Narrator: Elizabeth Jasicki
Series: A League of Extraordinary Women #1
Published by Penguin Audio on September 3, 2019
Genres: Historical Romance
Length: 12 hours, 20 minutes
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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....
I love Historical Romance, something I’ve mentioned in reviews more than once, and will probably mention again in the future. In a genre that seems dominated by veteran writers, I was pleased to discover a new voice; Evie Dunmore. Her debut novel, Bringing Down the Duke, is the first in series A League of Extraordinary Women. There is so much I love about a series with that name! Even the cover sets this apart from others in the genre, eschewing the passionate embrace, flowery border, or half-dressed heroine artwork that seems de rigueur for Historicals in exchange for a brightly colored vignette in silhouette. Beautifully written, the book is rich in historical detail and reads like a Darcy/Elizabeth inspired love story.
Annabelle Archer is living her dream; studying at Oxford and free from a life of drudgery as a servant in her oppressive cousin’s household. She might have to skip a few meals and work a few extra jobs to get by, but she is finally in command of her own future. Sebastian, Duke of Montgomery, has a plan to rebuild his family’s fortune and will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. He’s learned that nothing good will come from wayward behavior or an excess of emotion. Reluctantly, Annabelle finds herself embroiled in an effort to bring down the Duke while advancing the suffragette cause; but Montgomery isn’t about to go down without a fight.
The plot is not exactly unpredictable, and it unfolds much as one would expect. However, it is in the unwrapping of the characters that kept me engaged and eager. Montgomery, with his priggish behavior and singular drive to reclaim his family lands, does his best to compensate for what he believes are inherited faults of character. He’s determined and upright, but driven by a passion to do what is best for his family. It isn’t until his paradigm shifts and he recognizes what is truly important, is he able to channel that passion into lasting happiness. The story arc with his brother allowed for a different perspective on his character development, and served to underscore this shift.
I really appreciated Annabelle’s character progression from subsistence to thriving through her work as a suffragette. As she gains confidence and shakes off the condemnations of her past, she begins to fully engage in the effort for women’s independence. She embraces her ‘sisters’ and finds the freedom to choose not just what is right, but what is right for her.
Bringing Down the Duke was fun, clever, and highly enjoyable. The plot worked well (who doesn’t love the house party setup?) and Annabelle and Montgomery had loads of chemistry. There were funny moments and snappy dialogue that kept the serious moments from getting dull. I really enjoyed the supporting characters, especially Annabelle’s suffragette friends who are certain to be part of this League of Extraordinary Women.
Elizabeth Jasicki did a great job as narrator for this story. Her pacing and diction was spot on. She did an especially fine job of communicating the emotion of the characters without going overboard. I listened to this at normal pace the first time through (trying to savor each moment). But I did listen a second time at 1.25x and didn’t have any problems keeping up.
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