Overall rating: ❤️❤️❤️💔
Heat Level: 🔥🔥🔥🔥
Sub-genre: historical, Victorian era
Trope: Forbidden love
An unwilling feminist and a frosty aristocratic Duke are inexplicably drawn to each other in the whimsical historical romance “Bringing Down the Duke”. This novel goes to prove that love can conquer all, including strict socio-economic classes. I’m not quite sure why the author makes Annabelle seem like a peasant when she’s a vicar’s daughter. She may have very little money and no title but an exceptionally good education would place her in a higher social rung than a scullery maid!
One of the things that drew me to this book is its cover. It’s very different from others in this sub-genre which makes it really stand out. No shirtless men or ballgown-style dresses…scandalous!
Overall, I liked Annabelle. She was unconventional in several ways: a- she knew how to manage men, b- she was smart enough to get a scholarship to be one of the first women to study at Oxford, and c- she had quite a bit of sexual experience and wasn’t shy about it. I love it when MCs are open about their sexuality, even if it isn’t realistic for women of the time. The fact that she was only championing women’s rights because her free ride to college depended on it was rather dumb. I couldn’t tell if she really believed in the cause or it was a necessary evil. Either way, she was certainly vocal about her opinions on gender inequality.
I couldn’t really love the Duke. Not that he was unlikable or unworthy of admiration, but he was just kind of blah. He was certainly no Mr. Darcy, which I originally thought was what the author was going for when he leaped to the wrong conclusion at the beginning of the book and acted like a complete arse. Turns out this isn’t an Enemies to Lovers tale but one of star-crossed lovers. The Duke was cool and collected but I wouldn’t call him arrogant. He was approachable and apparently hammered fences on his estate all the time to keep fit.
A nice cast of side characters/bluestockings who will all undoubtedly get their own books. They’re more run of the mill ladies of birth but with eccentricities. I wasn’t a huge fan of how Queen Victoria was depicted, although the author did add a note in the end that she was one of the biggest hurdles to freedoms of her own sex. I thought it was enough to focus on Annabelle being one of the first women admitted into Oxford, there wasn’t really a need to expand her activities to the suffragettes and women’s rights movement. But it certainly added more drama!
The language was a bit more modern for a historical but I didn’t mind it. The clingy Magenta dress designed by the apparently exclusive modiste “Celeste” was a bit hard to picture though. No corset, stays or drawers? Sounds terribly uncomfortable to me.
Overall, this was a fun read. It dragged on a bit and I felt there were too many things happening at once but I can see why this was such a popular book in 2019.