By Tessa Dare
Avon, $5.99, 375 pages
Tessa Dare’s heroine Pauline breaks the traditional Regency romance code in the latest Spindle Cove Novel Any Duchess Will Do. Regency Romance is beloved for its glimpses into a world of opulence. The main characters are members of the bored aristocracy. There may be pirates and chambermaids as main characters, but they almost always are either disgraced titled gentlemen, or ladies in disguise. Not so Pauline. Pauline is exactly as she appears: a farmer’s daughter who has resided in Spindle Cove her entire life. More Julia Roberts than Cinderella, Pauline finds the absurd rules of the aristocracy vaguely amusing. Even so far as to be paid by Griff, the Duke of Halford, to break them. By the rules of his society, Pauline is never supposed to fall in love with a Duke, and he most certainly is not allowed to fall in love with her.
Tessa Dare’s novels are defined by quirky characters that don’t quite fit a normal mode and find themselves in absurd situations. What is especially enjoyable about her Spindle Cove series is how well researched the novels are. Each one contains some bit of scientific knowledge that was coming to light around the time of the Regency period. The characters in this series have special knowledge of such subjects as Geology, weapon’s design, and Smithy. This novel, while it doesn’t contain a character with a specialty, does reference a subject near and dear to my heart: Blood Banking. A mysterious ailment that prevents one couple from conceiving more than one child, now known to be caused by Rh incompatibility.
Just when Any Duchess Will Do starts to steer too far into the realm of absurdity (really, an adult male kidnapped by his own mother?) some highly emotional secret is revealed and the absurdity becomes the salve to the tension between the characters. While the characters are more reluctant to progress to the natural conclusion of the story than may be merited by the plot, this novel is as satisfying as the Rodeo Drive Shopping scene in Pretty Woman.
Reviewed by Rachelle Barrett