Pauline is a barmaid in Spindle Cove. Griff is the eighth Duke of Halford (among other titles). They are about to meet cute. Griff has been essentially kidnapped by his mother and taken to Spindle Cove to pick a woman–any woman–to be his wife. She wants grandchildren, and she wants them now. Of course, she was expecting him to pick one of the gently born ladies taking shelter in the Cove, not the barmaid who walks in late, covered in sugar and a bird’s nest for hair. But, just to aggravate his mother, he picks the barmaid and they all strike a deal. His mother has one week to turn Pauline into the toast of London. If she succeeds, Griff will agree to marry her. But Griff is also paying Pauline 1,000 pounds to throw her duchess training (a sum that would set her up for life), to be a companion to his mother, and a disaster as a potential Duchess. Neither one of them expects to fall in love, particularly Griff, the reformed rake, who has vowed never to marry.
Historically implausible as always, I nevertheless enjoyed the way these two enjoyed each other. Griff finds Pauline refreshing and is immediately besotted with her. Her “low-class” status doesn’t bother him at all, and quite likes her just the way she is. And Pauline is able to navigate society and charm the Duchess with absurd ease (society doesn’t like her much, not really, but it’s not like anything dire happens, as you would expect if this were real life). Actually, the relationships between the Duchess and Pauline, and the Duchess and her son, were some of my favorite parts of the book. That character has a real humanity about her that overbearing mother figures in books sometimes lack.
I’m glad I own this one in paperback, because I will definitely be re-reading it in the future when I feel like getting all swoony.