All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Bringing Down The Duke by Evie Dunmore

on January 28, 2021

Bringing Down The Duke (A League Of Extraordinary Women #1)
Evie Dunmore
2019, 368p
Read via my local library

Blurb {via the publisher/}:

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke….

I really enjoyed this! I’d heard good things about it and had requested it through my local library without really knowing much about it. I requested it a long time ago, probably not long after the libraries closed here, because of covid and I only just got to the top of the request queue last week. When I requested it, I was just in the mood for historical romances and fluffy books that were feel good and this looked like it would fit the bill.

Annabelle is one of the first female students accepted to Oxford, which was her father’s dream. She’s incredibly bright and has been given a scholarship and in fulfilling the conditions by participating in suffrage, she meets several other strong-minded and intelligent women who want more than just to marry a titled man and bear him an heir and spare. Annabelle is told to single out influential looking men and attempt to draw them into their campaign to amend the Women’s Property Act and the first one she intercepts is the Duke of Montgomery, one of the most influential men in England.

Sebastian is the 19th Duke and his father, the 18th Duke, was a drunk who did his part to diminish the estate. Sebastian seems to see it as a personal mission to restore every lost property. He’s also divorced, which is unusual for the time and because Sebastian is a very formidable personality, no one really knows the truth of why, so there are rumours abounds. He’s surprised by Annabelle’s approach of him and also the fact that she doesn’t shrink from him like everyone else, intrigues and fascinates him. He’s also very attracted to her beauty, in ways he hasn’t ever been to another woman. If they were of equal status, things would be easy – but Sebastian is so conscious of his role as Duke and what that means and Annabelle is the daughter of a clergyman, not nobility.

The match up of personalities in this is one of my favourites – a kind of uptight Duke, basically hamstrung by his own responsibilities. He takes his role as head of many tenants and staff very seriously and he works nonstop. He is frustrated by his younger brother, who would inherit everything if anything were to happen to Sebastian and he’s so buttoned into this role of responsibility and following the rules that he does not consider the fact that others there might want different things in life. Annabelle is quick-witted and defiant, self-aware and stretch thin as a poor woman with little to her name who is still beholden to a cousin, who can make decisions for her. She has to fight to be able to go to Oxford and she’s got reason to be passionate about women’s rights and them having to surrender anything they have to their husbands or being forced to allow distant male relations to make decisions regarding their lives for them. She and Sebastian debate well about it – Sebastian is charged with making sure the Tories win a re-election by Queen Victoria even though it involves him having to sacrifice some of his own principles and puts him at odds with Annabelle, who draws him in deeper and deeper with their every interaction. Sebastian is still very conscious of the differences in their statuses though and so his first offers to Annabelle are not those which would make her his Duchess. For Annabelle, this is just another way in which she would be reliant on a man, even one who would treat her well. It would make her a pariah and she wants something that would fulfil her in equal ways, not make her feel less.

I really liked the way that Dunmore showcased Sebastian’s feelings – his frustration, his desire, the constraints of his role in society and the fact that he was indebted to the Queen, who used this to secure his assistance as an influential personality. He was an excellent political strategist although his ideas are often not to her Majesty’s taste. I always enjoy when we get to see the vulnerabilities of a powerful and influential man, especially in terms of desiring a proper relationship rather than just the sort that would be done for duty and to get the requisite heir and spare.

I found this a really enjoyable and satisfying read – it’s the first in a series and Annabelle’s friends will each get their own novel, and I’m really looking forward to reading them.


Book #12 of 2021

Bringing Down The Duke is book #3 in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2021

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