League of Extraordinary Women #1
So I had been waiting to write reviews for the three books in this series until this fall to coincide with the release of the fourth book in the series but it’s now been pushed back. Again. To September of 2023. So before I forget everything that happened in these three books I read in January of this year, I figured best to get the reviews written now! Here is the first, the next two will follow tomorrow and the day after.
From the publisher marketing:
England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.
Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?
Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke….
Perhaps you can explain it to me, then,” she said, “how is it fair that my utterly inept cousin is in command of me, for no reason other than that he’s a man and I’m a woman? How is it fair that I master Latin and Greek as well as any man at Oxford, yet I am taught over a baker’s shop? How is it fair that a man can tell me my brain was wired wrong, when his main achievement in life seems to be his birth into a life of privilege? And why do I have to beg a man to please make it his interest that I, too, may vote on the laws that govern my life every day?
Another Laura recommended book, one she read during the height of the pandemic when I couldn’t bring myself to read anything, I happily devoured the entire League of Extraordinary Women series. I read them out of order, as I typically do with books that don’t have a through-plot, but I’ll review them here in order.
Bringing Down the Duke introduces our group of four young women, diehard suffragettes and part of the first cohort of female students at Oxford in the 1870s/1880s. And as such, I’m thrilled to share that all the books so far pass the Bechdel test! Each book follows one of the four, first Annabelle, then Lucie, Hattie, and we’re still waiting on Catriona’s story (that’s the constantly postponed one). Annabelle is the oldest of the crew so it would make sense for her to go first.
When I read The Duke and I, I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to read another 19th century romance, but I’m so very glad I didn’t stop. Annabelle and her duke, Montgomery, are a well paired set reminiscent of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. The Austen comparisons carry through, but for a debut, I find no fault with basing your starting plot point on one of the greatest. Quickly, though (faster than Lizzie and Darcy), Annabelle and Montgomery fall for each other, and into bed together.
What follows is an interesting look at what a romance of the era between two people of different social standings might really be like. I applaud our heroine for sticking to her principles while honoring her heart, and while I found Montgomery to be occasionally detestable (his point of view sections can be a bit droll), I grew to like him and commended him for embracing his feelings for Annabelle in a way that honored her as well. I read the whole thing in a day, so obviously I got really into it and greatly enjoyed it!
Rating: 8 out of 10
For a debut novel and my first historical romance, I enjoyed this very much. It certainly was a good diversion from this pandemic, and I was able to get caught up in the story of Annabelle and the Duke quite easily. While the book relied on several common tropes of romance books (historical or otherwise), the writing was compelling and kept me entertained even if I could easily predict several plot points.
I found the characters interesting and certainly wanted to root for them to be happy by the end of the book, even though I was frustrated by them at times. But don’t we all get frustrated with people we like occasionally? What I did really like about Annabelle was that she would not compromise herself for the Duke. She had her principles and she stuck to them. There was also a significant amount of plot outside of the romance, as the women’s suffrage movement began to take center stage later in the story. Having studied the women’s suffrage movement in my year of graduate school in London, I was intrigued by how it would be portrayed here, and I was not disappointed.
The supporting characters rounded out the story to give it more content than the romance and I enjoyed their auxiliary adventures and sometimes were more interested in them than Annabelle and the Duke! I’m very much looking forward to the release of this author’s next novel, A Rogue of One’s Own, which takes two of the supporting characters from Bringing Down the Duke and gives them their own story.
Rating: 7 out of 10