Any Duchess Will Do is the third book I have read by Tessa Dare and might just be my favorite book that she has written. It follows Griff Duke of Halsford and Pauline, a serving girl from Sussex, who he brings into his home to help get his mother off of his back. In return, Pauline would get 1000 pounds and a way out of her abusive father’s house.
From the very beginning, it is clear that Griff is head over heels for Pauline, although he tries to mask it. He has reasons, somewhat valid ones, as to why he cannot marry and for most of the book he won’t even consider marriage to anyone because of them, but Pauline is just so perfect* that she makes her way through his doubts and into his heart, blowing all of his reasons to bits. Pauline also has reasons not to marry Griff, not the least of which being the 33 ranks that separate them.
Classism plays a minor role in the telling of this story. At first, it was one of the reasons that Griff chose Pauline and not one of the society spinsters that populate Spindle Cove–his mother, the current Duchess, challenged him to choose any one of the women in the Bull and Blossom and that she would make her into a duchess. In Griff’s mind, Pauline would be a hot mess and that there would be no way his mother would be able to make her into anything close to a duchess, especially when Pauline puts the deadline of one week on any lessons (she needs to get back to her sister in Spindle Cove). Once Griff finally starts to see her as something more than a means to an end, her class doesn’t really bother him, although it is very much in the forefront of her mind because she has had it drilled into her that she would never amount to anything more than a serving girl.
I did have a couple of problems with this book. The first is that I don’t think that Griff really understood what life was like for someone of Pauline’s class. The fact that she’s just a serving girl, whose father owned 30 acres of farmland, was a non-issue, but the her it was a hurdle that she would have to jump over in order to be received by society as Griff’s wife. Case in point, Pauline accuses Griff of forgetting who they are when they are together and she tells him that that is something she could not do. This angers Griff so much that he spanks Pauline. I know the scene is supposed to be hot and maybe if it wasn’t interspersed with Griff making her say his entire title as he did it, it would have been. Unfortunately, this did not sit well with me. He may have been trying to tell her that class did not matter to him, but it just served as a reminder of how different they were. I do feel that in the end, he finally understood just what he was asking of her and he does, in my eyes, make up for it.
The second problem I had was the idea that in order for Griff to be happy he needed to have a traditional family, full of screaming babies. I understand the reasoning behind this, but it just annoys me to see yet another character equate babies with happy endings. As I said in a post the other day, I see this as a lazy way to write. If an author wants her characters to be happy, she simply writes in a baby epilogue, as if to say “See, they have a baby; they’re going to spend the rest of their lives in marital bliss.” It is very patronizing and it sends the message that a couple cannot be happy without children.
However, these were minor problems and they did not take away from my enjoyment of the narrative. Ms. Dare has a way of pulling a reader in and keeping her there until the very end. I was so drawn into the book that it took me a mere 36 hours to finish it and it left me with that feeling of “no book can ever compare,” which is why I am giving Any Duchess Will Do a 5 star rating.
*Griff kept telling Pauline she was perfect, and she kept thinking that he wasn’t seeing her for who she was, although to him she was perfect.