen see each other again after years apart is near perfect. Each word is so perfectly chosen that I involuntarily smile reading it. The tiniest of details really just turn the story from your average romance to something much better. Free watches Edward approach up the street and you can feel her anticipation. I'm sure this scene has been written in dozens of romances that I've read and yet this one has such a tingle of awareness to it that many authors don't achieve.
If I were going to recommend a historical romance novel to a non-romance reader, this is where I would start. I occasionally think that perhaps she goes a step too far in making her heroines think progressively. I wonder if it's realistic, but then I realize that SOME woman had to think and act that way at some point, and it might as well be the heroine of a romance. I've read quite a few great romances this year and this one will be at the top of the list. I absolutely can't wait to read Stephen's story.
*I know exactly why I hate this. My first boyfriend used to think it funny to put his friends on the phone and have them pretend to be him to trick me. 25 years later and I still hate to call people on their home line in case someone else answers and I can't tell.