A League of Extraordinary Women, Book 1
Annabelle Archer is one of the first female students to attend Oxford University. Her education is being funded by the National Society for Women’s Suffrage and in exchange for her scholarship Annabelle must campaign for the women’s suffrage movement. When she is assigned to recruit Sebastian Devereux, the Duke of Montgomery, to the cause it seems like an impossible task. After all, Sebastian has been tasked by Queen Victoria to lead the Tory Party’s campaign during the upcoming election. When Annabelle and her suffragette friends get snowed in at the Duke’s home following a holiday party, she and Sebastian naturally clash. Yet their chemistry and attraction are undeniable, despite being separated by political and class differences.
Evie Dunmore’s debut novel has earned many rave reviews, and with good reason. She takes common tropes in romance, enemies to lovers and lovers separated by class differences, and makes them feel fresh. Most historical romances are set in the Regency period (or Jane Austen times), but Dumore sets her story in 1879 and makes the Victorian period come alive. The author really delves into the history of the women’s suffrage movement, and women’s rights in general, during the Victorian era. This social history gives the novel added depth sometimes lacking in historical romances. In addition to a vivid historical setting, Bringing Down the Duke also features well-drawn characters. Annabelle is an intelligent, witty and strong- willed heroine. She values her education and has high aspirations, yet Dunmore does not shy away from the difficult realities of life for women in the Victorian time, or the social consequences of Annabelle engaging in a romantic affair with a Duke while lobbying for women’s suffrage. Sebastian’s character is similarly complex and the banter between him and Annabelle was fun to read. Annabelle and Sebastian’s struggle to be together despite his noble title and her status as a commoner may not be a unique conflict in a historical romance, but the journey to their eventual happy ending is well worth it.
A solid debut filled with history, likable characters, and a grounded romance. For those who enjoy “Bringing Down the Duke,” it is the first book in the League of Extraordinary Women series and a second novel is scheduled to be released in 2020.
9/19 Caitlin Brisson
BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE by Evie Dunmore. Berkley (September 3, 2019). ISBN 978-1984805683. 368p.