Saturday, May 11, 2013

Review: Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare (ARC)

In Tessa Dare's latest installment, Spindle Cove continues to weave its enchantment on the ladies and gentlemen who have found their way there -- whether by choice or by accident.

Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, can have any woman he wants. But when the ladies of London fail to grab his attention, his mother resorts to very drastic measures and kidnaps him to Spindle Cove, hoping they would have better chances with the unconventional ladies there.

"Select any girl who strikes your fancy. I will make her into a duchess." (loc 329) Griffin capitalizes on the loophole in his mother's edict and chooses the most unimaginable candidate to be his duchess, Pauline Simms, the barmaid. To convince his mother to finally, finally give up on her matrimonial aspirations for him, Griffin strikes a bargain with Pauline, to keep his mother occupied with duchess lessons and to be a most spectacular failure. In return, he will give her a thousand pounds for her time and trouble.

The Duchess also strikes a bargain with Pauline, asking her to pay attention as she she teaches Pauline what it means to be a lady, what it means to be a duchess, and what it means to keep her eye on the greater prize.

And Pauline? She's finding it difficult to resist the mother's relentless instructions and finding it even harder to resist the son's effortless charms. So what's a girl to do? Does she take her cue from all the ladies before her and let the magic of Spindle Cove do the rest?

In Beauty and the Blacksmith, Tessa Dare explores the very unlikely pairing of a gently-bred lady and a blacksmith -- in Any Duchess will Do, she explores the theme further by pairing a duke, with a barmaid. It is a difficult love story to write but Tessa Dare proves that difficult is worlds away from impossible --

Battle of Wills. Rags to Riches/Cinderella. These aren't the first time Tessa Dare is utilizing these tropes -- but, in Pauline and Griffin's story, she uses them in a fun, fresh and unforgettable way. When Griffin selects Pauline out of the crowd, we all see it as the fairy tale moment -- but Griffin and Pauline both remind us that we should not see their story as a fairy tale:

"Let's set a few things straight at the outset," he said. "I might wear fine clothes and possess a splendid carriage, and I've rolled into your life on something that might resemble a whirlwind. Perhaps even a romantic one, to the untutored eye. But this isn't a fairy tale, and anyone who knows me could tell you .. I am no prince."

She laughed a little. "With all due apologies, your grace, I hadn't formed any opinions to the contrary. I stopped believing in fairy tales long ago."
- loc 660 - 674

It is difficult for me to explain but this story is special -- much like the sugar/alum that powdered Pauline and made her sparkle in the eyes of Griffin that very first time, the author has also sprinkled this story with wonderful glittery details and characters -- and that little extra something that is uniquely Tessa Dare.

Griffin, Pauline and her Grace, the Duchess of Halford each have their own agenda. What is interesting is that these goals were not contradictory -- they all basically want the same thing: a future of their own choosing, filled with happiness and contentment -- but, each one had a different view of this future. For Griffin, it meant a life free of his mother's meddling, a bachelor's life with no attachments and no risk of loss. For Pauline, it meant a life free of her father's meddling, a secure life with her sister and their own business -- to finally be more than just "that well-meaning Simms girl". For Griffin's mother, it meant grandchildren that she could clothe in her knitting projects and shower with love and affection.

Another wonderful aspect of this novel is the mix of humor and heart. I never thought I would see the word "phlegm" used (and used so frequently) in a romance novel -- but the author has found a place for it and many other clever words in Any Duchess will Do.

When the duke kissed her, her head spun, her knees melted ... and her elocution improved. Limber tongues and all that.

"Bloody hell," she mumbled into her palm.

The duchess gave a weak sigh and motioned to the servant for more tea. "Your H's still need work."
- loc 2427 - 2440

There is no shortage of love in any of our characters. This isn't a case where the hero or heroine has never experienced love and, therefore, could not identify that tingly feeling they feel whenever their loved one was near. Griffin, Pauline and the Duchess of Halford have all experienced it -- love and loss so deeply that they all felt it was impossible to ever find such a love again.

"I'm offering you a lifetime of financial security. All I'm asking in return is a few weeks of impertinence. Think of it as your chance to write the practical girl's fairy tale. Come away to London in my fancy carriage. Have some fine new gowns. Don't change a whit. Don't fall in love with me. At the end of it, we part ways. And you live wealthily ever after."
- loc 698 - 712

My favorite part is the dynamic between Griffin and Pauline. Both of them struggle internally with their feelings and desire for each other. Griffin knows that Pauline isn't for him -- not just because she worked as a barmaid but because he has personal issues as well. He denies the attraction and denies the significance of that attraction -- but it is there and growing stronger, gaining more ground in his heart, as he gets to know her better. I love the push-pull that happens as they figure out between what they wanted, what they needed and what they got.

She was so defiantly proud of her common origins, yet so hungry for approval.

This was a business arrangement, he reminded himself. He'd hired the girl to bedevil his mother, not to bewitch him. Her cleverness and lively, cat-tipped eyes should not be temptations.
- loc 1098

And Pauline is also so keenly aware of how far, far below she is from his station -- perhaps, back in Spindle Cove, without the duchess lessons, she wouldn't make anything of it: it is just another dream for her to cherish and push aside at the corners of her mind as she worked and took care of Danielle but, now, with the Duke so close, an arms' length away -- it is a painful irony.

"I wouldn't expect anything," she rushed on. "I'm not asking for promises. I just want to know what it's like when it's good. And I might go my whole life without another chance. I'm not a lady with a reputation to guard. There's no one to care."

Damn it, he cared.
- loc 3000

This novel isn't about discovering love for the first time but about rediscovering it. This is about believing in the fairy-tale happy ending even when we're too old and too jaded to do so -- because they do still happen -- and they can happen to anyone.

Any Duchess Will Do is book 4 in Tessa Dare's Spindle Cove series and will be released on May 28, 2013. To find out more about Tessa Dare and her books, visit her website. She is also on Facebook and on Goodreads.

Tessa is currently on a book tour to promote Beauty and the Blacksmith and Any Duchess Will Do, come by again on May 13 to read excerpts of both books and to enter the giveaway. To visit Tessa Dare's other stops, click here.

Disclosure: I received the ARC through Edelweiss. (Thank you to Bewitching Book Tours and to Avon for accepting my request.) Yes, this is an honest review.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...