The Scandalous Suffragette is about a young woman who literally falls into the arms of a young man and ends up turning him and his sisters into either suffragists or suffragettes (more on the distinction later). She’s the heir to a chocolate factory, and he’s the heir to a crumbling family estate. It’s a promising combination, although it also made me oddly stressed and a bit disappointed.
Violet Coombes is the only child of doting parents. Her father owns Coombes Chocolate, a business that has made the family extremely rich. Now they want to help Violet find a good husband – but this seems almost impossible when she attracts scandal by hanging a suffragette banner in a most unfortunate location during her first ball.
Luckily, Adam Beaufort is at the ball – and, unbeknownst to her parents, he met Violet previously when Violet tried to hang a suffragette banner from his house (she thought it was the gentlemen’s club, which was actually next door). He has an estate (Beauley Manor), a widowed mother, and two sisters, and he can’t support any of them. When Violet is faced with ruin, Adam considers that Violet is not only rich but is also attractive, intelligent, and easy to talk to.
Adam and Violet agree to a marriage of convenience. He will support her suffragette activities and she will support his efforts to restore Beauley Manor and ensure that the land’s tenants remain secure. Violet had sworn not to marry until women in Britain get the vote, because she wants to give all of her time to the suffragettes. Adam offers to wait to consummate the marriage until after that time, whenever it may be, so that while they will be married, Violet will not be encumbered by children until her cause is won.
This sounds very tidy except that Adam and Violet are extremely attracted to each other. In no time Violet has charmed the tenants and her inlaws, and has realized that Adam feels his duty to his estate as strongly as she feels her duty to the suffragettes. Meanwhile, Violet has converted Adam’s sisters to her cause. However, she has to decide how radical she wants to be, and she signs up for a mission which she knows Adam will not approve of.
You guys, I do not know what my freaking problem was, but I was so stressed out about Adam discovering what Violet was planning to do. Adam promised to support her, but he also asked her not to keep secrets, and here she is with a whopper. It was so obvious that of course he’d find out, and that of course he’d be mad that she didn’t tell him ahead of time, and they were getting along so well, and I just COULD NOT EVEN with this stupid conflict that was so contrived but which also filled me with dread. I really liked Adam and Violet’s partnership and her messing it up out of sheer stupidity made me so frustrated.
It’s a romance, it’s fine, everything works out. However, Violet’s conflict with regard to how far to take her activities does bring an interesting element into the story, which is that historically, there was a difference between suffragists and suffragettes. A suffragist was a person who support the rights of women to vote through peaceful activism. Suffragettes were people who were more radical in approach, participating in acts of civil disobedience and property damage. Violet, and eventually her sisters-in-law, have to decide what acts they are willing to perform and what they are not.
While the decision Violet faces is a serious one, the book can’t quite hold up to the idea. Violet is protected from consequence and spreads her message with a minimum of opposition. She is admirable in her convictions, but less so in being consistently foolish in her methods. Her choices lack the weight and sacrifice they should have.
The strengths of this book are the time period and subject matter, as well as the lovely friendship between Violet and Adam. I love seeing a romantic couple who, in addition to mad lust, also enjoys an easy friendship and even partnership. I also enjoyed the historical notes. Overall, this was a sometimes pleasant, often funny, sometimes touching, enjoyable read. However, in making Violet so, for lack of a better word, flaky, and in exempting her from negative consequences to her actions, it failed to do full justice to its own ideas. Additionally, the stress of the impending conflict with Adam, combined with the fact that the conflict would be significantly less if Violet would just communicate, made me think less of Violet and decreased my enjoyment of the book.