By Tessa Dare
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Series or Standalone: Spindle Cove #4
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
I’ve been putting off reviewing Any Duchess Will Do as it’s my all-time favorite Tessa Dare novel and I struggle to find the words to talk about it. This book ticks all the boxes for me and hits all the emotional beats perfectly. It’s the one book in the Spindle Cove series I constantly find myself coming back to again and again. Plus it has the top Tessa Dare banging scene in all her books.
Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, has no desire to wed and, up until recently, lived a life of debauchery. When his mother kidnaps him and takes him to Spindle Cove to pick out a wife, he decides to select the most unsuitable woman of the lot to push her buttons. Pauline Simms is a serving girl working at the Bull and Blossom in Spindle Cove. She doesn’t dream of dukes, but when Griff picks her as his future Duchess and offers to pay her to be an astounding failure at his mother’s “duchess training,” Pauline sees an opportunity to escape her father’s house and pursue her dream of opening a lending library. However, once Pauline and Griff get to London, Griff doesn’t end up seeing her as a failure but comes to see her strength and begins to fall for her.
I don’t even know where to start with this book as I love everything about it. From the characters to the romance to the story, it all works so perfectly. Rereading this book is like getting a warm hug – it’s so comforting and soothing to me and has helped me get through many reading slumps or funks before.
Pauline is one of the things that makes this book so magical for me. Dare writes fantastic female characters, but Pauline is something special and one of my favorite characters. I love Pauline’s inner strength to push through terrible situations and find a way out of them. She knows what she wants and is willing to do whatever she can, even if it means risking her dignity, on the line to get it. I love that she’s not cowered by Griff at all and instead calls him on his troublesome behavior. She’s also incredibly empathetic and cannot help but want to do a good job at being a duchess in training, even though she knows that’s the opposite of what she signed up for. She’s just *chef’s kiss*.
And then we have Griff who is harboring some secret pain. If you’re an eagle-eyed reader, you’ll recognize Griff from A Week to Be Wicked when Colin and Minerva stop at his estate and she pretends to be Colin’s mistress. The Griff we saw then is not the same Griff in this book. Yes, we get hints of his debaucherous past and he’s still a cocky and arrogant man, but something has changed him to make him more serious. When his secret pain is revealed, my heart aches for this poor man. He needed someone like Pauline so badly to pull him out of his grief and share his pain. I also genuinely love the relationship Griff has with his mother. His mother is the best secondary character in this book. Despite his whole plan with Pauline being a way to get back at his mother, he genuinely loves her and cares for her. The affection between Griff and his mother always warms my heart. It’s such a cute secondary relationship in the book. While Griff can be a bit of an ass at times, he’s a loveable asshole in my book.
The romance in this book always gives me all the feels. The romance in the book develops over a VERY short amount of time, which usually doesn’t work for me, but I always forget that Griff and Pauline fall in love in less than a week. It’s truly a testament to Dare’s writing that the romance doesn’t feel rushed – it’s fully developed. The chemistry between the two is there from the start and I love that Griff truly sees Pauline – flaws and all – and loves and accepts that. And he also treats others with kindness when others won’t, which I truly love about him (and Pauline does too).
Now, we get a class difference and employee/employer relationship which can sometimes feel a bit icky given the power dynamics in play, but I think Dare handled it magnificently. Pauline isn’t one to be bossed around if she doesn’t want to, and Griff does view Pauline as an equal in his mind. The class difference is ultimately one of the most significant barriers to them getting their happily ever after. I also love some of the little nods to Cinderella in this book – arguably one of the most famous servant/nobility romances – as this is a bit of a spin on that story.
Outside the romance, the plot of this book is so fun. We get some great comedic moments – a staple of Dare’s writing. I seriously forgot how funny the scene where Pauline gets stuck on Griff’s button is. I also love the reveal of why Griff’s mom wants him to marry – it always gives me a chuckle. While the book revolves around Griff and Pauline’s relationship and her journey through the duchess lessons, I loved how Dare wove in Griff’s secret pain. When he opens up and shares what it is, my heart breaks. I could have used a little more finesse in the reveal of Griff’s pain to his mother as it wasn’t Pauline’s secret to tell, but I’m willing to overlook that. I know some people might not enjoy the ending as it does come a bit abruptly, and the Griff essentially disappears for a few months, but I love it. The gesture he makes is so romantic to me, and it indicates he truly gets Pauline.
Of all the books in the Spindle Cove series, this one is my favorite. It’s the Tessa Dare novel I find myself coming back to time and time again. The romance gives me all the emotions, and I truly adore these characters. If you haven’t read this one, I cannot recommend it enough!