Tag Archives: Tessa Dare

Spindle Cove Series: Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

Desperate for grandchildren and a Dower House, Her Grace the Duchess of Halford has gone to the trouble of drugging her son, Griffin York, His Grace the Duke of Halford, and bringing him to Spindle Cove. Familiar to Tessa Dare readers as the setting of her current series, it’s a convenient location for duchess hunting, rife with eligible young ladies who don’t fit into Society for one reason or another. Her Grace insists that her son pick somebody, ANYBODY, and she will mold a Duchess out of the woman. Griff, vexed and still half-lit, picks the barmaid, Pauline Simms, to irk his mother, and because the little voice inside him whispers, “Her. I’ll take her.” Pauline is an astute, purposeful, and engaging woman with a challenging home life. Griff offers her an obscene amount of money to humour his mother and fail spectacularly at “duchess training”.

I’ve written before about the two basic heroes in historical romance novels: The Rake and The Protector. This may be the first novel I’ve ever read in which a character readers met as a Rake in an earlier story is reintroduced later in the midst of transforming himself into a Protector. When Tessa Dare’s readers first met Griff in A Week to Be Wicked, he was a dissipated, dissolute, hedonistic sybarite. He fit a lot into a couple of pages. His Grace wasn’t exactly hero material, but that was Dare’s challenge. You have to bring them low to build them up. Griff had been brought very low indeed before the story began and, I have to say, I don’t think I’ve seen an unapologetic rake so completely redeemed since Sebastian St. Vincent took a bullet for Evie Jenner in The Devil in Winter.

Any Duchess Will Do is a very good historical romance: clever, sweet, sexy, and, yes, romantic. Tessa Dare’s books are always a great deal of fun and often more than slightly implausible. My review of her recent novella, Beauty and the Blacksmith, included my thoughts on the willing suspension of disbelief in romance in general and with this writer in particular. Dare pulls the story off much more successfully in this case because, frankly, the hero is a Duke and rich as Croesus, and because Dare takes a romance trope and gives it enough of a twist to make it sufficiently crediblesque to maintain the illusion. For readers of the series, she has some savvy reincorporation, which was absolutely necessary to keep the willing suspension of disbelief going, although she was less successful in bringing back her most popular characters from A Week to Be Wicked and That Other Book I Didn’t Like as Much.

Reviewer’s Note: I sincerely hope that someone somewhere in the romance sub-culture is making a list of all the things Dare’s heroes compare their telltale masculine firmness to. She has a particular gift for wry metaphor in this area.

A complete summary of Tessa Dare’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.


Spindle Cove Series: Beauty and the Blacksmith by Tessa Dare

I’m not going to lie: I love the cheesy title. It sets just the right tone.

Tessa Dare is one of five writers on my historical romance autobuy list and she earned her place there owing to sheer entertainment value. There are different ways for these books to be enjoyable, but Dare’s best books are of the “romp” variety. She is such fun! Oh, there will come a time when she will challenge your profound willingness to suspend your disbelief, but it will be (mostly) be worth it.

Dare’s current series is set in the small seaside town of Spindle Cove where young single women go to recuperate from illness, embarrassment, and/or hide from the world. Local resident Mrs. Highwood has three daughters: Charlotte, for whom I hope a story is in the offing; Minerva, a spectacled academic who has recently married a lord (A Week to Be Wicked); and her favourite daughter, the ethereally lovely Diana, on whom Mrs. Highwood has pinned all of her ambitions. It was Diana’s poor health that brought the family to Spindle Cove and while it worked as a restorative, it also left her at a loose end: Now that she is healthy and has a full life to look forward to, Diana has to decide what kind of life she wants.

Before I had even begun reading Beauty and the Blacksmith, my willing suspension of disbelief was being challenged. Diana couldn’t seriously end up with a blacksmith, could she? Is he the younger son of a lord in hiding? Did he watch Diana from the edge of ballrooms and follow her here? I was very curious to find out because of all the tropes of historical romance that I question, the marriage between someone from the gentry and someone “low born” is the one I regard with the most jaundiced pseudo-historical eye. Unless one of them is rich (him, always him), then all bets are off.

All bets are on. Aaron Dawes, while a strapping sweetheart of a man, is really a blacksmith. One who makes jewelry on the side and this could turn into a loftier career for him, but a blacksmith nonetheless. It fits in nicely with cowboy/fireman/fighter pilot on the Pyramid of Manly Professions, but it slaps the face of historical reality. Dare’s characters get away with all sort of suspension of disbelief-y shenanigans, but this was too much for me. The voice in my head kept saying, “But he’s a blacksmith, but he’s a blacksmith, BUT HE’S A BLACKSMITH,” with ever-increasing volume and HTML formatting. What that voice really meant is that something fell flat in making the pairing sufficiently believable. Diana and Aaron have been mooning over each other from a distance for two years, but how exactly did this mutual yen turn into a convention defying love? Dare included discussions of the ramifications of the relationship, but not enough attention was given to the actual falling in love part of the story.  Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy the novella, even disregarding the even more patently ridiculous things that happened later because of the “romp” factor,  I really did. It just wasn’t quite as fantastic as it could have been.

If you have an e-reader and 99 cents, Dare has a novella called The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright which is charming. Her best novel, so far, is A Week to Be Wicked, and she has one called Any Duchess Will Do (read: The Duke and The Barmaid) coming out at the end of May. I have already “autobought” it.

A complete summary of Tessa Dare’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.