Book Review: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore ★

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“Because, my lord, if the marchioness believes that the female brain is incapable of forming a sound analysis on political issues, why should anyone trust her analysis on women in politics?”

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know how I’d feel about this one going into it. But hey, it was available at the library and SO MANY people seem to love it so, why not? HAHAHAHA

I’m sorry, but, it was really quite terrible. 1.5 stars 😬.

This book had virtually nothing going for it. It was the most annoying kind of “fake woke” book that had relevant enough taglines to draw modern readers in. There was nothing feminist about this book. The Suffragist movement in 1800’s Britain that was supposed to be a huge part of it was wholeheartedly overshadowed by how much the main characters wanted to do each other.

And the doing wasn’t even worth the wait! Good god.

I’m getting ahead of myself, but man this book was frustrating. It is about a 25 year old woman, Annabelle, who is vastly over-educated for her low station and has ruined her prospects by having an out-of-wedlock affair when she was 17. She convinces her dolt of a cousin, whom is in charge of her, to let her study at Oxford and thinks that she will live a fulfilled life as a studious spinster. However, as part of her scholarship requirements, she must help the Suffragists on campus. Thus she is thrust in the path of the Duke of Montgomery, hoping to win his vote to reform the Women’s Property Act.

That’s about as much activism as the main character partakes in. And she did so reluctantly. I wasn’t even reading the book for the feminist tones, like many people were, and I could see how flimsy the premise was. Annabelle cares about women’s rights because she cares about herself and doesn’t want to be the property of some ugly idiot. She wants the freedom to be herself and be independent and bone hot men. She cares more about her education throughout the book and I feel like that would have been a more authentic and successful focus for the author to have taken.

Once Annabelle and the Duke meet, there is basically no plot, other than some cheap ripoff scenes from other popular romances, most obviously Outlander and Pride and Prejudice. Annabelle is stupid and makes rash decisions constantly, not behaving as a woman in that time (even a “feminist”) would. She is self-righteous and quick to judge, and has a MUCH higher opinion of herself than is warranted. The Duke is downright awful. There is nothing about him that drew me to his character or made me root for their romance. And this is saying a lot for me, because I usually love the moody, cold, brooding male leads. Not this time. His inner dialogue was atrocious and very off-putting. There was no spark in their banter and their entire romance felt so surface-level, pantomimed, and inauthentic.

The romance was BAD. Even if I didn’t feel swoony over the main couple, which is a good determination for me about how much I love them, I should have felt somethinggggg for them. All I felt was annoyance and anger. I thought at least that aspect would be something I’d enjoy, but there was zero chemistry between them. It went from a random encounter, an angry misunderstanding, to sheer lust, and then “love” in the matter of a couple weeks. It was so fast and there was no build-up whatsoever. They just wanted to fuck and then complain about how they couldn’t do that because it’s not properrrrr 🙄. Well at least Annabelle didn’t think it was proper, the Duke didn’t care one bit, because he was ACTUALLY THE WORST.

Here was this dude who was supposed to be cold and stoic, but secretly a bleeding heart, and a woman who didn’t need no man and was smarter than half the people in Britain, and the romance was so misogynistic, one-sided, shallow, and false. I hated it. The Duke was pushy and toxic and alarmingly alpha-male. He was downright rapey. He constantly thought of Annabelle as someone he could overpower and “protect” and even considered dragging her from her home and locking her up in his room when she refused to be his mistress. He was always grabbing her and looming over her, using his strength to try and intimidate her. His thoughts about her were gross and genuinely made him sound like a rapist. At one point Annabelle praises how well he keeps his urges under control, because “he’s still a man” so obviously wanting to attack and fuck her is just what men want to do 🙃. Their sex scenes were so weird and uncomfortable, as Annabelle was consistently the one out of control and lacking agency. She stomps into his room to suck his dick in one scene, but then literally struggles under him when he goes to “mount” her because of her “feminine resistance.” WTF am I reading?!?!? It’s nonsense! But sure, go ahead and label this a feminist historical romance.

And for the love of god, I am so sick of people praising shit like this and calling it progressive and then “canceling” authors like Sarah J Maas. I’m sorry, but Dunmore here used “male,” “female,” “feminine,” “masculine,” and other inane gender constrictions more times than I have ever seen Maas do. And it was so weird. Why did everything need to be described in terms of how much a woman or a man they were and how it made them just SO out of control with lust. Ew.

Other than being extremely turned off by the romance, the plot was nonexistent and supremely surface-level. There was no depth to the story and the premise was not explored at all. The back and forth between the characters was not a decent foundation for a slow burn and just succeeded in irritating the reader. You can’t just make them meet up, say the same things, make them argue and run away, over and over again and call it a good buildup. There was no tension; it just got very boring and repetitive. Once the sex scenes did happen, they were, as I said, very strange and a complete turn-off because of the way the Duke behaved and the way Dunmore chose to describe things. Seriously, people think this is good romance???? So confused how this has such high ratings. And frankly, they just weren’t written well. The writing was okayyyy in the beginning and the author isn’t terrible, but the dialogue was anachronistic and in your face, the sex scenes were clunky and weird, the descriptions were SO pretentious and “good thing I have my thesaurus handy.” She just overall, did not do a good job with this book. The ending came out of nowhere, the whole thing was pointless, and I pretty much hated it 🤷‍♀️.

This was certainly NOT the kind of cat and mouse game I enjoy.

Please tell me someone else felt this way??

Thanks for reading!

Title: Bringing Down the Duke
Author: Evie Dunmore
Genre: Adult | Romance | Historical | Fiction | Women’s Fiction | Chick-Lit | Britain
Publication Date: September 3rd, 2019
Page Count: 368 pages
Buy It: Wordery Book Depository

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