Goddess of the Hunt (Tessa Dare, Wanton Dairymaids #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This felt like exactly what it is: a beginning work from a very promising author.  There are interesting characters and passionate sex scenes, but all of the writing and characterization ultimately feels like it could, and should, be more fleshed out.  You’ve got a strong-willed, independent tomboy of a heroine – a woman who rides and fishes with the best of them (and has a hearty appetite to boot).  She’s fun and easy to relate to; the fact that she’s out to seduce her brother’s friend is a nice opening premise.  BUT… this is one of those novels where they fall in love/consummate their relationship almost too quickly, and the second half of the novel is dense with misrepresentations and misunderstandings, where everyone means well, but keeps saying and doing the worst possible thing and hurting each other’s feelings.  Though it’s well written and worth the read, there are many times when it’s just as frustrating as it is good…

Greater Detail:
Lucy Waltham has been in love with her brother’s best friend Toby for eight years now – he’s your typically dashing, good-natured bloke, who has always treated her with kindness (and a little bit of flirtation as well – Toby is a guy who knows how to get the ladies, and enjoys getting them).  She’s always dreamt of marrying him, and has finally realized that it may be too late – for Toby seems about to propose to the much more sophisticated and ladylike Sophia Hathaway.

Lucy is desperate to get Toby’s attention and decides to seduce him.  Never having kissed a man before, she starts by “practicing” on Jeremy Trescott (another friend of her brother, staying at their house).

The beginning is a little messy.  You’re introduced to just a TON of characters all at once – Lucy, her brother, her brother’s friends, who have brought their wives and one of the wife’s sister (Sophia Hathaway).  and because a lot of this is taking place inside of Jeremy’s bedroom, it’s all a little jam-packed with information at the beginning where you’re trying to figure out who’s who and what’s really going on.

Basically, you find out fairly quickly that Toby knows Lucy is in love with him, he even likes it a little, but he’s going to propose to Sophia.  Lucy’s brother and friends all decide that Jeremy needs to run interference with Lucy (acting like a besotted suitor), and this is the same plan Lucy independently comes up with as well since she thinks that if Jeremy seems to like her, Toby will start to notice her as a woman as well.

It’s a bit convoluted, and I ultimately think the novel would have been better served if Dare had just slowed the whole thing down a little, and made this first half the entire novel.  I’m really not a fan of the we-love-each-other but we just-can’t-admit-it tropes where there’s just miscommunication after miscommunication.  Mainly, it’s rough because we’ve come to know our characters as intelligent human beings, and we’re then asked to believe that when it comes to love, they become gibbering idiots who can’t communicate at all.  That said, there are enough (more than enough) good moments and solid scenes to keep you interested, and though the pacing makes the whole book feel a little harried and rushed, it’s still worth the read.  You can tell that Dare has a lot of promise, and her characters are nicely individuated with well-fleshed out back stories.

Other Things to Know:
This is the start to Dare’s first series, and introduces us to Sophia Hathaway, who starts off merely as the romantic competitor to Lucy, but gradually becomes so interesting that you know she’s going to get her own spin-off in Surrender of a Siren.

Comparisons to Other Authors:
The sex scenes are passionate enough that they remind me of a Lisa Kleypas or Stephanie Laurens.  She has humor that is borderline overboard (like when Lucy’s precious opal earrings that she never wears splosh into a coffee cup) which reminds me of Julia Quinn or Julie Anne Long.  I think she doesn’t have quite the character development that some of Kleypas’s more successful heroes and heroines do, but otherwise, she feels like a slightly younger (in writing years) version of Julia Quinn.

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