Any Duchess Will Do
At this point, I will go out on a limb and call Tessa Dare (along with Julie Anne Long) the FedEx queen of romance. Like, half the time I don’t actually believe that FedEx can get my packages to Hong Kong in 24 hours; nor do I believe, truly, that anyone can meld souls, minds, and bodies in less than seven days, leading to everlasting happiness. But lo and behold, in the world of expedited happenings, both Ms. Dare and FedEx deliver. Go figure.
Witness, if you please, the sheer improbability of certain events:
- A duke’s wedding-hungry mother drugs and kidnaps her son to Spindle “Spinster” Cove.
- A duke would actually a) notice, and b) pick a grubby barmaid to be Eliza Doolittle to his mother’s Henry Higgins.
- The L-word makes an appearance on day five. Day five.
- Said barmaid and duke fall happily in love and marry. Let me repeat that: a barmaid and a duke marry.
Ms. Dare is certainly not alone in crafting scenarios of a far-fetched nature, but she is one of the few authors whom I will forgive (in part). And that’s because Tessa Dare has Style. As much as I’m rolling my eyes, I’m chuckling and grinning at the antics. I’m laughing when Griff, the duke, feels up his mother. (It’s funny, I swear.) It’s like Rapunzel – all that hair would actually be too heavy for her to move around (let alone use as a whip, as seen in Disney’s Tangled), but who cares? It’s fun. You go along for the roller coaster ride.
The only problem with that metaphor is that one either likes the adrenaline and goes back for more, or you acknowledge that once in a blue moon suffices. (Or you avoid it altogether.) I fall into the second category. Griff and Pauline’s story was great. I liked their interactions, and I thought various gender, class, and age differences were acknowledged with sensitivity. I also liked the inclusion of Daniela, Pauline’s sister, who likely has Down Syndrome or another developmental disorder. And I’ve more or less become inured to love scenes, but the second one was surprisingly…effective, shall we say? Yeah, I like Ms. Dare’s Style. Her writing is funny and sharp and poignant, even when a part of me is resisting with all my might.
But there are problems, hence the blue moon phenomenon. Generally, I do like my romances with one solid foot planted on reality, and this book is basically en pointe and about to be airlifted. Specifically to this book, I thought Griff’s emotional depths (which are tied to an event in his recent past) were too contrived to be genuine. I’ve already mentioned my issues with series of improbable events. And the whole saintly heroine thing grates. Is it too much to ask to give Pauline one flaw? Just one? Right, you’d prefer that the heroine takes care of her sister to save them from an abusive father and forgives former seducers and charms crotchety mothers-in-law and stands up to the aristocracy and blabbity-blah-blah-blah. Puh-leeze.
My issues with the book aren’t unrelated, I think, to its FedEx nature. When you squeeze months of character development into a week, something’s gotta give, and it usually does. Very, very few authors can achieve otherwise. All that being said, however, I did enjoy Any Duchess Will Do. I will keep reading Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series. But like I said – maybe only once in a blue moon.