Bringing Down the Duke is an excellent example of historical romance done well.
Annabelle felt like a unique protagonist in the world of historical (particularly Victorian) romance, and her drive to attend Oxford, regardless of what it may cost her, was admirable. I loved her desire to remain independent and her ability to stand up for herself and those she cared for.
I was relieved that although there was an initial attraction, there was a pretty slow build in the romance, preventing it from feeling like it was moving too quickly. Considering their head-butting and banter, it actually took some time for them to admit that they had feelings for each other beyond physical attraction. However, it is set in the 1800s, so the jump from ‘feelings’ to ‘marriage’ will always be faster than anything contemporary.
While I enjoyed the suffragist backdrop, it took some time for it to feel less like a ploy to pit Annabelle and Sebastian against each other and more like a movement that these women supported and believed in. I think Sebastian’s animosity towards his brother and the pressures he felt to reclaim the glory his title once held were more believable and provided more friction and adversity for them to overcome.
I enjoyed all of the side plots and supporting characters. They may not have always been fully fleshed out, but they helped to keep the story moving and prevent it from becoming only about the romance. It kept the chemistry between Annabelle and Sebastian from becoming overdone or repetitive and made me want to keep reading well past the time I told myself I would stop and go to bed.
For an (almost) believable historical romance, I can highly recommend Bringing Down the Duke. I’m very much looking forward to the next book in this series.