Tessa Dare: ANY DUCHESS WILL DO

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare
Spindle Cover #4
Avon 2013
373 pages
4/5 stars

It is a fact that I’m pretty much incapable of reading romance series in order. There are two with which I’m currently making an effort with, and Spindle Cove is not one of them. Any Duchess Will Do is the fourth novel in the series and, as far as I know, the last.

The difference to the first book in the series, A Night to Surrender, is noticeable. The pacing is much better, the story more contained, and the characters more open. Dare introduces the hero in a brilliant way again – Griffin finds himself kidnapped by his own mother!

It is somewhat embarrassing to admit how long it took me to realise this novel is a Cinderella adaptation, and that should tell you how subtly it is done, or at least how immersed it got me. The heroine, Pauline, is a bar maid, who has a week to spoil Griffin’s mother’s attempts to make a duchess out of her. It’s a pretty typical let’s-see-if-she-can-be-groomed-into-aristocracy novel, but I would like to commend it on the fact that Dare has clearly done her research. This is not a half-hearted attempt at the trope: there are several moments where Pauline makes observations about the life of the high classes that I have ever seen made in Regency romance before. This mitigates the fact that a week is an implausible time to learn to walk and talk in a way that’s markedly different from the way one has done for twenty plus years.

For those interested in different tropes and topics, I would like to mention that Pauline has a mentally challenged sister – she does not feature in a major way but is an important barrier – and that their father is abusive. Dare also discusses the loss of a child and the theme of being oneself as opposed to playing a part in the eyes of society. Truth and identity are two of the major themes, both escalating towards the end of the novel.

All in all, I really enjoyed Any Duchess Will Do. There is some play with gothic elements, and what I think are a Miss Congeniality and John Donne reference, respectively – a little intertextuality is never lost on me! I’m also interested in the repetition of the phrase “I’ll take her” – it seems to reoccur at very specific moments and acquires different interpretations accordingly, but I didn’t put too much time into thinking about that. Maybe better for you, since that means I won’t go on about that here.

I would say this book doesn’t suffer being read straight after the first one. I do recommend starting with A Night to Surrender, since it gives you many of the characters met in this novel, but I think that’s enough background.

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