I realize upon rereading it that my last review was rather churlish about the topic of romance book covers. While I stand by the fact that I often dislike them, it was nonproductive to say so without getting into the reason why. I realize that I am new to the genre and probably an outlier regardless but I find them all confusingly similar and in the case of many historical romances, non-period to the point of distraction. I like my book covers to give a hint of the story I am about to read and I find many romance covers are so generic as to be useless. I understand that a lot of that has to do with the fact that appropriate cover art isn’t just floating around for free but it is still irksome. Cover angst aside, I have been continuing to read my way through the Spindle Cove series by Tessa Dare which I am finding more and more delightful as I accept that it is essentially the Legends of Tomorrow of the romance world. Or maybe not, maybe I just haven’t read enough other books to know any better. Regardless, the gleeful way in which both series embrace the ridiculous is quite endearing.
Any Duchess Will Do reunites us with Griffin York, the dissolute Duke of Halford at whose estate my beloved Minerva from A Week to be Wicked posed as an alpine princess assassin to ward off unwanted advances from the rakes who enjoyed the gambling, alcohol, and women that Griff made available to his guests. At the start of this book he is a changed man due to a mysterious tragedy that isn’t revealed until late in the story. This event has left him deeply depressed and determined to never wed, a decision which is at odds with the plans of his magnificent mother, who yearns for grandchildren. The Duchess of Halford addresses this concern of hers by drugging and kidnapping her son, bringing him to Spindle Cove and ordering him to choose a duchess from the confused ladies minding their own business at the local teashop/tavern. Our heroine, the plucky barmaid Pauline, chooses that moment to arrive for work and Griff says, “Her. I’ll take her.” Of course, his words are more prophetic than he realizes. The Duchess attempts to mold Pauline into proper duchess material while Griff offers Pauline an immense bribe to foil her plans, money which she can use to fulfill her dream of providing for herself and her sister, who is reviled as a ‘half-wit’ by cruel townsfolk. Shenanigans ensue, hot sex is had, crimes against needle arts are committed, and smutty books are given their due appreciation. We even see Minerva and Susanna (from A Night to Surrender) again, and Minerva remains the suspicious misandrist I know and love, bless her.
I truly have enjoyed this series and am sad that I’m coming up on the end of it. This is definite reread material for me, ideally on a sunny beach with delightfully alcoholic concoctions in hand.