Book Review

Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare

C

Title: Goddess of the Hunt
Author: Tessa Dare
Publication Info: Ballantine July 2009
ISBN: 0345506863
Genre: Historical: European

Book CoverAt one pivotal scene in this novel, I made the following note: “The hottie, the twit, in the wardrobe.”

I loved so much about this book. I loved the writing, the fact that Dare doesn’t waste a word or rely on cliches or even every-so-skimmable words when writing even a kissing scene. It reminded me of Deirdre Knight’s Butterfly Tattoo, or Meredith Duran’s novels. These are books so carefully, intricately constructed that if I caught myself jumping ahead, I made myself go back and re-read because each word was careful and precious. I want to admire the tapestry, but I have to pay attention to the delicacy and confidence of every tiny stitch. Such is the writing in this book.

He bent his head by slow degrees, until his brow rested against hers.  They traded the same breath back and forth.  And when his lips finally bridged the last bit of distance between them, it felt like the end of a kiss rather than the beginning.

Don’t stop now, there’s more:

And then there had been that terrifying moment in the orchard.  Not the yawning black minute when he’d been convinced she was dead.  The true panic had started when he found her alive, and this need had roared to life as well. 
The need to snare her, trap her, pin her to a tree, anchor her with his body, and above all keep her still.  Keep her from bolting off breakneck and dragging him along by that blasted satin ribbon now cinched around his gut. 

This wasn’t a blind, mindless craving for anything woman and willing.  This was needing with a name.  It was a force beyond lust.  It was Lucy.

He wanted Lucy.

Lucy wanted Toby.

And Jeremy didn’t want to talk about it.

I loved the simplity of the storyline: house party! With hunting! And a cast of characters somewhat isolated in their annual month of hunting in the country, with long-familiar relationships evolving and new individuals changing everything for everyone.

Harry Waltham is holding his annual hunting party with his friends Toby and Jeremy, Earl of Kendall. Harry’s sister, Lucy, who is more than a lot of a tomboy, is also there, as she always is, along with assorted wives and a new creature of perfection named Sophia.

Sophia is the object of horny intentions and the subject of potential matrimony from Toby, who is something of a player. Unfortunately, Lucy has harbored a hella crush on Toby, believing that he is the only person who sees her and likes her for who she is. When Lucy notices that Toby is mentally sketching some very serious and long-term designs on Sophia, she decides it’s now or never: she has to intervene and declare her neverending adoration for him so he will notice her not as pesky sister but as She Who Is Perfect for Him, and forget about that even-more pesky Sophia, who is of course China-doll perfect.

After determining that the best way to attack Toby is to entice him with her finest and most perfect self, Lucy decides to practice her seductive arts, which are about as subtle as the color scheme of this here website, on Jeremy.

You can see where that’s going, right? Right.

Within the simplicity of the setting is a twist I normally enjoy puzzling out. Dare has taken the mentality that is so often set upon the hero in a pretend engagement plot, and instead set it on the heroine. Lucy is the one who is so sure that her initial impression, Toby, is the right one. This lusty distraction in the form of Jeremy is a passing fancy that illustrates her own weakness in being enticed away from her goal, and threatens to ruin her carefully laid plans.

In Dare’s novella, The Werestag Who Is Not Paranormal, the hero was determined to resist his attraction to the heroine because she did not deserve in his mind to be saddled with someone as damaged as he is. In this case, Lucy is determined to resist Jeremy, and does a sparklingly bad job of it anyway, because she’s convinced that he is not the right one for her. Only instead of that male insistence on miserable solitude, for Lucy, it’s insistence on some other guy who isn’t interested.

Jeremy, on the other hand, is trying to the finest edge of his control to keep from revealing the depth of his own raging case of hellabig interest in Lucy, as she rejects him again and again thinking that maybe, maybe finally, Toby would notice her.

Many of the reviews I’ve read and reviewers I’ve spoken with talk about the effervescence” of the heroine, how flawed and funny she was. Yes, she was funny. And, yup, she was certainly flawed. And she was such a goddamed idiot at times I wanted to throttle her. She was effervescent to the point where she was a bubbling distraction and a detraction from the other characters. She seemed smart to the point of being manipulative in some moments, and willfully clueless to the point of outright wall-walking-into a few moments later. I adored just about everyone, especially the hero, Jeremy. Lucy, I wanted to kill. Repeatedly.

