Title: Bringing Down the Duke
Author: Evie Dunmore
Publication Date: 3rd September 2019
This book seemed to generate a lot of buzz when it was published back in September, and I was fully on board with the hype. The Victorian time period, Oxford setting and women’s suffrage theme all led me to believe that this was the kind of historical romance I’d love – but sadly, I was very much mistaken.
The basic premise is that Annabelle Archer, one of the first women admitted to the University of Oxford, is working as part of the women’s suffrage movement to try and persuade influential men in politics to fight for their cause. One such influential man is the Duke of Montgomery, who has just been asked by Queen Victoria to head the Tory party campaign for the upcoming General Election.
Now, this was the first warning sign that the book would be a miss for me. It’s known that Queen Victoria had a penchant for voicing her strong opinions about her preferred prime ministerial candidates in private – but there is absolutely no way she would have hired a duke to publicly run the election campaign for her preferred party! This unconstitutional act by the fictional version of the queen unfortunately pulled me out of the narrative right away – and there were more inaccuracies to come.
Annabelle is quoted multiple times as having read Debrett’s Etiquette Manual in preparation for her dealings with the aristocracy. The author should probably have taken a leaf out of her character’s book and done some reading of Debrett’s resources herself, though, as there were several instances of incorrect forms of address for members of the peerage in this book.
Inaccuracies aside, I might still have been able to enjoy this book had the romance been good – but unfortunately, that was a big miss too.
The Duke’s aggressive, alpha male behaviour towards Annabelle made me despise him from the very beginning, and unfortunately my feelings towards him didn’t improve as the book went on. There are plenty of disturbing scenes of him “looming” over Annabelle, or grabbing her to stop her leaving his presence before “slamming” his lips against hers – but it was this quote which particularly stuck out to me:
“He turned and stared down at her, a bit like a lion would stare at a lamb that had foolishly wandered into his cave, deciding whether to devour her flat-out or to roar and chase her off.”
It set off some distant alarm bell in my head – and I soon realised it was because it reminded me of the famous “and so the lion fell in love with the lamb” line from Twilight. And since Bella and Edward’s relationship is probably the most toxic I’ve ever read about in a book that claims to be a romance, this comparison is not a favourable one.
The Twilight vibes continued with some controlling and possessive behaviour from the Duke when he sees Annabelle spending time with another man. It’s rather ironic to me that the entire premise of the book is based around the suffragettes’ fight for the repeal of the Married Women’s Property Act, while the Duke’s dearest wish seems to be claiming Annabelle as his own property.
All in all, this book was a huge disappointment for me. The cute cover and women’s suffrage theme led me to believe that this would be a fresh, feminist historical romance, but I found myself sadly deceived. Instead I was plunged into a melodramatic story of obsession and lust with the sort of aggressive alpha male love interest that I usually do my best to avoid.
If the alpha male trope is one you like, and you don’t mind historical inaccuracies, then you might well enjoy this book a lot more than I did – but unfortunately this one was definitely not for me.