Ballantine, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-345-50686-3
Historical Romance, 2009
I have no idea who she is, but new author Tessa Dare seems to be all over the place to tell everyone about the release of her new book. Such diligence in doing the publicity rounds clearly needs to be rewarded with a review from yours truly.
Goddess of the Hunt features a glowing praise from Eloisa James on the front cover and I have to say, this is one case where the person contributing the praise and the author of the book in question is perfectly matched. If you love Ms James’s style of writing, you may like this one, although this one lacks the large ensemble cast and simultaneous story lines typical of her books of late. Naturally, some readers may view that last bit as a good thing, heh.
Lucy Waltham has always been one of the boys, tagging along with her brother Henry and his close friends throughout her teens. Now at 19, Lucy realizes with dismay that those men really do view her as one of the boys. They don’t view her as one of those women a man would court, marry, and love. The delicate and beautiful Sophia Hathaway is a lady. Lucy, well, she’s that tomboy brat they know since she was a kid. This is a problem because Lucy has decided that she is in love with her brother’s friend Toby while Toby has his eyes set on marrying Sophia. When Henry throws his usual house party that October, and Toby shows up along with Sophia, Lucy decides that she has to break those two up and claim Toby for herself.
If she can’t win Toby using her meager dowry, then she will try to win him over with passion. Maybe she can make Toby jealous by paying attention to the other bachelor in Henry’s circle of friends, Jeremy Trescott. Meanwhile, the boys are aware of Lucy’s infatuation on Toby, and they conspire to have poor Jeremy distract Lucy a little by, you know, talking to her and keeping her away from Toby before she turns into a bunny boiling type. Poor Jeremy finds himself in the constant company of the hoyden that he finds irritating… annoying… and suddenly, maddeningly, fascinating and even lovable.
I have no idea what to make of Ms Dare’s previous too-short story The Legend of the Werestag, but Goddess of the Hunt offers a better picture of what Ms Dare has to offer, and I like what I find here. This story has plenty of charming chemistry and lovable “brat, I love you” repartee. It’s a nice book to pick up to chase the blues away. I also enjoy how the author manages to make her characters her very own with what seems like little effort on her part. Her characters in this book are adorable, brimming with freshness and charm, and even Sophia has some depths. There are no recognizable stereotypes here. Instead of Boring Rake Hero #511, we have Jeremy, for example.
I’m especially impressed that Ms Dare manages to make a spoiled, petulant, and very immature brat like Lucy tolerable and even likable by the last page. In the first few chapters, I’m more than happy to see her get trampled by an angry hippopotamus, but as the story progresses, Lucy stops being that bad. Unexpectedly enough, I find Jeremy a more problematic character than Lucy. Lucy comes off like a sheltered and spoiled brat, but at least she stays in character throughout the story and she manages to even grow up a little by the last page. Jeremy, however, is supposed to be a reformed rake who decides to walk the straight and narrow path after the death of his father. While his disbelief at Lucy’s inability to see him as a dashing rake like so many other women do provides plenty of amusing moments here, I have a hard time seeing Jeremy as a rake in the first place. For example, when he finds himself aroused by Lucy, he acts like a virgin kid who has never known what transpires between a man and a woman behind closed doors and is therefore melodramatically alarmed by his body’s reaction toward her. Surely an experienced rake would not try so hard to analyze his lust for a beautiful woman like Lucy to the extent Jeremy does in this story? It’s only lust – something a supposedly successful rake should be used to feeling and dealing with, no?
Lucy’s behavior in this story will most likely be the make-or-break deal for many readers. The title of this book is actually a reference to Lucy in the story (it’s what Toby called her when they were younger), although she’s more like spoiled Aphrodite wanting to be adored on a pedestal rather than like regal and dignified Diana seeking to blind any man who dares to peek at her bloomers. If you cannot tolerate Lucy, you’d have to exercise some patience for a long time while reading this book. I personally would love to throttle her myself, but still, the patience pays off for me in this instance as I end up enjoying this story. What I find more problematic than Lucy’s behavior is Ms Dare’s tendency to have her characters go through circular loops in their thought processes. Lucy and Jeremy tend to rehash and repeat their thoughts and feelings, and this happens especially in the middle parts of the story.
In the end, I have a good time reading Goddess of the Hunt despite encountering a few rough bumps here and there in the process. Let’s see where the author will take me from here onward.