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Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare
Publication date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Avon Romance
Series: Spindle Cove #4
Goodreads | Amazon

Tessa Dare has proven herself a fantastic writer with her Spindle Cove series, and Any Duchess Will Do lives up to my expectations, though it's a close second with A Week to Be Wicked.

The premise is highly amusing. Griffin York, the Duke of Halford and the fourth richest man in England (I quote this) is breaking his mother's heart. The duchess desperately wants grandchildren before she falls into her decline, or worse, commit atrocious knitting crimes with nothing else to occupy her affections. She kidnaps Griff and tells him to pick any girl for her to turn into duchess material, upon which,if successful, he will marry the girl. To thwart his mother's scheme, he picks Pauline Simms, the local serving girl at Spindle Cove, and promises her a thousand pounds if she proves to be a disaster. Pauline is reluctant to leave her intellectually defective sister, but she takes up Griff's offer as it would help her achieve her dream of owning a circulating library. The duchess has one week to turn Pauline into duchess material, and dazzle the ton. Thus, the reluctant heroine takes on a reluctant duke, both knowing that nothing can come out of this arrangement, yet from the first moment they meet, passion flares between them, and they both become each other's salvation.

Kudos to Mrs.Dare for the complexity of the characters she developed in this story. Pauline has pride and a wonderful sense of humor, but she is also insecure and seeking the approval of others. For the first time in her life, she will succeed if she fails, and no one knows more about failure than she. But even to a simple serving girl, Griff's kindness and magnanimity is enough to make anyone fall in love with him, not to mention the smothering attraction between Pauline and Griff. Griff wants Pauline, but he also senses that she needs someone to break her fall, to protect her from all the hardships in life she's endured; in return, Pauline offered her undying love and devotion to Griff, mending a rift between him and his mother, and turned London on its heels.

Despite the book's focus being on Pauline, it is clear that Griff is the true protagonist of the novel. Griff's abrupt change from a dissolute rake to an emotionally confined, haunted man is the central struggle in this novel, and one that is foreshadowed frequently throughout the book, though not fully revealed near the end. He is a kind and admirable hero, considerate of others and noblesse oblige, but personally I admit to a slight frustration with Griff, for his vacillating between wanting Pauline and pushing her away. It is the same with his "deeply held secret;" he thinks about telling Pauline at various times throughout the novel, but decides not just as much. One moment he declines Pauline's offer to spend a night together, yet the next he is condoning an affair with her knowing he cannot marry her. This appears to be a rather callous on his part, akin to using Pauline to satiate his lust for her. At the end of the novel, however, he suddenly decides to marry Pauline, when just sometime ago he was adamant that he cannot marry her. I wonder at his abrupt change of heart, as even he realized he was in love with her by half of the book. What's more, his reason for wanting the Halford line to die with him is somewhat illogical, and rather thrown out of the blue, despite there having been a small hint at the beginning.

My assessment of the hero may seem harsh, but I felt it necessary to point out his somewhat incongruous characterization, as it had left me in confusion multiple times while reading. That being said, Griff and Pauline truly had a wonderful love, and the epilogue with the other couples from the first two books of the Spindle Cove series was a delight. I can find no fault with either the witty, hilarious dialogue, or the intriguing plot. Mrs. Dare is certainly on my auto-buy list now; her writing being one of the best in the genre. Readers will not be disappointed when they read this, as they will surely fall in love with Pauline and Griff's love story, as I did.

Rating: 4.5 tulips 

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