A romance novel with a good rep: Bringing Down the Duke

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Does it seem like romance novels are having a bit of a Moment?

It feels like for ages and ages romance novels got a bad rep. People read them in secret, not wanting to be outed for their deeply shameful reading taste. Romance novels were buried in dark library corners, tucked away in bookstores where shoppers furtively perused, pretending to be on their way to more educational subject matter.

But now! We have so many options! Ones with plucky heroines and feminist undertones.

I am here for it.

One that I read recently got me from the very first page: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore.


Annabelle Archer wants to go to Oxford. But it’s 1879 and almost no women go to Oxford and she’s the poor relation of a miserly curate who isn’t keen to let her go and lose an employee he doesn’t have to pay. Still,, she manages to get a kind of scholarship but it means she needs to work for the suffrage movement, convincing ‘men of influence’ to support the cause.

Without quite realizing who he is, Annabelle marches up to the Duke of Montgomery, the man who happens to run the landscape of British politics. A less likely supporter she couldn’t have imagined. When Annabelle winds up at his estate for a party, gets sick and has to convalesce, their wits begin to battle for their causes. And it’s pretty hot.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book but it was a complete and total delight. It had me laughing, it had me swooning, I loved every second. Evie Dunmore has done her research – not only was it a great romance, but I learned a bit about the earlier suffrage movement (Annabelle and her friends are agitating for a change to the laws that would see a woman sign her property and wealth over to her husband on marriage – one cannot have the vote if one does not own property) and Oxford! Part of what takes this book up a notch is that historical context and sense of place.

Bringing Down the Duke is the first in an anticipated trilogy (A League of Extraordinary Women) and I already can’t wait for the second book. Annabelle’s friends float in and out of this narrative and I’m excited to get to know them better in the next book.

My only regret is that I’ll have to wait a whole year for it!