The Suffragette Scandal was such fun! The heroine of this romance, Frederica Marshall, known to her friends as Free, is the owner/editor of a woman's newspaper in England in 1877. One of my favorite moments in the book is when she tells the hero Edward Clark that if he ever needs an exclamation point, he should come to see her because she has a whole box of them.
She really does have a box of exclamation points. Printing was done with moveable type. So each page in a newspaper had to be set with little replicas of each letter and punctuation mark. I'm borrowing from Free's box of exclamation points for this review. I've used two of them.
It's often said that Jane Eyre is the grandmother of historical romance, but I think that The Suffragette Scandal is directly descended from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing where Beatrice and Benedick have some really great dialogue exchanges. I was thinking of Benedick calling Beatrice "my lady disdain" while I read this book. Free could easily be a second "my lady disdain". Her agile tongue can outwit all the other characters.
Aside from the dialogue, there's also a dramatic plot with threats to the newspaper, arrests at a suffragette rally, blackmail and forgery. Free's background is amazing because it includes all the risks she took to publish exposés of institutions and businesses that were harming women.
In the Author's Note, Courtney Milan reveals what I suspected about the inspiration of her feminist heroine. She is modeled on Nellie Bly, the 19th century American investigative reporter. I've linked a Biography.com article about her life. The image of her below is a public domain photo from Wikipedia.
Those who say that historical romances which contain feminist heroines are all inauthentic are wrong. Nellie Bly really existed. There were suffragettes. Romance writers can draw on a rich heritage of strong women throughout history. I give The Suffragette Scandal high marks for being a feminist romance that is hugely entertaining.