Series: Spindle Cove #4
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Avon on 28 May 2013
Any Duchess Will Do reminded me of Pygmalion. This works in its favour as Shaw’s play is one of my favourites. Our hero is Griffin York, the Duke of Halford and he suffers from a painful affliction – a mother who is determined to see him marry and start producing children. She drugs him and whisks him off to Spindle Cove to see if any of the social misfits there will attract his eye. She guarantees she can make a duchess out of any of the girls. Heartily sick of his mother’s scheming, Griff selects the one woman he thinks is beyond his mother’s skill, the serving girl. He offers Pauline one thousand pounds to come to London and fail at “duchess training”.
Eliza Doolittle Pauline Simms is smart, stubborn, pragmatic and loyal. She accepts Griff’s proposal so she can set up her own bookshop and take care of her impaired sister Daniella. Pauline is not content with being just a farmer’s daughter and nor should she. She subconsciously absorbs so many of the ‘duchess lessons’ that by the time she returns home, it is clear that she no longer quite fits in either her father’s world or Griff’s. As ‘worthy’ as Pauline is, Byronic hero Griff steals the show. He was repulsive in A Week to Be Wicked and so Dare had to do some quick footwork to make the reader care about him. Something significant caused him to abandon his rakish ways and it all has to do with a locked room in his house. To be honest, I was afraid he was going to turn out like Bluebeard and have dead wives stacked up but the truth is far more poignant. I was fairly moved when Griff finally confesses all.
There are a few plot problems with this novel. The class system is firmly entrenched in the British psyche and for a duke to fall for and then want to marry a serving girl is frankly ridiculous. The characters themselves acknowledge it repeatedly and Griff’s way of dealing with the difference in status is fairly entertaining. I wanted to believe though really badly and when it was just Griff and Pauline alone together rather than their public personas, it was possible. The ending was fairly light which didn’t quite marry up with the deep emotions dealt with earlier on but was still satisfying.
After reading this novel, I realised that Dare’s even numbered books excite me far more than the odd numbered ones. Dare’s heroines are still imbued with 21st century notions which continue to frustrate me. If you can get past that and I am bit by bit, you will probably really enjoy this novel.