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REVIEW: Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

Dear Ms. Dare:

It’s fairly well known that I am suffering a historical romance malaise so I admit that my grade and response to this book may be disproportional to others.  I was engaged and charmed from the first chapter to the last and didn’t hesitate to put the book down once. I’d be hard pressed to say that about most books these days, let alone a historical.

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa DareGriffin York, the Duke of Halford, is kidnapped by his mother and taken to “Spinster Cove” where he is ordered to find a woman to wed.  Judith York, the current Duchess of Halford is tired of being the matriarch and wants Griffin to do his duty.  She literally drugs him, stuffs him in a carriage and takes him to Spinster Cove where she boasts that she can turn any woman into a duchess.  Griffin chooses Pauline Simms, the waitress at the Bull and Blossom tavern.

Pauline eyed Griffin as he walked in and pegged him as some other girl’s prince. She admired his fine form and his obvious wealth but all that turned sour when he decided to play some game with her.  At first I was worried this was “make fun of the poor girl” but it wasn’t because Pauline wouldn’t allow herself to be the butt of any joke.  She pushes back, forcing both Griffin and his mother’s hands.

Whatever stubborn, unfeeling game this duke and his mother were playing, they were gaining a third player in Pauline.

What’s more, Pauline was going to win.

Turning her gaze to the duke, she gave him a bold, unashamed inspection. No chore there. The man truly was a fine specimen of masculinity, from broad shoulders to sculpted thighs. If he could ogle her, why couldn’t she look right back?

“Cor.” She unleashed her broadest country accent as she tipped her head to admire the lower curve of his tight, aristocratic arse. “I’ll have great fun with you on the wedding night.”

When Griff is taken to Pauline’s home, his conscience begins to poke at him.  Not only can he see that Pauline is smart (both of wit and mouth) but she has her own pride.  Further, he sees that her father doesn’t value her much.  He offers Pauline a bargain she really can’t turn down. He’ll pay her an amazing sum of money to travel to London with him and his mother and play the role of protege to his mother’s maestro for one week.  Pauline can use that money to buy herself a small cottage and provide for her and his sister.

But once in London, Pauline is presented with a challenge. More than once she’s presented with the response that something wasn’t for her. Whether it was a book or merely looking good in a magnificent frock.  Pauline’s response is always the same.  She moves toward the challenge and not away which was exactly consistent with the manner in which she acted when Griff and Judith York first encountered her.

In this fairytale, we want Pauline to get the prince because we love Pauline. She’s not just a decent person who has tried to provide for her sister, save some money for herself, and simply try to enjoy the lot she’s been given but she’s smart and refuses to be the victim of anyone, including Griff and his mother. So is Griff good enough for Pauline?

Yes.  Griff is quick witted, often making wry comments in the face of possible embarrassment.

Just follow my lead. It’s the only way to make a quick escape.”

They waltzed their way around the ballroom. Because of the way his sleeve was caught on her gown, Griff had to hold his arm jutting out like a chicken wing. Without his hand on her back, he couldn’t lead her properly. Pauline was left to chase him across the dance floor in tiny, tiptoeing steps.

At last they reached the doors to the garden.

“I’ve never seen that waltz before,” an elderly matron remarked.

“A Hungarian variation, madam.” He held open the door for Pauline. “All the rage in Vienna.”

The best part of this writing is that I’m not told that Pauline is resourceful or that Griffin is witty.  It’s shown to me in each interaction.

It’s not all funny jokes about poor dancing because Griff’s reason for not marrying stems out of a real grief, one that brings him and his mother closer together but drives him apart from Pauline.

Possibly the downside of this book is two fold.  First, some might find Pauline a bit too perfect. Not only is she pretty and self possessed, but she has only a few qualms in entering society.  Her language and speech, for a barmaid, is not at all presented as an impediment. She makes friends with the servants and is able to play Handel on goblets filled with water. In her own way, Pauline is a bit of a paragon but she was a delight to me and I thought Griffin was a perfect match for her. B+

Best regards,



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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Dabney
    May 28, 2013 @ 10:46:17

    It’s worth noting, however, that most of this book takes place outside of Spindle Cove. I too liked this book on its own merits but I also liked it because I was ready to leave Spindle Cove.

  2. EGS
    May 28, 2013 @ 11:19:38

    Have this guy on my Kindle and am looking forward to starting it tonight. Tessa Dare has become one of my auto-buys.

  3. julie
    May 28, 2013 @ 17:41:40

    What does this mean: “…didn’t hesitate to put the book down once”?

  4. EGS
    May 28, 2013 @ 18:14:46

    @julie: Never wanted to put the book down?

  5. MissE
    May 28, 2013 @ 19:30:22

    @julie: That confused me too. I thought maybe it was a remark meant to imply that while the book was enjoyable, she had no problem putting it down for a bit. Obviously, she meant the opposite.

  6. Jane
    May 28, 2013 @ 21:06:19

    Yeah sorry for my inexplicable phrasing

  7. Patricia Eimer
    May 29, 2013 @ 07:33:06

    I love Tessa Dare’s books. She’s on my auto-buy list

  8. Jenny
    May 30, 2013 @ 06:55:08

    I just finished this one and loved it! I also agree with Dabney. I enjoyed that the book didn’t take place strictly in Spindle Cove. In fact the other book I really love in this series, A Week to Be Wicked, didn’t take place in Spindle Cove either.

  9. LJD
    Jun 01, 2013 @ 10:36:30

    I heard this is the last Spindle Cove book?

  10. Annie
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 06:05:21

    I was really, really enjoying this book until i got to the later part of the book. I found Paulines behavior intrusive and insulting- so much so that i immediately deleted the book from my iPad.

    There are some things that a person needs to deal with on their own without a third persons interference. I felt Pauline was extremely insensitive in announcing Griffs business and forcing his hand. Total! Total deal breaker for me.

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