By Tessa Dare
Publication Date: May 12, 2009
Series or Standalone: Wanton Dairymaid #.5
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
Note: This novella was originally published under the title The Legend of the Werestag
I had not heard of How to Catch a Wild Viscount before participating in the But Do They Bang? readalong of Tessa Dare’s work. This was Dare’s first published work and one of her less well-known stories. It was different from any of her other works as it does have a bit of an air of supernatural to it, even though it is pure historical fiction.
Cecily Hale has been in love with Luke Trenton, Viscount Merritt, for years. But after they were interrupted during an intimate conversation, he left to join the army, and she’s not seen him for four years. Now, stuck together at a country party, she cannot ignore him, but he views himself as a changed man. When the guests at a house party become intrigued by a local legend of a mythical stag, they all set out to the forest to find the stag. When a boar attacks Cecily, a mysterious man saves her,
This was an interesting read. I’m not sure I really liked it, but it was quick and easy to get through. While the story might not be my favorite, I found it a compelling twist on Beauty and the Beast. There were some fantastical elements to the story, particularly with the legend of the stag and the description of the man/beast who saves Cecily, which has you questioning who actually saved Cecily from the boar, even though it felt obvious who it would be. It did keep me a bit on my toes to question if there were some fantasy elements.
Despite the fact a Viscount would like not serve in a war, I found the character of Luke fascinating. This man views himself in such a negative light. He truly believes that war turned him into a monster, and he’s not worthy of Cecily. His perception of himself was fascinating and I liked that Cecily didn’t buy into what he thought about himself. Meanwhile, Cecily was a bit of a bland character to me. She didn’t leave a strong or lasting impression on me while reading. Her reaction to the reveal of who saved her also confused me as it seemed to directly contradict her feelings at the time of the rescue when she was worried she could be raped. Saying she always knew who the person was the whole time felt like a bit of a lie.
The story is quite short, but self-contained. The myth of the stag helped bring some fun elements to it. When the boar attacks Cecily, the rescue scene was interesting. There were some dubious consent issues in that scene for me, exacerbated by Cecily’s initial reaction, as noted above. I didn’t find it romantic, but it was a scene needed to push the story forward.
As to the romance in this, it’s there, but it’s pretty light. I honestly didn’t care about the romance as we didn’t fully get to know any of the characters. They’re all pretty flat and not fully defined, so it’s hard to feel a strong emotional connection to any of them. I did enjoy how one of the secondary characters, Portia, ends up as the author of the Wanton Dairymaid book that spurred Dare’s first series and pops up at times in other books. This book also takes place at an estate next to Jeremy’s from Goddess of the Hunt, which was a nice little connection.
I’m not sure I’d recommend this novella, but if you’re a Tessa Dare fan, it’s a quick read that really shows you how far she’s come in her writing. She hadn’t entirely found her voice yet, but there are some hints to it, and it’s amazing to see how far her characters and plotting have come. It’s a short read so if you want a historical romance story with some gothic and potential supernatural read, this is a quick one to read before or after reading the Wanton Dairymaid series.