After a long day, there’s nothing better than going home and absolutely devouring a romance novel in one sitting. Lucky for me, I had Tessa Dare’s Any Duchess Will Do sitting on top of my “to read” pile! This is a gem. There were a few times I had the giggles, and parts of it seemed fairly familiar… And unlike the last romance novel I read, there was a kidnapping this time!
Said kidnapping occurs at the opening of the book. Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, has been drugged and kidnapped by his mother. She is so desperate for him to get married and reproduce that she has gone to these extreme measures to bring him to the last resort, Spindle Cove (Spinster Cove) to pick a bride. Any bride. The Duchess will worry about making her presentable, but Griffin has to choose a girl first. (See the title of this review!) So he, of course, chooses Pauline Simms, the serving girl, who upon first meeting is covered in various substances and has a speech pattern that would make Henry Higgins weep. Pauline and the Duke give his mother one week to turn her into duchess material, and if she is not successful, Pauline returns home and the Duke is off the matrimonial hook. (Of course, Griffin is paying Pauline to fail. Because reasons.)
So we have the mother trying to make Pauline into someone society would accept as a duchess, Griffin trying to not fall in love, and Pauline wavering between who she was and who she is becoming. Pauline also is trying to please both Griffin and his mother, which is difficult seeing as they have different goals. If everyone got their own way, Griffin would remain single (for reasons), his mother would have grandbabies, and Pauline would have her own bookshop. (Spoiler alert: not everyone is going to get their own way.) (Not really a spoiler alert: this is a romance novel. You can probably guess where this is going.)
Onto specific elements of the story. First, the problems. We have the inevitable library scene, and of course it is at night. Pauline is up on the ladder (enticingly backlit by candles) when she is about to fall off due to the last rung being… er, something (we never find out what is wrong with the ladder rung.) But Griffin leaps to the rescue! Seriously, he vaults over the couch, hurdles the ottoman, and catches her, all in a fraction of a second!
And we have Lord Delacre, Griffin’s friend. I don’t like him. (I mean, I don’t think we’re supposed to like him.) He’s an ass. But my dislike of him is so great that I have no interest in reading a book that features him. (Luckily, his story is not out yet, if it is even going to come out in the future.) This book is the fourth in the Spinster Cove series (not counting the novellas.) And the latest title is Do You Want to Start a Scandal.
Things that were awesome. Griffin is an only child, as his siblings died in infancy. In the Author’s Note, Mrs. Dare actually addresses this! She tells us why it happened, and that’s awesome. She also points out that while we know today, they wouldn’t have back then, so it wasn’t addressed in the story.
One of my favorite parts was when Pauline is trying to get Griffin and his mother to talk with each other about the secrets they are keeping from one another. She confesses something, and encourages others to confess as well. Instead of her intentional targets sharing secrets, we get a lovely comedic confessional from the staff. It’s awesome. It starts on page 282. You’re welcome.
Also, awesome, this quote from page 255:
“I’m built like a fourteen-year-old boy.”
“Bollocks. I’ve been a fourteen-year-old boy. I tell you, my breasts were nowhere near this enticing.”