September 01, 2020

Exclusive excerpt: ‘A Rogue of One’s Own’

September 01, 2020

Exclusive excerpt: ‘A Rogue of One’s Own’

September 01, 2020

Exclusive excerpt: ‘A Rogue of One’s Own’

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Evie Dunmore's debut novel, Bringing Down the Duke, was rapturously received by romance fans for its witty love story and depiction of the Victorian women's suffrage movement. Dunmore returns to her League of Extraordinary Women series with A Rogue of One's Own, a delicious enemies-to-lovers romance between passionate suffragette Lady Lucie and her longtime nemesis, Lord Tristan Ballentine. BookPage is thrilled to share an exclusive excerpt below!

The corridor drifted past without sound. Her face felt frozen. She all but shouldered past the receptionist announcing her into the office.

She was greeted by the soles of a pair of large shoes, propped up on a vast desk. A spread-open newspaper concealed the owner of said shoes.

Her heart plummeted.

Only one gentleman of her acquaintance would read the Times like a pantomime villain.

The paper lowered, and lion eyes met hers.

At once, the air between them burned. Her next breath scorched her lungs like hot steam.

“Lady Lucie.” Tristan took his feet off the desk. “I’ve been expecting you.”

Her throat was jammed with too many words.

He was dressed smartly, no crimson velvet in sight, just gray, immaculately tailored wool and muted silk. It made him look alien.

It made it all the more real.

He was watching her expectantly as he folded up the paper, and when she only stood and stared, her pulse thudding in her ears, he gave a shrug, rose and meandered over to the sideboard.

Tristan Ballentine was walking around in the offices of London Print as if he owned them.

Because he did.

She swayed a little on her feet.

“May I offer you something to drink?” His long fingers played over bottle necks. “Brandy, Scotch, sherry?”

She crossed her arms over her chest, holding on tight. Her pulse was beating alarmingly fast. “Since when?” she demanded.

He uncorked a bottle and held it to his nose for a sniff. “Since when what?”

The innocent curve of his mouth sent lightning crackling over her nerves.

“Since when do you own shares in this company?”

“Ah. Well, I bought the first 25% around six years ago, before my first tour. The remaining shares I purchased yesterday. At a bargain price, too, once I informed the previous owner of a suffragist takeover. Are you sure you don’t care for a brandy? You look a bit peaked.”

Her heart thudded, threatening to pound a hole through her ribs. Her nemesis owned the other half of her publishing house.

Her gaze narrowed. “You,” she said, “you were the one who alarmed the board and pressured Mr. Barnes.”

“I did, yes.” He did not look remotely contrite. “I had to buy some time, to secure the necessary capital and to confirm my suspicions that you were planning mischief before actually making an offer.”

His suspicions—had this been the reason behind their meeting at Blackwell’s? Of course.

She had known. She had known he had been trouble and she had gone to meet him anyway.

“Why?” she asked, hating the tremor in her voice. “Why London Print?”

He poured himself two finger widths of liquor as he strolled back toward his desk, taking the bottle with him. “Why would I not?” he said. “It’s a publishing house with a vast readership, with still considerably under-explored potential. Anyone with an eye on publishing and a passive income stream would be interested.”

The words hit like slaps. They were the same words she had given Mr. Barnes, when she had used economics to conceal her true intent of using the magazines to further the Cause. What was Tristan hiding? He should be living off his father’s allowance like any aristocratic male heir, not pondering passive income streams.

“If it is money you want, pick another business,” she said.

He cocked his head. “But why? Both my purchases preceded yours. One could say I was there first.”

“You cad,” she muttered, trembling. It seemed to amuse him.

“Throw a man a bone, Lucie. I’m back from the war. Perhaps I like the idea of having something to do. And London Print owns the rights to my literary works, so I suppose you could call me emotionally invested in my revenue.”

“Literary works?”

He sent her a pitying look from beneath his long lashes. “Romantic poetry.”

He might as well have talked Mandarin to her.

And then it dawned on her.

She shook her head, bemused. “Are you claiming you are the author of A Pocketful of Poems?”

“I am,” Tristan said. He studied her over the rim of his whiskey glass, an expectant gleam in his eyes. “How do you like it?”

The poetry? The poetry was published by Anonymous. She had suspected a woman to be the author, as was so often the case with Anonymous. Apparently, the truth was more outrageous. Apparently, there was a reality where her business partner was a notorious rake and where Lord Ballentine, most shallow of men, was an acclaimed poet. She had quite possibly fallen through a rabbit hole.

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