Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore – Review and Excerpt

About the Book:

A stunning debut for author Evie Dunmore and her Oxford Rebels, in which a fiercely independent vicar’s daughter takes on a duke in a fiery love story that threatens to upend the British social order.

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….

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                               Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women Book 1)

Read an Excerpt:

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.”

“Why?”

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.”

My Review:

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

Ever since Annabelle Archer’s fall from grace at the age of eighteen, she has been living in her cousin’s household, basically acting as an unpaid maid.  Now twenty-five, Annabelle burns with a desire to attend Oxford, which has opened a women’s college.  She’s received a stipend, but in exchange she must support the suffragette movement.  One of her first actions is to attempt to hand a flyer to the Duke of Montgomery, requesting his support for changing the Married Women’s Property Act.

Sebastian Devereux, Duke of Montgomery, is a powerful man who is often called on by the queen to wield his political muscle in exchange for favors.  His latest “assignment” is to become advisor to the Tory party and assure they win the next election.  The carrot that Queen Victoria dangles is the duke’s family estate, which one of his predecessors gambled away.  Sebastian wants this property very badly, so is resigned to fulfilling the queen’s wishes.

The next meeting between Annabelle and Sebastian goes south rapidly, as she is a guest of his younger brother.  Sebastian mistakenly makes the assumption that she is his mistress and orders her out of his home.  Annabelle’s pride and the duke’s arrogance cause them to butt heads until they overcome their misunderstanding.  Once beyond this, the duke and the commoner seem to develop an affinity and even a genuine liking for each other.

Sebastian is a conservative, controlled, dutiful man.  His entire existence appears to revolve around managing his dukedom and forwarding his political agenda.  Yet, Sebastian is scandalously a divorced man, thus his current determination to maintain propriety is something he’s determined to do at all costs.  His burgeoning attraction and affection for Annabelle makes him regret that she’s not of his social class, but since he can’t marry her, surely she’ll welcome becoming his mistress.

Annabelle learned a bitter lesson when her lover, who was also of the nobility, abandoned her.  She’s determined to never repeat her mistake.  This bright and passionate young woman knows that becoming the duke’s mistress will cause her to lose all respectability, her education, and her friends.  As much as she has come to love the man, she can’t give up her whole future on what is sure to be a temporary arrangement.  Annabelle has so much to offer the world, and is so limited because of being female at a time in history when she was beaten down and stifled.

The story of an upright noble and a spirited unsuitable commoner is a familiar one, but the telling of it in BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE is exquisitely done, setting it at a higher level.  Sebastian comes off so unlikeable and uptight at first – then his layers start to be peeled away.  We see the magnitude of responsibility that was cast upon him at a young age.  The dwindling family fortunes, his reckless younger brother, his faithless wife, and his political duties all bear down on him.  He works tirelessly to meet every challenge.  Then he finds one thing he desires above everything else, and his own rules forbid him from grasping it.

I always greet a book by a new-to-me author with equal parts anticipation and trepidation.  I so want to find a new voice that I’ll love to read, and, oh, did I find that in Evie Dunmore!  BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE is beautifully written, captivating, romantic, interesting, and emotional.  I was totally invested in the story, the history, and the characters and their beliefs.  I particularly loved Sebastian’s journey of self discovery.  He’s such a feeling and compassionate man beneath the icy veneer he showed the world.  I love how he and Annabelle could be their true selves with the other, and how they both came to realize the truth of the importance of love.  BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE is remarkable, and the fact that it’s a debut novel only makes it more so.  I highly recommend it, and I simply can’t wait for the story of the next Extraordinary Woman.    ~Rose

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