Book Review: Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare

Goddess of the Hunt

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?

NOTE: This review contains spoilers.

This January seems to be my month for trying new-to-me authors. Books by Tessa Dare keep popping up my my “Recommended For You” list at Amazon, and I’ve read a few reviews of her last few releases. At least, I think they’re her last few releases. The titles escape me, but her name stuck in my head as someone I should read. So when I was at the library today, I looked her up. And lo, my library has The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy. Plus some more, but I zeroed in on the “exciting new author” comment on the back of Goddess of the Hunt since I like starting at the beginning of an author’s backlist when I have the opportunity.

I was in the middle of another book, but since library books have pesky due dates, I dove into Goddess of the Hunt this afternoon while I was in the waiting room at the eye doctor. The office staff probably think I’m terribly rude since I kept cracking open the book every time they had to answer the phone, photocopy my driver’s license, process my payment…I think the only time I didn’t sneak a paragraph or two was after they (temporarily) blinded me with some flashy eye focusing test.

(Here is where I insert my PSA for the day, though I’m not certain if I’m recommending something or telling you not to try this at home. But. Should you find yourself with dilated eyes after an eye exam and can’t see things up close, and your uncorrected vision is, let’s not mince words here, shit, taking off your glasses and holding the book you really, really, really want to read an inch away from your face does indeed allow you to read it. I’m just saying it’s an alternative should you discover you have T-rex arms, so holding a book at arm’s length doesn’t quite offer up enough distance for your dilated eyes to force the words into focus.

Also, if your eye doctor tells you your dilated eyes should return to normal fairly quickly, he’s lying. At the very least, he has an unacceptable definition of “quickly” when you have a book begging to read.)

I mention my post-exam fun because I’m no stranger to having my eyes dilated, and I usually just kick back at home with a movie and wait for the drops to wear off before I try anything that requires up-close focus, but Goddess of the Hunt had me hooked within two and a half chapters, and I wasn’t going to wait a couple hours to keep reading. Jeremy is one of my favorite type of heroes (romantic or otherwise): cool and composed and in command at all times, at least by all outward appearances, but it’s a carefully maintained composure. Like Lucy, I want to crack it.

Similarly, Lucy is one of my favorite types of heroines (romantic or otherwise): headstrong and daring with the confidence to go after what she wants without shame. It’s a tough heroine to nail because all that headstrong daring can veer into foolish stupidity, and there are plenty of times when Lucy does some foolish, stupid things, but this is where Dare shines for me: she allows Lucy the room to be a teenager who believes she’s in love without making her a fool. Yes, some of her early antics are cringe-worthy, but they fit her character.

And I’m a sucker for the “falling in love with his best friend’s younger sister” trope. I’m not sure why I find it so compelling. All I know is the hero’s slowly dawning realization that the knobby-kneed colt of a girl always trailing behind her brother and basically being a pain in the ass is…not so coltish and knobby-kneed anymore. But she is most definitely off limits, because she’s his best friend’s little sister, so his lust can sit down and shut up, thank you.

Naturally, Jeremy’s lust doesn’t listen to him, and naturally Lucy spends the first half of the book ignoring what her lust is trying to tell her: she doesn’t love the man she’s trying to seduce by indulging in a “fake” flirtation with Jeremy. Lucy believes she’s in love with another friend of her brother, Toby, and now that she’s learned he’s on the cusp of proposing to Sophia, a young lady who’s richer than her, prettier than her, and much more ladylike than her, Lucy’s desperate to make him love her. After trying, and failing, to be as ladylike as Sophia, she decides (thanks to Jeremy) the best way to snare Toby is to seem as if she is unavailable. And the best way to seem unavailable is to act as if she’s smitten with someone else. Like Jeremy. Her brother’s handsome best friend.

Jeremy, for his part, wants nothing to do with this mess, but Toby and Lucy’s brother and the rest of their friends encourage him to devote just enough attention to Lucy to take her mind of Toby. The way he sees it, someone needs to protect Lucy from herself, and if her brother won’t do it (because when has he ever done it?), he will. It’s harmless flirting, after all. Soon enough, Toby will propose to Sophia, Lucy will finally have her season, and that will be that.

But of course it’s not. I was a little surprised when they were married just over halfway through the book. I set the book down to prepare dinner wondering what conflict would carry the last 140 pages. There had to be something, and it turned out to be the logical conflict of their personalities. Years ago, Toby crowned Lucy his Diana, goddess of the hunt, and she is indeed cut in Diana’s mold while Jeremy is an earl used to being in control and having people obey his commands. Of course they’d clash, and of course they’d work through it and end up bringing out the best in each other.

Overall, this hit all of my best buttons. Jeremy is overbearing and protective, but subconsciously, he loves Lucy because she doesn’t need his protection. Lucy is young and vulnerable, and watching her come to the realization that she loves Jeremy because he wants her and wants to keep her safe because he wants to protect everyone (and everything) he loves but doesn’t know how is immensely satisfying. But the most satisfying part of the book for me was the evolution of Lucy’s relationship with Sophia. As Lucy grew, Sophia became a true friend, and as big as a sucker as I am for the “falling in love with the best friend’s little sister” trope, I am a bigger sucker for the power of friendship between women. When that friendship blossoms between rivals, I’m even happier.

The next book in this series focuses on Sophia. I’ll be checking it out on my next trip to the library. Just like Lucy, Sophia deserves happiness and a hero who will bring out the best in her.

(Crossposted to Booklikes)

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