My dislike of Lucy doesn’t bleed onto Dare, however. I think it’s an indication of some pretty sharpened skills on the part of the writer that a character so stubborn and insistently bothersome was so well-crafted she was real enough to drive me absolutely batshit.

From the first word, Lucy dug herself deeper into a complete lack of credibility with me. She resisted and plotted and insisted that Toby was the man for her, even to Jeremy’s face moments after he totally got to second base with her. It is excruciating for me when clearly intelligent people stubbornly resist getting a damn clue already. I didn’t believe she’d wake up and yank her head out of her ass any time soon, and was more than a little sure that she’d shove her head back up there at the first opportunity. If she’s that skilled at deluding herself despite so much evidence as to whom she is truly drawn and attracted, well, clearly she is destined to become her own Aunt Matilda. Like the geriatric wandermaven whom the group chases through the woods on a regular basis, Lucy herself will one day wander away from her life because gosh darnit, she knows there’s gold under that rainbow. Or maybe Toby’s finally come to his senses and sent the rainbow to court her. At age 86.

She deluded herself and convinced herself she was wrong about Jeremy, and that she was right about Toby. She was innocent and clueless, then calculating and shrewd. She was so inconsistent and mercurial I didn’t trust her. And I certainly didn’t trust her with Jeremy, who I loved reading about. He was driven mad with wanting, and I wanted him to snap out of it.

I’m spoiled by my repeated role as The Reader of the romance novel: I already know who the hero and heroine are and understand that often I must wait until they recognize one another, even though I knew who they were from the back cover copy. I’m used to watching the discovery, and the recognition, and having to wait for it can be delicious. Watching Lucy was far from delicious. Waiting for her was an excercise in repeatedly snarling, “COME ON ALREADY YOU IDIOT WOMAN AND I MEAN IT.” The degree to which I was annoyed by the heroine made me angry at the book, and my irritation with her colored my impression of the novel. Cut her out, and while it wouldn’t be a romance, it would be a lot more tolerable to me.

There were so many, many other things I enjoyed about this book. I loved Sophia, and Lucy’s reluctant admiration of Sophia’s quiet and sneaky humor. I loved the guys talking with one another, and the way they’d mock and tease each other. I wanted more of the guys together giving each other shit, Regency style, and more of just about every other part of the book.

I loved everything except the heroine, Lucy. And despite my joy at discovering such elegant and delicious writing, and a collection of characters I eagerly pursued through the pages of the novel, Lucy’s complete idiocy, stubbornness, and determination to ruin herself in the eyes of society and in the eyes of the reader made it impossible for me to truly enjoy the book as much as I wanted. Because of her, the grade dropped bit by bit until the skill of the writing and the joy of the other characters were at outright war with my snarls at Lucy.

Yet it is a pile of skill to create a character who is that irritating that I think of her and grit my teeth. Because I loved the plot, the setting, the powerful language, the careful construction, and just about every word of the writing, I will look for Dare’s next book, especially because it follows Sophia, and I cannot wait to read more of her.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    JoanneL says:

    Aw hell. I’ve ordered Goddess and I’m looking forward to the series but I had a feeling, when I read the chapter on the author’s web site, that I was getting a big ‘ole whiff of
    too-cute from the heroine.

    I like cute in a lead female character sometimes but it has to be balanced with smart enough to know who her hero is—- and it has happen early in the story. Hopefully the writing will be the balance this time.

  2. 2
    katiebabs says:

    Sarah, we will never agree on a book it seems! I adored Lucy. I didn’t think she was a twit at all. She was her own person and lived by her own rules. I thought she was refreshing.
    Hot wardrobe scene was very hot indeed.

  3. 3
    Heike says:

    Oh, I’ve just ordered Goddess of the Hunt, because of Jane’s recommendation at DA, since I like most of the books she rates well. But I definitely loathe idiot heroines (and heroes), who are totally delusional about themselves and/or other characters. I think, it’s hard to make it believablethe, but the “s/he does not deserve to be saddled with someone as damaged as me”-thing can work, if it’s not too stereotypically done…

    Now I can’t wait till Tessa Dare’s book arrives! (1-3 weeks, speak of reading romance in the English original versions in Germany – I should start with e-books someday soon)

  4. 4
    library addict says:

    I think I shall wait to read this one until the entire trilogy is out.  I have a feeling I will agree with you about the heroine’s behavior and I want to be able to read the next book immediately.

    Since they will be back-to-back releases, I can wait a few months.

