What another delightfully funny, steamy, and romantic story from Tessa Dare. It’s the totally fantastical story of how Griffin York, Duke of Halford, wakes up confused in a carriage one day, having been abducted by his mother. She’s plain fed up with not having grandchildren, with Griffin well into his thirties and seemingly resolved not to marry, so she’s absconded with him to Spindle Cove with the idea that he, once and for all, will be forced to choose one of the women there and make her his wife. His mother promises that he can choose a woman — any woman — and even if she’s not of proper breeding, she will provide the girl with Duchess training and make her suitable for the position.
Not at all thrilled with the plan, and hell-bent both on remaining unmarried and on teaching his meddling mother a lesson, Griffin selects a tavern barmaid, Pauline Simms. With her obviously common, northern accent and utter lack of social grace, Pauline is the worst — and best — choice for his mother’s plan. Furthermore, Griffin promises to pay Pauline handsomely if she fails at Duchess training, thereby ensuring that there is still a compelling incentive to give up on becoming a duchess. For Pauline’s part, she could give a fig about whether she’s a duchess or not, but the reward will be enough and more for what she really dreams to do, which is to remove her sister from a destructive home situation and open a library for the ladies of Spindle Cove. So, she takes Griffin’s deal.
Of course, it would never be that simple, because Griffin from the start was charmed by Pauline, but never expected that his affection, attraction, and appreciation of her would grow and deepen into something like love. Meanwhile, Pauline is crushing on Griffin for sure, but doesn’t harbor any illusions that two people of their positions would ever marry, harebrained schemes aside. But lo and behold, not only does Griffin appear increasingly enamored with her — if conflicted because of his vow to remain a bachelor — but the Duchess also seems to like her and approve of their pairing. Which seems to me to be a huge, huge deal, because it’s one thing for male nobility to have a carnal interest in a servant, but another entirely for noble mothers to approve of their sons’ fervent attentions toward the same.
I didn’t believe for a second that this would ever actually happen, but 2 minutes and Wikipedia informed me that something like it did happen at least once — a Swedish king married a servant in the mid sixteenth century. So there’s that.
But who cares? (Some do. I don’t.) I love how funny all of Dare’s characters are, and these were no exception. The Duchess in particular was a scene-stealer in many instances, and I’m particularly receptive to scenes where either the hero, heroine, or both, publicly take down snotty Society members. Spoiler alert: this book had a few of those. They’re always very amusing to me! Take that public embarrassment, you mean, gossipy turkey!
I haven’t been disappointed in Dare yet. With only being three books in, it’s bound to happen eventually, but I’m beginning to feel like her writing just vibrates on my frequency and I’ll be predisposed to enjoy anything of hers.