By Tessa Dare
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: July 28, 2009
Series or Standalone: The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy #1
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
I’ve been a Tessa Dare fan for a long time, but have never read her first two series before. When I saw a handful of bookstagrammers were hosting the “But Do They Bang?” readalong (the best name ever for a readalong) of all of Tessa Dare’s books, I knew I had to join in.
Goddess of the Hunt is Tessa Dare’s first novel and the first in her The Wanton Dairymaid series. I’ll fully admit, this is not my most favorite book of hers, yet I still enjoyed. She’s come so far as a romance author since then, but many of the quintessential Tessa Dare features were in this, just not as refined.
The plot of this book is pretty straightforward. Lucy Waltham has been in love with one of her brother’s friend Toby since she used to run around with them as boys when she was younger. Now with rumors of Toby getting engagement soon, Lucy decides she need to land him as a husband. However, given she’s so young (she’s only 19) and her brother never her took her to town to have a season (more on him later), she decides she needs to test out her husband hunting skills – and seduction skills – on her brother’s best friend Jeremy Trescott, the Earl of Kendall.
I loved that this book started with a bang. It literally opens with Lucy kissing Jeremy and he has no idea why. That first scene really set the tone for me as Jeremy and Lucy have such good banter together. They’ve known each other for ages, but Jeremy has always seen her as Henry’s little sister who couldn’t back away from a dare and was a bit too wild for her own good. That one kiss changes everything.
Overall, I really liked Lucy and Jeremy together. I appreciated how their relationship progressed, though Jeremy did make some stupid decisions that I could have done without later. The banter and chemistry between them reminds of some of Dare’s later work and I love the humor she weaves into their conversations and interactions. While I overall liked the romance, and Dare was able to bring the steam and write love scenes that feel liberating for Lucy, I wasn’t the biggest fan of how naive and young Lucy came across. Granted, she is 19 years old, but you could really feel her age and some of her actions really showcased just how young she was. I also would have loved it if Jeremy hadn’t been so secretive about the trauma in his past. He’s incredibly overprotective of Lucy to a point it was almost troubling, but once you know why, it’s easier to understand and sympathize with his actions.
The plot did drag a little bit for me in the second half – I got a little annoyed with Jeremy at points for acting like he knows Lucy’s feelings and mind better than she does, but he learned the error of his ways. Henry, Lucy’s brother, however, did not. Outside of Jeremy all the other male characters in this book are the worst. Lucy’s brother literally treats her like an afterthought – her feelings clearly don’t matter to him. I hated him for telling her you don’t love Jeremy when she clearly did. And then he swung 180 degrees in the opposite direction once he learned she’d been compromised. He frustrated me to no end. Toby, the source of Lucy’s initial infatuation, is no better. I felt he was really playing with her emotions at one point once he realized she was serious with her pursuit and it wasn’t a game. The stupid plot the men created to get Lucy off Toby’s back was pretty terrible and showed how little they view Lucy as a real person with feelings. Jeremy is literally the only decent one of the bunch.
The female friendship that developed between Lucy and Sophia, the girl Toby is courting and getting ready to propose to, also took me by surprise. Dare could have easily made her a villain, and Lucy probably wishes she was, but instead they form a real, genuine friendship. I really appreciate that especially as the men were trash and Lucy would have been so isolated without Sophia to talk to.
As I said, this isn’t my favorite Tess Dare novel, but I still did enjoy the central romance in this one and will be interested to see how the other books in the series play out. Sophia’s love story is up next as we learn at the end of the book she’s run away from her wedding from Toby. We also know Sophia’s clearly a romantic so I cannot wait to see what adventures she gets up to.