Griffin York, Duke of Halford, has been avoiding marriage for so long that his mother drugs him to drag him off on a trip to choose a future duchess. She takes him to Spindle Cove, aka "Spinster Cove," a village known for a high population of unconventional and unmarried women, and tells him to pick any woman in the tavern, and she will turn his chosen bride into a duchess. Griffin picks the servant, Pauline Simms, and then makes a private arrangement with her that if she proves herself to be a total disaster and makes his mother give up, he will give her a thousand pounds to open the circulating library of which she dreams. Pauline insists that the arrangement only last a week so that she can return to her developmentally disabled sister.
The My Fair Lady inspired plot was fun, although it seemed to me that if Pauline had really been trying to be a disaster in society she could have been a much bigger one. The banter between Pauline and Griffin was delightful, as was his scheming mother. And the sensuality was well done.
However, I found myself unsold on the Spindle Cove aspects of the story, from the initial assumption that whichever (known to probably be unconventional) woman Griffin picked would be willing. If these things happen all the time in Spindle Cove (and do they? Really, I haven't read the other books, but is it typical for the hero to just walk into town and announce which woman he'd like to marry?), doesn't anybody at least acknowledge that it's rather weird that they do? There were a few chapters that dealt with characters who were fairly obviously the hero and heroine of a previous book that made me feel like I was missing a lot of the charm because I hadn't read any of the others. Even the epilogue focused at least as much on the leads of a previous book as on Griffin and Pauline, if not more. Starting a book elsewhere than at the beginning of the series is always risky, but usually in Romance in which the leads change in every book the risk is more along the lines of accidentally "spoiling" yourself for details of how an earlier couple got together. I know I have read other series in which the protagonists of previous books make an appearance in the latter in which they are less distracting, and in which they're more natural parts of the plot than special cameos.
This book might be more enjoyable for an established fan of the series who knew why they should care about the cameos, especially if the weirdness of Spindle Cove has already been so well established for them that they take it as a given. As a place to start, it's mostly enjoyable but takes a bit more suspension of disbelief than I like and the cameos are a bit overdone.
Overall Grade: B-