Friday, September 6, 2013

Any Duchess Will Do

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, is kidnapped by his mother one morning and taken to Spinster's Cove where she tells him he must find a bride. He negotiates a deal to choose any woman he pleases and his mother will turn her into the toast of the ton within a week or she will cease to pester him about marriage. Thinking to get the best of her Griffin chooses the most unsuitable young lady he can find: Pauline Simms, a barmaid at the local tavern. Pauline is having an incredibly awful day after the closed minded villagers pick on her sister who is mentally retarded. At first she thinks Griffin's attentions are a joke, but when he offers her money for spending a week being a disappointment, she accepts his offer. She is fascinated by London and by the lifestyle that Griffin and the rest of the aristocracy leads, but she knows that it is not a life she is destined for as she has her sister to look out for. She quickly realizes that behind his facade of carefree elegance, Griffin has a streak of melancholy and her curiosity is piqued when she discovers he has a set of rooms that he does not allow anyone to enter.

Griffin is surprised at how well Pauline takes to his mother's Duchess training and it quickly becomes apparent that Pauline was destined for something more than being a mere barmaid. Pauline and Griffin form a team of sorts as they work with each other to fool the ton and joke about life, the people around them, and their own situations. Pauline also gets to know the Duchess, Griffin's mom, and is surprised to learn that she is truly a caring woman who just wants what is best for her son and she feels bad about her agreement with Griffin. Pauline also feels comfortable enough with Griffin to reveal that she longs to open a library for the ladies of Spindles Cove and Griffin is immensely supportive, even going so far as to recommend books. But as much as they've bonded over this week, Pauline has a family and a future to return to and it is up to Griffin to show Pauline how much he is willing to work towards a future for them.

Dare has always been a solid writer and this book is definitely one of her better ones, even if it is not quite as good as I know she can write. Pauline does not really work as a barmaid as she has so much knowledge, common sense, and life skills that someone who had had her life would really not have had. I do overlook unrealistic aspects of romance novels though so this did not really bother me and I saw that it was necessary as a Duke and a barmaid would, in reality, have so little in common as to make a relationship between them ridiculous. She is spunky (in a good way), she is compassionate and caring and her relationship with her sister is so admirable that it would be impossible not to like her. Griffin is also funny and smart and he suits Pauline so well in these aspects and, typical of the romance novel hero, he has a past as a rake and a bit of a hell raiser. References to this are sporadic and irritated me as at one point he talked about liking variety among women's breast sizes and I felt it tasteless and awkward.

There were many little things between them that really made their relationship so great; little moments where they'd joke or share a private secret or memory and are so hard to completely express in a review. They were so supportive of each other and I really appreciated that in a romance and they did get to spend quite a bit of time together in moments both happy and sad which went a long way towards showing how they would get on together as a real couple. I really enjoyed the the relationship between Griffin and his mother because it was so complex and so full of past hurts and misunderstandings when really they both wanted the other to be happy. And I liked that Pauline was able to be a part of this part of the story as she wanted to help the man she loved. I also liked reading about Pauline's sister and how Pauline cared for her and how she got along in society.

Rating: A very fun, enjoyable book that was a very fast read. Both characters were likable if not entirely realistic and I always like romances that bust out of societal norms in a big way.

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