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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

'Goddess of the Hunt' by Tessa DARE

Lucy Waltham has been in love with Sir Tobias Aldridge ever since he mistook her for a pheasant and shot at her (he missed) and bowed his apology. Lucy has known Tobias, ‘Toby’, and her brother Henry’s other two friends, Felix and Jeremy, ever since she was 12 and they started journeying to Waltham Manor once a year for holidaying. But things have been changing of late. Henry married Marianne five years ago and now has three children. Felix married Kitty Hathaway, and for this years holiday Kitty bought along her beautiful younger sister Sophia Hathaway, who has managed to charm Toby right out from under Lucy’s nose. But not without a fight! Rumor has it that Toby intends to propose to Ms. Hathaway before their holiday ends, and Lucy intends to seduce Toby away from the angelic Sophia. But to do that she needs practice in the art of seduction, and book reading will only get her so far. So Lucy decides to practice her feminine wiles on Jeremy Trescott, Early of Kendall, and the frostiest man she’s ever known. If she can thaw Jeremy out, surely seducing Toby will be a snap.

What Lucy hasn’t counted on is her game of seduction actually working on Jeremy…

I loved this book. LOVED! I always go into romance books with a slight sense of trepidation, especially romances not written by the authors I have come to trust whole-heartedly with the hit-or-miss genre (Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn).

I was so pleasantly surprised by this debut novel by Tessa Dare, that I am now adding Dare to my ‘must read’ list and have already ordered the next 2 books in this series from Amazon.

Above all else in this book I loved the female lead, Lucy, most of all. Female protagonists make or break a romance novel. I’m not a fan of reading about effortlessly beautiful women for whom men and relationships are in abundance and they’re wealthy to boot. Lucy is a fantastic leading lady; she’s a 19-year-old clumsy, spirited tomboy at the precipice of womanhood and utterly under qualified to deal with the seductive course she has set out for herself;

What was it about helplessness men found so attractive? She supposed they must enjoy the illusion of superiority. Well, Lucy did not feel the least bit helpless or inferior, and her pride rebelled against the notion of feigning either state.

Is this a feminist ahead of her time or what? Sometimes when regency romance authors set out to write a strong-willed female protagonist, they do so at the expense of believability. Often times a female lead’s fiery independence is utterly misplaced in an 18th century setting, skewing the entire novel. But Lucy’s independent streak is explained by the setting. She is exerting her wanton liberty amongst friends – a group of men (including her brother) whom she has known since she was 12 years old and followed along on fishing expeditions and hunting trips.

Furthermore, her beguiling innocence is further explained by her brother’s lack of interest in exerting any real strictness with her, presenting her to the Ton or even letting her ‘come out’ in society balls. There is a level of obliviousness to Lucy that’s completely charming (for readers and Jeremy both) and also a little heart-rending. It’s gut-wrenching to read about the emotional blows she feels when she is forced to watch her childhood crush lavish another woman with his affections.

Aside from a fantastic female lead, ‘Goddess of the Hunt’ works so well because it’s so simple. There’s no convoluted plot revolving around matters of mistaken identity or life-and-death situations. It’s a refreshingly simple plot that is wholly focused on the romance between Lucy and Jeremy. There is a level of predictability (it is a romance after all) but the journey is so much fun you really don’t mind the inevitability of the destination.

The romance is steamy. What Lucy lacks in experience, she makes up for in enthusiasm - and her heated exchanges with Jeremy are sometimes funny, but definitely smoldering. There is a certain wardrobe-tryst that gave me tingles (in between my toes!) to read. Not since C.S. Lewis has a wardrobe held such fascination. There is only one 'but' and that is Jeremy's supposed rakish behavior back in London. It's not mentioned until further in the book that Jeremy has enjoyed quite a bit of female companionship in his time - but until that was explicitly stated I was sort of imagining Jeremy as a slightly more modest man. Not a monk or a virgin by any means, but I wasn't really getting the 'rake' vibe from him.

I also loved this book because the narrative is so clear. It happens a lot in romance novels, but I really hate it when there’s no ellipsis or chapter to cut up the narrative voice, and the POV changes halfway through a paragraph. In ‘Goddess of the Hunt’ the narrative voice swings between Jeremy and Lucy and they switch every few chapters or so. Dare has written two very strong characters in Jeremy and Lucy, so much so that I think the book could even have worked if we’d never had Jeremy’s insights, and just had his mannerisms, and veiled comments to go on. But Jeremy’s increasing infatuation is so much fun to read amidst Lucy’s naiveté.

My one complaint is that the ending is a little drawn-out. It borders on redundant and ridiculous when Lucy hosts a grand party for Jeremy’s tenants to win him the popularity vote… but it’s a small complaint on my part.

I have to say a big thank-you to Mandi of Smexy Books fame for reviewing this book, thereby prompting me to check it out.

5/5

3 comments:

  1. Great review - I loved this book too!

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  2. Yay - so glad you loved it! I still think about this book. I agree - I loved that it was just a love story, no evil villains or anything..and so romantic. I have the next two on my shelf..dying to start them!

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  3. I saw you were currently reading Surrender of A Siren --which I loved by the way-- and had to search to see if you read and loved The Goddess of the Hunt. I'm so thrilled to see you loved it as much as I did. It is one of my small handful of A+ books for 2009 so far.

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