Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
Series or Standalone: The Wanton Dairymaid Series
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
And that’s a wrap on the Wanton Dairymaid series! I can safely say, I’m glad to be done with this series as it was not my favorite. A Lady of Persuasion was better than the second book in the series, but not something I can see myself going back to read.
If you asked me at the outset of the book which of the romantic leads I thought I’d like more, I feel like I would have said Bel. I was prejudiced against Toby from his actions in the previous books, particularly how he played with Lucy’s emotions in Goddess of the Hunt. However, I ended up really enjoying his character and I think Tessa Dare did a great job with his story arc and redeeming him. Yes, he can be entitled and a bit of a rogue, but he seemed to come from a place of genuine caring. I loved his personality and his humor so much. He seemed to really sparkle in the scenes with his family – there was genuine warmth and caring there that I didn’t think was possible from him. His sixth sense when it came to when women were pregnant was a little bit weird though. And while I would have liked him to feel less entitled to Bel’s emotions at the start as it came across a bit possessive, I like seeing him fall in love and him wrestle with some of the emotions tied up with being abandoned by Sophia.
On the other hand, I ended up really disliking Bel. She annoyed me so much. She kept trying to act like this goody two shoes and failing to treat Toby like an actual human being. She kept trying to hold him to these impossibly high standards that no one could meet, and the worst thing was he knew it. He was so terrified of not being perfect and feeling like he could never win. I hated that she also kept trying to change him to be someone he’s not and it felt incredibly manipulative as she tried to frame it as an act of piety and charity. I also felt she’d have these wild swings in her personality, especially in her reaction and feelings to Toby. It frustrated me a lot and made her feel incredibly childish. I really could not connect with her and ended up doing a lot of sighing and eye rolling when she was talking. Toby deserved better than Bel.
The plot of this book is really tied up in Bel and Toby’s relationship. There is a big deception on Toby’s part in this book, but I totally understand why he lied. I feel like I would have done the same in his shoes considering the undue pressure that Bel was putting on him to be someone else. The story did take a few weird and unexpected turns (what was with the Montague guy running for Parliament and shooting guns randomly into a crowd?), but I think the pacing worked pretty well. The romance developed at a good pace, at least on Toby’s part as I still feel like Bel never really loved him for him.
One thing I LOVED about this book was the secondary romance between Joss and Hetta, two secondary characters from the previous books in the series. When I read Goddess of the Hunt, I for sure thought Hetta, a female physician, would get her own story and was disappointed when she didn’t. I’m so glad she got her happy ending though and with Joss of all people! After everything Joss had gone through – from losing his wife to his brother treating him terribly – no one deserved a happy ending more than him. Their romance almost had more spark than the main one between Toby and Bel. I wish they had gotten their own full length novel.
Overall, this wasn’t my favorite book, but it wasn’t my least favorite of the series (that honor goes to Surrender of A Siren). I think it’s safe to say the Wanton Dairymaid series is not my favorite and I am so glad it was not my introduction to Tessa Dare or I might have been hesitant to keep reading her works. This is her first series and I have to say she’s come so far since then! Even her second series, the Stud Club, feels miles away in terms of writing, plotting, character development and romance.
I don’t think I’ll be rereading the Wanton Dairymaid series again, but I am glad to have gotten the chance to explore it as part of the But Do They Bang? readlong. If you’re looking for a Tessa Dare series to start with, I’d recommend her Spindle Cove or Castle Ever After series – those are so good and much more inline with her current writing style!