Goddess of the Hunt, by Tessa Dare

>> Friday, October 23, 2009

TITLE: Goddess of the Hunt
AUTHOR: Tessa Dare

PAGES: 384
PUBLISHER: Ballantine

SETTING: Early 19th century England
TYPE: Straight romance
SERIES: Followed by Surrender of a Siren and A Lady of Persuasion.


Ever the bold adventuress, Lucy Waltham has decided to go hunting for a husband. But first she needs some target practice. So she turns to her brother’s best friend, Jeremy Trescott, the Earl of Kendall, to hone her seductive wiles on him before setting her sights on another man. But her practice kisses spark a smoldering passion—one that could send all her plans up in smoke.

Jeremy has an influential title, a vast fortune, and a painful past, full of long-buried secrets. He keeps a safe distance from his own emotions, but to distract Lucy from her reckless scheming, he must give his passions free rein. Their sensual battle of wills is as maddening as it is delicious, but the longer he succeeds in managing the headstrong temptress, the closer Jeremy comes to losing control. When scandal breaks, can he bring himself to abandon Lucy to her ruin? Or will he risk his heart, and claim her for his own?
What a lovely discovery this was! GOTH reminded me a bit of an early-Bridgerton Julia Quinn. I'd compare it to, say, The Duke and I, or The Viscount Who Loved Me, two of my favourites. There's something about Dare's voice and about the way she combines light comedy with plenty of angst and heat in the romance. Yum!

Lucy Waltham's brother Henry and his friends have always spent the autumn at Waltham Manor. As they grew up, autumn was always an idyllic time, both for them and for Lucy, and the time never came for her to go to London and have a season. It didn't really matter to Lucy, though, because she was already in love with one of Henry's friends, Toby. But this autumn Toby seems to be about to propose to someone else, and Lucy just won't have it.

Lucy is determined to hunt Toby down (so to speak) and seduce him until he realises he actually wants to marry her, not the annoyingly perfect Sophia. As the book starts, she barges into another of her brother's friends, Jeremy Trescott, Earl of Kendall, and practises her kissing technique on him. It was a scene I didn't much care for (Lucy comes across as a perfect idiot), but I needn't have worried, because from then on, things become much, much better.

Jeremy deeply cares for Lucy and doesn't want to see her hurt, so he agrees when Henry and Toby ask him to distract Lucy (Lucy is pretty obvious in her infatuation, and they all know what's going on). But after those kisses, Jeremy has began to see Lucy in a different light, and now can't help obsessing about her.

Lucy is a character I'm sure some readers will have trouble with, but I liked her very much. Continuing with the comparisons to my favourite authors, she reminded me of an Amanda Quick heroine, someone who in another author's hands would seem ditzy and stupid, but as she was written here, was adorable. Sometimes she does cross the line from naivete and optimism into TSTL, like when she organises that disastrous dinner, but her optimism and appetite for life and determination to be happy are just what Jeremy needs.

Ahh, Jeremy. What an absolutely fantastic hero he is. Jeremy is considered by all, even his friends, to be a cold, withdrawn man. So much so, actually, that none sees any danger in throwing him together with Lucy. But Jeremy is someone who feels really deeply. He wants Lucy so much that it gave me the shivers to read it. He's possessive and protective, and the only one who sees her as something more than just a pest of a little sister. I loved every minute of their courtship, especially how he literally couldn't control himself around her, and I loved seeing Lucy grow up as her feelings for Jeremy developed and she started to understand what it was like to really love someone.

The first half of the book was brilliant, and it made ME all tingly inside, almost as much as it did Lucy. In the second half, unfortunately, the book lost a bit more steam, and the action was mostly based on miscommunication. Still, this was something that was perfectly character-based, and so I still enjoyed it, just not as much as the first.

MY GRADE: GOTH was thisclose to being a DIK. If it had sustained the wonderfulness of the first half, it would have been an A or A-, but on the whole, I'll have to go for a B+.


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