This is the fourth book in the Spindle Cove series and this time our hero is the faintly villainous Duke of Halford that we encountered in previous books in the series. I was curious about how the author would play this one out. Would she redeem him totally or would she leave him as wicked and rude as ever and have the heroine love him despite it? I am a fan of anti-heroes so I was excited for either option. Unfortunately, I don’t think the hero of this book is the man we met previously. He went through a tragedy semi-recently which changed him, yes, but I don’t think such an extreme personality change was believable. If he was going to be redeemed into a better man, making him an easier hero to sell, then I wanted to see his journey. I felt a little robbed to be honest. Yes, I eventually liked this hero quite a bit, but he still didn’t match the character I knew before.
It took quite a while before I actually started to enjoy this story. A look at my notes says that I was past page 100 and I was still unhappy. Eventually I became quite entertained by the leads, but looking back I realize that I had to do quite a bit of mental compartmentalizing for that enjoyment to kick in. The beginning setup was so unbelievable to me that I had a hard time getting over it. The duke being drugged by his mom and dragged to Spindle Cove to pick a potential bride, said duke allowing his mother to run his life and going along with her plan, him picking a barmaid (the heroine) because she would be so unsuitable, her going along with it, etc. It made me cringe and not in a fun, I’m laughing with you kind of way. Maybe this setup would have been more palpable if anyone had actually taken more time to think before they executed the plan. As it is I couldn’t accept that the duke picked the heroine within seconds of seeing her, they head to her house and within the hour (or close to that) they’re on their way to London. Eh…it just didn’t work for me at all.
That was basically my problem with the attraction between the hero and the heroine, too. I just didn’t believe it. Everything seemed to happen so fast that I felt no actual connection between them to explain why they were so attracted. There was just the author assuring me they did in fact want each other. I still have no idea why. One second they’re sneering at each other and quite set in their opinions of each other and the gap in their stations and the next they’re hot for each other. Once the attraction was firmly established and the romance started to developed I got into it and really liked them together, but that’s where the compartmentalizing came into it. I had to completely ignore the foundation of the story to enjoy the rest of it. If I didn’t block my disbelief out then I would have ended up unhappily picking apart everything else about it and been completely miserable.
Despite all that, I enjoyed the rest of book (except for the end). I really enjoyed the sweet romance that developed between Griffin and Pauline. They both struggled with personal issues and although they both were willing to be with each other temporarily, neither believed anything long term would ever be possible. I liked that Pauline struggled with her role in Griffin’s life. She was picked because the possibility of her being a match with Griffin was so unbelievable. No matter how committed she was to being the disaster he was paying her to be, being that person burned. I also liked that even though Griffin was a much nicer fellow then he ever was before, he still had his jerk moments. Although he was attracted to Pauline and liked her as a person, he was employing her because she was so far beneath him in both class and refinement. That attitude occasionally bled through and they both had to work through it. I also loved how emotional his personal tragedy was and how utterly broken up he was by it. It really helped endear him to the reader.
Dare’s usual charm and humor was present which made for a very readable story. There were also some lovely scenes with some of the previous couples that I really enjoyed. Colin and Minerva are always fun to read about. The end of the book didn’t really thrill me—I wasn’t happy with how the resolution of the relationship came about—but I really enjoyed the epilogue.
”That won’t help,” he told her. “What makes you think that will help? I’m not a virgin, either.”
“I didn’t think you were, but—“
“But nothing. I was hoping to hear something like, ‘I have a creeping skin disease.’ Or, ‘I hoot like a barn owl when I reach orgasm.’ Those would be deterrents. I’m not sure the second is strong enough, actually. Curiosity might win out over trepidation.”