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If every historical romance is as good as this one, consider me converted to the genre. Bringing Down the Duke is my fourth five-star read of the year–can you believe?

In England 1879, Annabelle Archer might be a commoner but she's brilliant. So brilliant that she earns a place at Oxford in the first cohort of female students with a scholarship that requires her to campaign for the women's suffrage movement. A worthy cause, as we can all agree, but a tough one, as men in 1879 see women as their literal property. She along with the other suffragettes are on a mission to sway the men of parliament to amend the Women's Property Act so that women can vote and are not forced to sacrifice their property when they're married. Annabelle's mission: sway the Duke of Montgomery to their cause, known for his calculating and strategic mind among all of Britain.

Sebastian Devereux is on a lifelong mission to restore his family's name and he's picked up most of the pieces. All that's left is Castle Montgomery, currently held by another Marquess after Sebastian's father lost the castle in a card game. So when the opportunity arises to get it back, so long as he follows the Queen's orders, he agrees. A challenge, sure, but Sebastian always does his duty in a respectable manner and he's not known for his strategic mind for nothing. But what happens when he meets a woman that doesn't fit into his neat boxes, with a mind and spirit of her own, that doesn't fall at his feet or bend to his every will? Has he finally met his match, and if he has, what sacrifices will be made to keep her?

First things first: I heckin loved this book. Loved it. Need more like it. I'm at another point where I'm afraid to pick up another book because it won't stand up the quality of this one.

Bringing Down the Duke hits topics that are still soft and sore today. In 1879, women don't have the right to vote, they lose their property and their money to the man that they marry, they're taught in bakery shops instead of classrooms, they're not expected to learn anything at all as their brains are fragile and smaller than a man's. And hey– doesn't this sound sort of familiar? Women making themselves small so that men overlook them and feel better about themselves? Women getting less than men and mistreated simply because of their gender? Sorry, sorry. That's taboo, to call it out like that.

Annabelle's character is strong, formidable, intelligent, and all the things I love to see in a character. She stands up for herself even when it's hard, even when temptation to cave is strong, and she stands up for her friends and for others in the face of oppression. She never caves on her morals and values despite the longing in her heart. She's witty and snarky, unafraid of men in power and uses her brilliant mind to her advantage. She has fears– of course she has fear.. She doesn't want to end up discarded and alone, doesn't everyone fear that in some way? But she's a good character because she's unwavering even when she suffers.

When it comes to male characters, I'll admit, I'm really picky. And with Sebastian, honestly, I find no fault. He's honorable and fallible and he can admit when he's wrong. He sees a rare form of beauty and appreciates intelligence when society says he shouldn't. And when it comes to history, he wants to fall on the right side, on the just side. He doesn't intentionally mistreat Annabelle and in the end, love is what matters the most to him.

Bringing Down the Duke wasn't just sweet and romantic, it was well crafted with just the right amount of drama without being overbearing. I'm anxious to read another book by Evie Dunmore and I can't wait to see what's in store for the future of this series. More strong women, please.


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