Friday, January 14, 2022

Evie Dunmore - Bringing Down the Duke

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....

Comment: This book has been raved about by many romance readers and I got curious. The opportunity to read it in a buddy read came up and that is why this was read at this moment, otherwise it might be in the pile for longer, and what a pity that would be!

In this book we meet heroine Annabelle Archer, who tries her best to make ends' meet while being practically exploited by her cousin but a chance to change her life comes when she is accepted at Oxford, which now has a female course. Although her life isn't the same as when her father was alive, she wants to honor him by studying, something he loved. However, everything has a cost and in order to have a scholarship, she accepts to be part of the Woman's Suffrage movement. That is why the boldly approaches the famous Duke of Montgomery one day and days later, they meet again and their connection gains strength. The problem is that they belong to very different classes and shouldn't have much in common but between conversations, challenges, little moments, their feelings intensify and they don't seem to forget one another. What will happen, though, when reality sets in and their differences feel bigger than anything they might share?

I'm afraid I won't have good enough words to explain why this book was such a gem for me. I really liked reading this book, it had all the right feels for me. It's one of those things, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but I'm very glad this one worked out so well for me.

This is an opposites attract story and a big reason why this trope in romance might work so well is precisely because part of the conflict might come from the differences between the protagonists and, in their journey to fall in love, those differences aren't endless obstacles but features which might give the other person a personality trait/reason to be the way they are. A good romance has people who might complement each other in many aspects and although in this case Annabelle and Montgomery are as different in the social hierarchy as they could, they still share interests and their differences explain why they might suit one another.

Annabelle is a commoner, we learn she went though bad experiences and that affected her position in society. She practically works for free for her male cousin but she wants more out of life. She works too, to pay her expanses but a possible change comes with the Oxford acceptance and I really wanted her to succeed. I think her personality and goals make sense by the way the was educated by her vicar father and also because doing this will be a way to honor him, perhaps make amends even if only in her head.

The duke of Montgomery is serious and stoic as one would imagine but he feels the weight of responsibility on his shoulders for all his estates and those who depend on them, and his big goal is to recover a residence lost by his less serious father in a card game. He also feels responsible for his younger brother, who he thinks will be his heir since Montgomery's first marriage ended up in divorce. The queen is on his side for he is competent and conservative and this helps him advance his status and influence too, but everything changes for his state of mind and heart when he meets Annabelle.

I thought the romance was amazing, detailed, didn't scare away from the less glamorous aspects of life in this era, especially for women, whose role was severely limited. Annabelle of course embodies the need for change, as do her best friends, who form an united group. Annabelle went through quite an emotional evolution as the plot develops, mostly because by being exposed to Montgomery's side of things and how feelings might make one want something else, allowed her to want to feel worthy of happiness. The same thing happened to him, which means that for me they were quite a balanced pair and I wanted them so much to reach their HEA.

There is a lot of content on the women's suffrage moment, how their role is minimized by men, how they are always dependent on men for anything and I also liked the social vision we have of society. This author didn't ignore the problems nor the difficulties and while one could think the HEA is a little fantasy-like, it's not impossible and I really liked the feeling I could watch those two falling in love and doing their best to keep their dignity and learning as tools to sustain a romantic relationship. 

There are some details I'd change to suit my preferences but as a whole this story was extremely enjoyable to read. This was truly a romantic read for me and now I hope the next books are this way too.
Grade: 9/10

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