A new voice in historical romance proved to be the perfect balm after being burned by my old favorite Mary Jo Putney. Tessa Dare’s Goddess of the Hunt is positively delightful, and I read it cover to cover the day I bought it. Dare gets the tropes of a historical: the society rules, the ton, the rake, the inevitable threat of ruination. And she has fun with them. This book had me from the first page, laughing as I slouched in my seat on the subway.
After losing her parents at a young age, Lucy Waltham was practically raised by her brother and his friends. Constantly following them around, learning to fish, to curse, to ride and shoot. Now, at 19, she’s very much a woman…if only Toby, whom she’s had a crush on for eight years, would notice. Since he doesn’t, she decides to practice her wiles on her brother’s most emotionally distant friend, Jeremy, first! And that is the reader’s introduction to the characters and the story: Jeremy being surprised at 2 a.m. by an amorous and curious Lucy.
What a refreshing, hilarious way to kick off a romance novel! Dare is wonderful at showing us Lucy’s dogged determination, and Lucy is believable and root-worthy and such a nice change from all the “My parents taught me Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and how to be a Romance Novel Heroine in 10 Steps Or Less” historical heroines. Yes, she’s educated to a certain degree, but she’s no cookie cutter miss. Simply put, Lucy does crazy shit! And Jeremy is wonderfully bamboozled by her. You just know that this purportedly ‘cold’ and ‘unfeeling’ man is a goner from the get-go, because she inspires such aggravation — and the delicious flickers of attraction.
Dare also gives great prose. She offers up beautifully crafted descriptions and dialogue that feels organic. I was actually inspired to bookmark spots that stood out to me! Take, for instance, Lucy gasping as Jeremy does nothing more than stroke her hand…
Jeremy knew that sound. It was the tumbler of a lock falling in place, the charged crackle between lightning and thunderbolt, the hiss of a candlewick the instant before it comes alive with flame. An incomplete sound. A sound that promised — and begged for — more.
What a perfectly unique and evocative way to describe that moment, an awakening and the possibility of something to come.
I also love that Dare doesn’t shy away from female sexuality and the fact that it’s normal to want. Lucy, and by extension Sophia, are frank about their desire and have several wonderful instances of discussing how their love interests make them feel (or should make them feel). And I had to laugh at this part: “Clearly the sight of a well-muscled forearm incited a woman to utter depravity. How else to explain the invention of cuffs?” Um, WORD. I, too, have been felled by many a well-muscled forearm.
And I was felled by this charming, entertaining novel! I will definitely be picking up her next, Surrender of a Siren.