Oh, I knew I would like this book when I read the synopsis and boy, oh boy, did I love it! As soon as I finished this, I pre-ordered it!
A huge thank you to Berkley for providing a free digital copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Read below the review for an excerpt provided by the publisher!
Title: Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women #1)
Author: Evie Dunmore
Expected release date: September 3, 2019
Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Length: 320 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “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….”
This book was such a delight. I loved the entire concept of a well-educated “commoner” going head-to-head with a well-bred and equally well-education nobleman. The Victorian era is one of my favorite British time periods, so that was a bonus! Then add the early suffragette movement (which I don’t know too much about) and how it pitted Annabelle and the Duke of Montgomery against each other. *swoon* However, the middle of the book dragged a bit, after Sebastian and Annabelle realized their feelings for one another and had a *moment.* Sebastian’s internal struggle about his feelings for Annabelle while also trying to do right by his legacy frustrated me a little. I wanted him to be better than that but they’re both under the constraints of the time period. It felt a bit Pride and Prejudice-esque but with even more thrown into it because Sebastian is titled. (But I’m really a sucker for these types of “rags to riches” love stories, to be honest.)
I like how these two characters don’t seem to lose who they are in the process. Eventually they almost become a “grab life as it comes” type of person because of who they fall in love with. As I said before, I loved how Annabelle could go one-on-one with Sebastian because she is an unusually well-educated woman considering her social standing. I like that she made Sebastian think, especially since he had outside forces wanting him to do the opposite. The author doesn’t let us forget that Sebastian has a lot at stake if he chooses to love Annabelle openly.
Yes, Annabelle does have a lot to gain if she ties herself with Sebastian, but the author allows Annabelle to have other options, too. It’s always frustrating to be reminded how limited women had it. And yet Annabelle has found this niche, a group of girlfriends, a job she doesn’t mind (as it’s better than life with her cousin), and is given the opportunity to use her education. But I like how it all comes to a head and these characters are forced to face their feelings and their pasts. I do, however, wish a little more was spent on these aspects of their lives because I felt like it was just talked about and perhaps not properly worked out. But maybe this was because they had individually worked through it on their own.
I’m in love, and I am already anticipating book 2 in this series and anything else Dunmore writes, especially if it’s like this. Also, the sex scenes weren’t at all cringeworthy which, for me, can really make or break a romance book for me. I absolutely loved those scenes between Annabelle and Sebastian, and actually wanted a bit more. I found them really sweet and didn’t find their coming together awkward.
As I said earlier, I’m completely in love and can’t wait for more!
Now for the excerpt provided by the publisher:
It was a long walk past yards of empty table to reach her assigned chair. The footman pulled it back for her.
Montgomery was watching her with his neutral aristo expression. A diamond pin glinted equally impenetrable against the smooth black silk of his cravat.
“I trust it was not something in your room that had you rising this early?” he asked.
“The room is excellent, Your Grace. I simply don’t find it that early in the day.”
That sparked some interest in his eyes. “Indeed, it isn’t.”
Unlike her, he probably hadn’t had to be trained to rise before dawn. He probably enjoyed such a thing.
He hadn’t yet put his gloves on. His bare hands were resting idly on the polished table surface. Elegant hands, with long, elegant fingers. They could have belonged to a man who mastered a classical instrument. On his left pinky, the dark blue sapphire on the ducal signet ring swallowed the light like a tiny ocean
The footman leaned over her shoulder. “Would you like tea or coffee, miss?”
“Tea, please,” she said, mindful not to thank him, because one did not say thank you to staff in such a house. He proceeded to ask whether she wanted him to put a plate together for her, and because it would have been awkward to get up again right after sitting down, she said yes. In truth, she wasn’t hungry. The maid must have laced in her in more tightly than she was accustomed.
Montgomery appeared to have long finished eating. Next to his stack of newspapers was an empty cup. Just why had he ordered her to sit next to him? He had been immersed in his read. But she knew now that he was a dutiful man. Being polite was probably as much a duty to him as riding out into the cold to save a willful houseguest from herself. She would have to make a note on his profile sheet, very polite. As long as he didn’t mistake one for a social climbing tart, of course.
“You are one of Lady Tedbury’s political activists,” he said.
Her throat was instantly dry as dust.
“Yes, Your Grace.”
She could sense interest in him, genuine interest.
Cold sweat broke over her back. She had the ear of their greatest opponent, and the headache was jumbling her thoughts.
“I’m a woman,” she said. “It is only natural for me to believe in women’s rights.”
Montgomery gave a surprisingly Gallic, one-shouldered shrug. “Plenty of women don’t believe in this kind of women’s rights. And whether the 1870 Property Act is amended or not will not make a difference for you personally.”
There it was again, the arrogance. Of course he had guessed she didn’t have any property to lose to a husband, and thus no voting rights to forfeit. His arrogance was most annoying when it was right on the truth.
“I also believe in Aristotelian ethics,” she said, “and Aristotle says that there is greater value in striving for the common good than the individual good.”
“But women didn’t have the vote in the Greek democracies,” he said, a ghost of a smile hovering over his mouth. One could almost think he was enjoying this.
“They forgot to include women’s rights in the common good,” she muttered. “An easy mistake; it seems to be forgotten frequently.”
He nodded. “But then what do you make of the fact that men without property cannot vote, either?”
He was enjoying this. Like a tomcat enjoyed swatting at a mouse before he ate it.
Her temples were throbbing away in pain.
“Perhaps there should be more equality for the men as well, Your Grace.” That had been the wrong thing to say.
He slowly shook his head. “A socialist as well as a feminist. Do I need to worry about the corruption of my staff while you are here, Miss Archer? Will I have mutiny on my hands when I return from London tomorrow?”
“I wouldn’t dare,” she murmured. “There’s probably a dungeon under the house.”
He contemplated her with a hawklike gaze. “Oh, there is.”