Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

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Hello, World.

Sometimes I think romance novels peaked with Austen and Bronte. The After series, a beloved romance series, references Pride and Prejudice almost religiously and Wuthering Heights acts as the model for the main relationship. Other modern romances often harken back to the Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy scenario. A man aching for a woman but utterly incapable of showing it; a strong-willed woman who mistakes his lack of game for pompous superiority. The story is one we’ve come to know well as a society, and yet it’s one that, when executed well, never disappoints.

I tend to shy away from “romances” even though I love a love story (cheesy or not, I don’t discriminate). I suppose a judge a book by its genre in that way. I’m not someone who is pulled toward the modern romance on purely superficial grounds. I gravitate toward more “complex” reads… wow, that sounded just as pompous as Darcy. Anyway, all of this to say, I think I need to check myself. A few bookstagrammers were raving about Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore right when the September book picks were released for Book of the Month. I thought I had my pick ready to go but added this to my box last minute. I am so glad I did!

The story follows Annabelle Archer, a young woman who is accepted into Oxford when the university began taking female students, and her journey as a suffragist in Victorian England. Enter the Duke of Montgomery, arguably the most powerful man in England, who Annabelle decides to try to sway in support of her cause. Their connection is electric, and you can feel the tension building steadily with each encounter. Annabelle is strong, intelligent, and refuses to allow her sex or her station to dictate her future. She resembles the strong female leads that Austen made us love, but she feels modern in a way that makes her relatable to women who have had the right to vote their whole lives (even if they weren’t of age yet). The Duke of Montgomery is infuriating, to put it mildly. He’s arrogant at times and such a … man. It’s rather frustrating until the moments in which he recognizes that Annabelle is so smart and sharp. Their chemistry reminded me a bit of Elizabeth and Darcy, but at the end of Pride and Prejudice when they are finally unmasked in their feelings.

Frankly, once the sparks officially flew (a euphemism), I was hooked and couldn’t put the book down. I read until my eyes burned and I was forced to go to sleep. Then I sat at my work desk all day thinking about the last 80 pages that so patiently waited for me in my work bag.

I rushed home after my workday, made some tea, and dove into the novel. I finished it last night and went to sleep feeling content. I’ll be honest, adjusting to a 9-5 after being a student for over 20 years has taken a bit of a toll. I feel pretty tired at the end of the day, so the fact that this book made me excited to read after a long workday is praise enough. Additionally, I just loved Annabelle. This was unapologetically political at times, which I appreciated because it gave the story more bite. While the dialogue felt cheesy at times, I realized it was because no one talks to each other in the dialect that was used in the Victorian era. Also, Americans generally do not talk like British people. It reminded me a bit of the moment in National Treasure when Benjamin Gates is speaking and Abigail says, “People don’t really talk that way anymore.” (Yes, I love National Treasure… I’m that person) With phones, texting, etc., a lot of people lose their ability to communicate verbally in an articulate, coherent manner that communicates their feelings. I suppose that’s why we have books like Ghosted. I enjoyed the Duke and Annabelle’s conversation because their dialogue was lyrical and romantic, just like their chemistry. As a whole, I really enjoyed this story and found the sexual chemistry was steamy without being a Victorian Fifty Shades. This is the first novel in a series and I know I will pick up the next installment when it comes. In the meantime, I’m slowly working my way through my back-listed books and various audiobooks!
What’re you reading? Are you a romance person?
Truly,
Callie leigh

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