Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

by - January 21, 2020

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore (2019)

Bringing Down the Duke is an adult historical romance between an Oxford-educated suffragette and a surly duke. It's smart, sweet, and sizzling; packed full of Pride and Prejudice references, feminism, and smut.

I rated it 4/5 stars. I think it combines all the fun parts of your average historical romance!

What is Bringing Down the Duke about?

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....

If it were a fanfic, AO3 tags would include

  • Pride and Prejudice Meets The Victorian Era
  • Sick Fic
  • Sexy horseback riding
  • Surly man falls for strong-willed woman
  • Clandestine meetings in inappropriate places
  • They Flirt Over Books


It's loads of fun

If I had to distill all my feelings into one sentence, I'd go with it was loads of fun. This novel combines all the best parts of the historical romance genre: a surly man bantering with and falling for a strong woman; scandalous romance; female friendship; witty dialogue; and historical references that manage to remain relevant!

But most of all, it's clever.

I mean yeah, it was an entertaining read that perked me up after a tiring week. But the protagonist, Annabelle, is a smart woman in a world that refuses to acknowledge her. One of my favorite lines is this

"Perhaps you can explain it to me, then," she said, "how is it fair that my utterly inept cousin is in command of me, for no reason than that he's a man and I'm a woman? How is it far that I master Latin and Greek as well as any man in Oxford, yet I am taught over a baker's shop? How is it fair that a man can tell me my brain was wired wrong, when his main achievement in life seems to be his birth into a life of privilege? And why do I have to beg a man to please make it his interest that I, too, may vote on the laws that govern my life every day?"

We might think that we've come a long way from the Victorian era, but there are still many parallels that refuse to leave us, and I could relate to Annabelle's struggles plainly.

But Bringing Down the Duke is a good read not just because it's blazing feminist, but because it actually deals with issues with nuance, and not just in strict black and white. For example, it discusses intersectionality, class divides, and internalized misogyny; though not using those exact words. Several female characters in this novel are also quite misogynist and don't believe in the suffragist movement. Queen Victoria cares more about maintaining her wealth and vast empire than justice for the common man or woman. At one point, Annabelle bails a poor suffragist girl out of jail because she knows she doesn't have the same connections that she does (and so will be left inside otherwise). The issues were handled well; they felt real and truly part of the story, rather than tacked on like some kind of moral.

I also enjoyed the character development of the side characters as well. There's Annabelle's wealthy friend who just joins the movement at first because she wants to do something socially relevant, but ends up truly supporting the cause itself. There's her other wallflower friend who learns how to embrace her feelings. And there's Sebastian, who once in his life, learns to value people over property, and learns how to be, well, less of an asshole.

The romance

I don't have a lot to say about the romance. I enjoyed it a lot, and there were lots of moments that made me want to squeal. I mean... Sebastian taking notice of Annabelle because she's the only person who isn't afraid of him or kissing up to him; Sebastian carrying her on horseback; the two of them flirting... everywhere... the list goes on.

I thought this novel was also interesting because Annabelle is a sexually experienced woman, though she swore off love because of a tragic incident in her past. Sebastian is divorced, and has an older lover, but doesn't know how to open up to people. They've got a ton of chemistry and lust, but Annabelle wants more than that because she's sick of being used. It's a very historical-era type of conflict, but I personally haven't seen this explored much in other novels, so I enjoyed it.


Remember what I said about historical era-type conflicts? Well, some of them worked but some of them flew right over my head. 


Annabelle and Sebastian get together halfway through this novel. And as any romance reader knows, that is not a good thing. It means they get separated again before reaching happily ever after. The main reason for this is because of their difference in status. Sebastian can't POSSIBLY marry a poor woman, and Annabelle is unwilling to degrade herself by being his mistress while he marries some other rich girl. This is resolved quite nicely at the end (yay Sebastian, doing the good thing for once), but ngl when they were angsting over this I kept thinking "it's not a big deal... I don't get it". Then again, I'm from 2020, so what do I know?

So yes, that conflict was a little hazy to me. But otherwise I greatly enjoyed this novel, and I highly recommend it! Even if you don't like historical romance, I think you'll still enjoy it. It's got enough familiarity and uniqueness to keep any reader hooked.

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  1. This sounds like a great deal of fun! Awesome review!

  2. I read this book last year and I totally agree! This book definitely stood out to me because of how well social inequalities were dealt with. In my experience, historical romances tend to put such things as backdrop or sub-plots, but here feminism and equality were at the forefront of this novel.

    I loved the chemistry between these two! Normally, I hate it when romantic tensions keep building for pages on end, but for some reason, I was fine with it in this book. But I wasn't a fan of the drama in the end either. I never like conflict or drama, and romances tend to reach for the most dramatic arguments possible. I didn't hate how this book handled the conflict, but since that aspect wasn't absolutely terrible, and I loved everything else about this book, I gave it 4 stars just like you!