Reviewed by: Serena Mary Uliano
The decade of the 1870s proved to be transformative, especially for the Women’s Suffrage Movement in England. In her debut novel, Bringing Down the Duke, and the first of her series, A League of Extraordinary Women, Evie Dunmore decides to focus on the year 1879. This year, in fact, is arbitrary and had no overall influence on the Women’s Suffrage Movement during the 1870s. Instead, 1879 served as the backdrop for Dunmore’s novel, set in England, where she highlights events of the Women’s Suffrage Movement through her protagonist Annabelle Archer.
Annabelle epitomizes a strong female heroine. She is intelligent and brave, fierce and headstrong. Annabelle uses her qualities to conquer her own battles, whether they be issues she faces within the suffrage movement, during her education, or romantic life, specifically with Sebastian Devereux, the Duke of Montgomery. While the novel touches on actual events of the time, it mainly explores the burgeoning feelings— against their will— between Annabelle and the Duke. Sparks fly, whether they want to admit it or not.
Dunmore succeeds in capturing the reader’s attention throughout the novel. She combines romance with reality and creates enthralling characters. Although the novel begins slowly, it soon picks up speed through the witty dialogue and riveting situations the characters encounter, which only propels the reader’s desire to absorb the plot and discover the ending.