Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, has no desire to wed this season–or any season–but his diabolical mother abducts him to “Spinster Cove” and insists he select a bride from the ladies in residence. Griff decides to teach her a lesson that will end the marriage debate forever. He chooses the serving girl.
Overworked and struggling, Pauline Simms doesn’t dream about dukes. All she wants is to hang up her barmaid apron and open a bookshop. That dream becomes a possibility when an arrogant, sinfully attractive duke offers her a small fortune for a week’s employment. Her duties are simple: submit to his mother’s “duchess training”…and fail miserably.
But in London, Pauline isn’t a miserable failure. She’s a brave, quick-witted, beguiling failure–a woman who ignites Griff’s desire and soothes the darkness in his soul. Keeping Pauline by his side won’t be easy. Even if Society could accept a serving girl duchess–can a roguish duke convince a serving girl to trust him with her heart?
And here is Nerdalisque's review:
I came back to reading romances a year or so ago after a very long hiatus, and Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series was among the first I discovered. (Thanks, SBTB!) I really enjoyed them. Loved them, actually. (I still haven’t quite recovered from one scene in Beauty and the Blacksmith. Because, the anvil.) But I digress.
I’m happy to say that I loved Any Duchess Will Do. Why? The characters – main and supporting – are well-developed and appealing. The plot is familiar, but Dare delivers it in a way that makes it fresh. Events move along at a good pace. There’s an economy to the plot: each scene advances the story with no excess. The writing is lovely – creative, descriptive, and often laugh-out-loud funny (the number of things I highlighted is ridiculous). And the sexytimes are quite capable of causing “flutterings,” to quote one conversation between the hero and heroine.
So what’s the setup for the story? Griffin, the eighth Duke of Halford, is hauled off to Spindle Cove by his very determined mother. The Duchess’ plan is to let Griff have his choice of suitable girls, and she’ll make that girl into a duchess in one week. Griff tries to thwart his mother by choosing Pauline Simms, a farmer’s daughter and serving maid. Pauline knows that Griff chose her to spite his mother, but her nature is such that she’s determined to become a player in their game, rather than a pawn.
“Of course, she knew he’d meant to pick the ‘wrong girl,’ but he’d picked the wrong ‘wrong girl.’”
Any Duchess Will Do could be a Cinderella story, but Dare doesn’t go in that direction. Pauline knows she’ll never be a duchess. She’s amused by the situation and willing to risk embarrassment in London for the promise of a reward that will give her the freedom to build a better life for her sister and herself away from their abusive father. She’s intelligent, funny, caring, and loyal.
As for Griff, I find him appealing because he isn’t obnoxiously alpha. His social position makes him confident and assertive, but I don’t find him overbearing. His relationship with his mother rings true: he loves her, even though she exasperates him. And there’s this: He smelled so wretchedly trustworthy. Readers of the series met Griff at the height of his debauchery in A Week to Be Wicked, but in this book he’s not a dissolute rake who changes his ways because he met the perfect woman. He’s already changed into a man who’s nothing like he was before, due to an event that I won’t spoil here – an event that would change anyone who experienced it.
The supporting characters are also well-drawn. I especially like Griff’s mother. The initial impression is that she’s snobbish and domineering, but the Duchess’ real nature emerges in a delightfully funny way as the story progresses.
I had to look hard, but I did find a couple of things to quibble with. First, while I’m thankful that Dare didn’t write Pauline’s speech in country dialect, but instead illustrates it through allusions to things like her dropped Hs; Pauline’s vocabulary and speech sometimes seem too polished for a country girl, even one who loves to read. For instance, she says to Griff:
“Even amid all the ancient, moldering volumes in this library . . . I find you the most unreadable book in the room.”
It’s a beautiful sentence, but to have it be Pauline’s didn’t quite ring true for me.
A theme throughout the book is that Griff and Pauline will always be a duke and a servant. Regardless of how much they love each other, society will always see them that way. He tells her that he will never forget the difference between them. That leads to the second thing that bothered me. When that concept becomes part of one specific sexytimes scene, it took me out of the story to the point that I missed the subtleties of the scene. Both Griff and Pauline were willing participants, but having the noble-commoner dichotomy pointed out in this context bothered me – because it was an actual difference, not one they were playing at. I will say that on a re-read, I got over my initial reaction and saw how the scene advanced their relationship.
It took an effort to find the things I didn’t like, and they weren’t enough to affect my enjoyment of the book. I’m charmed by Tessa Dare’s writing, especially her original humor and realistic dialogue. Really – many of her lines made me laugh-snort while I’m reading, like when Griff says of the a barnyard goose, “This bird is possessed by the spirit of a dyspeptic Cossack.” I also love Dare’s ability to paint evocative pictures of people and places with a minimum of well-chosen words. For the quality of the writing, the well-rounded characters, and most of all the humor, I’ll happily recommend this book to my fellow readers.