Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Review: Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare

And... here we go. Real blog content.

I heard a lot about Tessa Dare’s debut book, Goddess of the Hunt, and I definitely think that it lives up to the hype. Ms. Dare has a unique, enjoyable writing voice, and the story is well thought out and engaging. Goddess of the Hunt is a unique “friends to lovers” story, and I’m a major sucker for that trope. (Actually it’s almost more like frenemies to lovers…) I’ll probably re-read the book soon, in fact. Now, on to the good stuff.

Lucy Waltham is a tomboy, and not entirely sensible, but eminently practical. The opening of the book has Lucy going to Jeremy’s room to practice seduction techniques on a mutual acquaintance (Toby). She’s not so much foolhardy, as reckless and young. However, the way Ms. Dare writes Lucy makes her charming and refreshing, rather than totally clueless or TSTL. I admit that Lucy does some things that made me shake my head, but she’s driven by her emotions, and I found that admirable. Generally I don’t like the clueless hoyden heroine, but Lucy is so much more than that. She’s finding herself (she’s only nineteen), and has such a warm heart. You have to forgive her for her mistakes, especially because she realizes she made them.

I love the emotionally stilted hero. He makes me want to smack him, but I love him anyway. Jeremy Trescott, the Earl of Kendall is exactly one such character. He feels so much, but past experiences have taught him, and even forced him to be emotionally void. I love that he has so much trouble expressing himself, but is still more emotionally aware than so many of the other characters. Jeremy simply is – he’s comfortable with himself, and doesn’t try to conform to the expectations or opinions of others. It’s a very attractive quality, as is his need to take care of Lucy. (Even though he bumbles it and does come off as rather overbearing.) Jeremy has a very interesting past, and I enjoyed reading about it and seeing how it contributed to the man he became.

Something I really appreciated was the fact that Ms. Dare’s characters are realistic, and sensible. There wasn’t some great miscommunication which dragged the conflict out to ridiculous proportions, or made it worse that it should have been. Even though, for the vast majority of the book, the characters indeed do not communicate with each other, and generally misunderstand the other’s intentions and feelings. It truly should have vexed me, but instead I found myself being entertained. The secondary characters are a lot of fun, and I’m glad they’re in the subsequent books as well.

Although I did feel that the final resolution was a bit rushed, what made me believe the romance was how very attuned to Lucy Jeremy was. He saw her for who she was, and knew her before she really knew herself. I found it very believable that Lucy actually thought herself in love with Toby out of habit. Normally I’m annoyed when the heroine is so sure she’s in love with one person, only to find out she isn’t really. Here, Ms. Dare lays out the plot in a meaningful and compelling way.

There has been some talk that Ms. Dare’s writing is reminiscent of Jane Austen’s, and upon further reflection, I think it’s because of her characterizations and settings. (In fact I’ve mentioned it before.) There’s the house party, and well, you have to read it. Of course Goddess of the Hunt also follows the general story line of Pride and Prejudice, where the spunky nobody heroine Lucy/Elizabeth marries the wealthy, coveted gentleman Darcy/Trescott. (However there’s the major difference of a lot of sexual tension, and much more fun, improper behavior.)

Although this is a minor issue, in a way I’m most impressed that Ms. Dare made me like Sophie, who is the heroine in her next novel, Surrender of a Siren. Sophie is “the other woman” initially in Goddess of the Hunt, and I’m quite loyal to cannon, so I started out disliking her. Sophie seemed too perfect, and then… well a bit strange. (I’m looking forward to reading about her eccentricities.) Sophie’s story has a great twist in Goddess of the Hunt which lays the framework for Surrender of a Siren, as well as A Lady of Persuasion.

You have to admire and be impressed with an author who manages to subtly, yet decidedly lay the foundation for a trilogy in the first book. It helps they’re all being released back to back, because I don’t think I can wait any longer to get my hands on Ms. Dare’s books. I really enjoyed Goddess of the Hunt, and recommend it to fans of the genre, as well as romance in general. There’s something refreshing about Ms. Dare’s writing that I think should be experienced.

[Ginger kid, this one's for you ;)]