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What drew me to this story is the premise, and the title says it all: Avery Quinn is entering a world that wasn't meant for her, and she is up against very challenging odds. For one, Avery Quinn wasn't born a lady -- she's the daughter of the Dalton Family gamekeeper, who happened to have saved the Marquess of Strand's life. Then, in a moment of sheer inspiration, asked to have his daughter receive an education, as a reward for his service.
So Avery Quinn received the best education any woman (or man) could have -- and, she has used the great gift her father and the Marquess has given her and used it to discover a comet. Now she intends to present her discovery to the Royal Astronomical Society -- a mens-only organization -- and hopes to become their first female member.
Avery is undaunted, because she has a plan -- but she needs the current Marquess of Strand, Giles Dalton, to help her.
Giles has always respected and thought very fondly of Avery -- but he recognized the risk of her most current scheme. If she is discovered, her reputation and her credibility would be destroyed. If she was discovered, his reputation and place in society would be destroyed as well. But Giles agrees -- because, for the first time in a very long time, he is participating in something that is meaningful ... though, admittedly, a bit crazy.
But Giles's agreement isn't purely out of goodwill -- he needs a cover as he investigates the disappearance of his friend Jack Seward.
The story proceeds at a very uneven pace -- the first half of the book establishes Giles's backstory and motivation, then discusses (at length) Avery's plans to masquerade as a male Avery Quinn. The story gets interesting when Giles and Avery admit to the attraction that has long brewed between the two of them -- and London serves as an interesting background for their most unusual courtship. There are no dances in ballrooms or dinners together -- Avery masquerades as a man in and out of Giles's London house, so their relationship develops through conversation.
What's interesting is that both of them seem to have felt this attraction long before the novel started, but neither of them acted on it. It's not an attraction that Giles had ever intended to pursue: he wants to do the honorable thing and leave Avery chaste, and Avery had never dreamed to overstep the social boundaries that separates her and Giles -- a gamekeeper's daughter does not fall in love with the master of the house.
But you could clearly see that they are perfect for each other: Giles's backstory reveals how he's never been able to be his true self, he's always had to play a role -- for his father's sake, for his late brother's sake, etc. -- with Avery, he's really able to say and be exactly who he is. I get the sense that Avery was lonely -- despite living at Killylea (the Strand seat) with an army of servants, Avery didn't really have any confidantes or friends. Giles is the closest thing to a friend that Avery has.
What suffers the most is the investigation into Jack Seward's disappearance -- the blurb for the book hints that this is a major plot point in the story, but it is relegated to a few chapters. It does serve a purpose in resolving the story between Giles and Avery, but I did wish there would be more of Giles searching for his friend, with Avery's help. Avery shows that she has a very clever mind, and she could've been a big help to Giles -- instead, Giles kept that part of himself separate from his endeavors with Avery.
I had expected more based on the blurb, but Connie Brockway does deliver a solid story -- one that resolves quite nicely (and happily), though a bit too neatly in the end.
No Place for a Dame is Book 3 of Connie Brockway's Royal Agents series. To find out more about Connie Brockway and her books, click below: