a man and women dressed in Victorian outfits standing at a table playing chess. the text says The Gentleman's Gambit: Evie Dunmore.

The League of Extraordinary Women is this Summer’s Must-Read Victorian Romance

I’m not gonna lie. I’m a little disappointed that nobody told me about Evie Dunmore sooner. Just a few days ago, I stumbled upon The Gentleman’s Gambit (2023), the latest addition to her League of Extraordinary Women series, and I was immediately hooked. As a long-time fan of Regency (or Victorian, as the case may be) romances, I was thrilled to find that Dunmore’s work takes the genre up a notch with her clever prose, pioneering heroines, and off-the-charts chemistry.

Currently, there are four titles in the League of Extraordinary Women series. While I can’t speak for the first three books since I started randomly with the fourth, it’s clear that each of Dunmore’s characters is an innovative and pioneering woman. Here’s my in-progress review of The Gentleman’s Gambit:

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Meet Catriona

A Scottish woman championing women’s rights, particularly against abusive husbands. She’s a linguist, scholar, and a highly sensitive person, surrounding herself with smart, savvy women dedicated to passing protective legislation for women who leave their abusive husbands.

Can I tell you how exciting it is to see myself reflected in Catriona’s sensitive nature? She is overwhelmed by loud noises, crowded spaces, and certain sensations. Her sensitivity is not portrayed as a character flaw. She’s caring, empathetic, thoughtful, introspective, and analytical. She is so well-rounded and developed that you can’t help but care deeply for her.

The Romance Factor

Who wants to read romance if there’s no chemistry, right? Well, The Gentleman’s Gambit has plenty of it. First of all, readers should know that this is an open-door romance with a good number of steamy scenes. The opening scene is both hilarious and titillating—a gentleman suddenly appears while Catriona is on her morning swim—in her birthday suit! This gentleman turns out to be none other than Elias Khoury, a visiting academic from the Middle East who is assigned a position cataloging artifacts for Catriona’s father. Their tender journey of getting to know each other is beautifully depicted, revealing aspects of themselves they thought were long closed off. Elias takes his cues from Catriona, and readers get to fully enjoy the unfolding romance.

As a reader who gets frustrated with hot-and-cold relationships, I appreciate that The Gentleman’s Gambit avoids this pitfall. While I’m still a ways from the end of the book, it’s safe to assume that these characters have a deep enough connection that their story won’t flip-flop in intensity.

Why Read The League of Extraordinary Women This Summer?

Each book in the League of Extraordinary Women series features strong, complex, and diverse female characters breaking free from traditional gender roles. These stories are not only inclusive but also empowering, portraying sexuality in a healthy, consensual, and empowering way. Dunmore’s books are perfect for readers who crave stories that reflect their experiences and values, providing a sense of hope and optimism.

Feminist Romance Appeal

Feminist romance novels have gained popularity for good reason. They often tackle real-world issues like sexism, racism, and classism, providing a platform for marginalized voices. These stories offer a reflection of the world we live in, making them relatable and impactful.

Deep Dive into The Gentleman’s Gambit

As I delved deeper into The Gentleman’s Gambit, I was continually impressed by Dunmore’s skill in weaving historical accuracy with a compelling narrative. Catriona’s journey is not just about finding love but also about self-discovery and empowerment in a society that often stifles women’s voices.

Catriona’s activism and fight for women’s rights resonate deeply in today’s context. Her involvement in legislation to protect women from abusive marriages is a powerful narrative that mirrors ongoing struggles for gender equality. Dunmore doesn’t shy away from portraying the harsh realities of Victorian society, but she does so with a sensitivity and insight that make these issues relatable and poignant.

Catriona’s Character Development

One of the standout aspects of Dunmore’s writing is her ability to create multi-dimensional characters. Catriona is not just a heroine; she’s a fully realized person with strengths, vulnerabilities, and a deeply introspective nature. Her sensitivity is portrayed with such nuance that it adds layers to her character, making her relatable and endearing.

Evie Dunmore skillfully uses Catriona’s hypersensitivity as a lens to explore deeper emotional and psychological themes. Catriona’s struggle with overstimulation in loud and crowded spaces and her heightened tactile sensitivity are depicted with a realism that many readers will find relatable. This aspect of her character isn’t just a quirk but a fundamental part of who she is, adding depth and authenticity to her story.

Chemistry Between Characters

The chemistry between Catriona and Elias is electric and palpable. From their first unconventional meeting to the gradual unfolding of their relationship, Dunmore captures the essence of romance with a blend of humor, tenderness, and passion. The dynamics of their relationship are complex and evolve naturally, making their connection feel genuine and deeply affecting.

A Feminist Perspective on Romance

One of the most refreshing aspects of Dunmore’s series is its feminist perspective. The League of Extraordinary Women is about more than just romance; it’s about women finding their voices, claiming their power, and challenging societal norms. These books offer a narrative where women are not just love interests but active agents of change in their own lives and communities.

Feminist romance novels have gained popularity in recent years, and many women have found solace in these stories that prioritize female empowerment, pleasure, and equality. If you think this series sounds like your cup of tea, you should definitely take a look at these books that explore similar themes, time periods, and styles.

1. Ana María and the Fox by Liana De la Rosa

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If you enjoyed The Gentleman’s Gambit, you’ll likely appreciate Ana María and the Fox by Liana De la Rosa. This novel shares similarities in its character-driven plot and the depth of its protagonists. The rich narrative and complex characters make it a compelling read. There are currently 3 books in this Luna Sisters series.

2. Never Met a Duke Like You by Amalie Howard

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Never Met a Duke Like You by Amalie Howard explores a different type of relationship than The Gentleman’s Gambit. This opposites-attract romance delves into themes of social advocacy, mirroring some of the societal issues Dunmore tackles. It’s a refreshing take on the classic duke romance with a twist. This is actually book 2 in the Taming of the Dukes series.

3. A Lady’s Formula for Love by Elizabeth Everett

Elizabeth Everett’s A Lady’s Formula for Love is part of the Secret Scientists of London series. Readers will enjoy the unique premise of a secret society of scientists who defy societal gender roles. The innovative and pioneering female characters will resonate with fans of Evie Dunmore’s work.

4. To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters

For those looking for more humor and levity in their romance reading, To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters is a great pick. The Regency Vows series offers a delightful mix of wit, charm, and romantic escapades that provide a light-hearted yet engaging reading experience.

5. The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

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Tessa Dare’s The Duchess Deal kicks off the Girl Meets Duke series with a bang. Emma Gladstone and the Duke of Ashbury will have you in stitches with their banter, and the chemistry between them is undeniable. Dare’s female characters are strong, witty, and far from shrinking violets, making this book a must-read.

What are you waiting for?

Evie Dunmore’s League of Extraordinary Women series offers a unique blend of representation, diversity, empowerment, and positivity. These books provide a sense of hope, optimism, and agency, encouraging readers to take control of their own lives and challenge societal norms.

This summer, immerse yourself in the world of Victorian romance with Evie Dunmore. Whether you start with The Gentleman’s Gambit like I did or begin with the first book in the series, you’re in for a treat. Each story promises strong, pioneering women, heartwarming romance, and a refreshing feminist perspective that sets Dunmore’s work apart.

So, grab a copy, find a cozy spot, and dive into the extraordinary world of Evie Dunmore. You won’t regret it.

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