When Griffin York, Duke of Halford, wakes up in a carriage bound for the “arse-end” of Sussex, he is less than amused. His mother has dragged him off to the coast in order to find a bride, declaring that Any Duchess Will Do for him to procure heirs. Griff takes on the challenge by picking the most unsuitable women in the entire village of Spindle Cove — a serving girl named Pauline Simms. Determined to stop his interfering mother once and for all, Griff agrees to marry Pauline if she can be transformed into a lady in just a week. But if she cannot learn to circulate in the upper class ballrooms in London in seven days, then matchmaking schemes will forever be shelved. Tessa Dare fills the pages of this Regency romp with witty dialogue, self-aware characters and more than a little heat. Read on to hear RT’s Morgan and Dawn dish about this delightful historical romance, releasing today!
Morgan: The Duchess of Halford is quite determined to see her only son wed.
Dawn: You say determined, but I think she is quite out of her mind. She drugs him and sticks him in a carriage bound for Spindle Cove.
Morgan: Ah yes, the seaside resort filled, literally, will women. One of my favorite fictional places in all of England!
Dawn: I have read Tessa Dare’s earlier novels (and novellas) set here, but I have to say, this visit to the coast is particularly difficult because it shows the less savory aspects of the small town.
Morgan: Like the way the locals treat serving girl Pauline Simms and her disabled sister Daniela.
Dawn: These are heartbreaking scenes, but Pauline’s defense of her sister gives some great insight to our heroine. She is brash and impulsive, but also wonderfully loyal and brave. It isn’t pleasant to think that this could be her life forever.
Morgan: Actually, in less than an hour, Pauline’s entire future changes when Griffin York, the Duke of Halford and his mother the Duchess barge into the Bull and Blossom, the establishment where Pauline works.
Dawn: The Duchess orders all of the women in the place to their feet and tells Griff that he is to choose his bride. Right there on the spot.
Morgan: And while he is not actually thinking of getting married — ever, Griff does decide it is time to shut his mother up so he looks around “planning to declare mad, instantaneous love for the most shrinking, awkward, homely chit available.”
Dawn: Unfortunately for him, none of the women are quite bad enough to dissuade his mother from her plan.
Griff could sense that there was more courage and wit in the room than his first impression might have indicated. These young women were no fools. And though they each had their flaws and imperfections — who didn’t? — none were unsuitable to a shocking, insurmountable degree.
Morgan: That is until he gets a look at Pauline. Self-described as coarse, uneducated, graceless with the figure “less of a shapely hourglass, more of a sturdy hitching post” and a “nest” for hair, this girl, is, in a word perfect.
Dawn: The absolute perfect way to sabotage his mother’s plans.
Morgan: Was it just me, or at this point in the book, did you just want to knock this guy around a little bit? Using a person to play games with his mother’s head.
Dawn: Remember, Griff didn’t start this.
Morgan: No, his mother did and one could argue that she is a scheming, fiendish woman with entirely too much time at leisure.
Dawn: Actually, that is exactly what the hero says.
Morgan: But he plays along, announcing to his mother that Pauline is the one. Without getting Pauline’s opinion, might I add.
Dawn: Oh, we don’t have to feel too bad for Pauline, she is amazingly adept at reading situations and jumps right in to play along. She immediately tells her boss that she is quitting her post at the Bull and Blossom so that she can take duchess lessons. Declaring that she will indeed marry Griff, she calls the duchess “Mother” and announces how much she is looking forward to her wedding night.
Morgan: Priceless! Pauline knows that there is no way that she will end up with the duke, but she decides that she is going to “wring this experience for every last drop of amusement.”
Dawn: Griff realizes right away that Pauline knows the score, but he lays out the facts. His mother is going to do everything she can to marry him off. He offers Pauline a substantial amount of money to come to London and play a companion to his mother while ruining her scheme to get them together.
“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.”
Morgan: As much as I was mad at Griff at first, this is a pretty amazing deal he offers Pauline an answer to all her prayers. For just a few days away she can earn enough money to get herself and her sister out from under her father’s strict control. I would take the deal!
Dawn: Who wouldn’t? Especially when your prince/fairy godfather is super handsome and rich.
Morgan: So after a not-so-friendly goodbye between her and her father, Pauline promises her sister she will be back in a week and off to London the Duke, Duchess and serving girl go.
Dawn: The ‘duchess lessons’ start immediately. Pauline and Griff’s mother butt heads over just about everything. Pronunciation, swearing, table manners. You name it and they argue.
Morgan: Which delights Griff to no end. Or at least it would if he weren’t so interested in Pauline. He is attracted to her, but finds himself uncomfortable with his feelings.
Dawn: Something has happened to him, but he refuses to talk about it. The Duchess is convinced that starting a family would make him feel better, but we know that Griff’s problems go deeper than this.
Morgan: There is a bit of a mystery when, on the way back to Town, Griff visits a gravestone. We don’t yet know who is buried there, but guilt and pain are big motivators for this hurt hero.
Dawn: For the past several months Griff has been on a path of self improvement. Or at least as much as an improvement that a former rake can reasonably make.
Morgan: He says that he is trying to live his life as the “New, Not-Truly-Improved, Just-Vastly-Less-Interesting Griffin Eliot York.”
Dawn: Well, I for one, think he is a perfect hero. Sure, he can get a little snobbish, but he is hurting and trying to protect his heart from pain.
Morgan: Griff knows instinctively that Pauline can ruin his good intentions by just being herself.
[S]he wasn’t just a serving girl. She was a serving girl with aspirations, keen business sense, shockingly good taste in poetry — and slight, enticing curves his hands ached to explore.
Dawn: But between his past heartache and Pauline’s low station in life, no matter what the couple feels for one another, a future is impossible.
Morgan: Not entirely impossible. Remember what Griff’s mother says, “[T]here is only one quality that makes a woman a duchess. She marries a duke.”
Dawn: Will our lady get her man?
Morgan: The only way to find out is by picking up a copy of Tessa Dare’s Any Duchess Will Do, releasing today!
Are you excited to read about the serving girl-turned-companion-to-(possible)-duchess? Then grab your copy of Any Duchess Will Do today. And for more historical couples stumbling towards a happily-ever-after, check out RT’s Everything Romance Page.