  5. 5
    Stephanie says:

    I read the excerpt on the author’s website and while I admired the writing, I did get a potential TSTL vibe from Lucy. Thanks for letting readers who dislike that kind of heroine know that the potential is unfortunately fulfilled.  I will check out Ms. Dare’s work, but I agree that waiting to have book two on hand might be an effective antidote to Lucy’s determined foolishness.

  6. 6

    OK, now I’ll admit I haven’t read the book, only the excerpt, as yet. But one thing struck me very clearly. What you see in Lucy, what aggrevates the hell out of you, isn’t being TSTL. She’s clearly intelligent and able to scheme and think. What gets under your skin is that she acts with the single-minded tenacity of a man. Specifically a man from the Regency era who sees himself (in this case herself) as entitled.

    The reason she as, um no reason, is because she cannot fathom that she can’t have precisely what she wants and she goes after it determined not to be pursuaded by anyone or anything to falter from her quest. Which makes perfect sense if she spent her female formative years (from 11 onward) with a bunch of rowdy older guys who hung out with her older brother.

    I may just have to read the whole book. Sounds like Dare not only switched the roles in this book, as you mentioned, but also infused the characters with the motivations to make it both interesting and fresh.

  7. 7
    jmc says:

    I’m about a third of the way through this book and I am stuck.  Because of Lucy.  I don’t think she’s TSTL, but I do find her to be less than sympathetic.  It has nothing to do with gender role flipping, and everything to do with being petulant and manipulative.  While I appreciate Dare’s writing, I’m not sufficiently engaged by either character to care that they get to their HEA eventually.

  8. 8
    MB says:

    Sounds kind of like Scarlett O’Hara’s insistence on Ashley over Rhett?

  9. 9
    Karenmc says:

    I LOVE your review. I read the excerpt on Dare’s site the other day, and you nailed what was bothering me. I will eventually read the trilogy (somebody please stop me from buying so many books!), but I have the feeling I’m going to want to get past Lucy and on to Sophia’s story. I had the same problem with Loretta Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways because, no matter Chase’s great writing, the heroine’s childish vendetta against her ex-husband annoyed the hell out of me.

  10. 10
    SB Sarah says:

    It has nothing to do with gender role flipping, and everything to do with being petulant and manipulative.

    That was exactly my problem. It’s not at all that she’s TSTL. She often acted like an idiot which was frustrating because I knew she wasn’t.

  11. 11
    earthgirl says:

    Off-topic question, but I was wondering what people thought of Leigh Greenwood’s Seven Brides series. I read Iris the other week on a whim, and found both the hero and heroine pretty annoying. I was much saddened that there aren’t any reviews of his books on this site, although I guess that’s because they’re rather old.

    As far as this book, I’m torn between wanting to read it (the setting and plot sound interesting) and fear that I’ll just want to clock the characters over the head again. I’m fine with plot points preventing the characters from getting together and prolonging the tension. But when the plot points are the hero and heroine’s own stupidity, I get annoyed.

  12. 12
    Babs says:

    I was lucky to score an ARC of this book and I adored it! I didn’t find Lucy all that annoying…just clueless and doggedly determined to land the man she decided was perfect for her when she was too young to know any better.

    Overall I liked all the characters and the humor kept me giggling throughout the book. I can’t wait to read the next two to see how it all plays out.

  13. 13
    Julianna says:

    Reminds me of a quotation from Larry Niven – something like “intelligence is a tool to be used towards a goal: and goals are not always chosen wisely.”  Possibly a smart lady, but not very wise.

  14. 14
    Meg says:

    Definitely going to look for this one! Love the excerpts posted—especially the bit about “the end of a kiss rather than the beginning.” Fantastic!

    I definitely trust that Lucy is irritating, but maybe the pay-off in the end is… worth it? Maybe? I’ll investigate!

  15. 15

    I am so going to buy this book.  You know, when the husband imposed “read the ones you have first!” book ban is lifted.

  16. 16
    MamaNice says:

    I’m going to have to read this one, based on the quoted text alone – it sounds like some great writing!

    And good call on the Scarlett/Rhett/Ashley thing…talk about a smart woman being dense in the romance dept….

  17. 17

    I think a 19 year old heroine who never did anything stupid would be unrealistic.  I shudder to remember all the dumb stuff I did when I was that age.

    The covers remind me of Coulter (love!).  Can’t wait to read all three.

  18. 18
    Barbara says:

    heh. I’m a geek.

    I was explaining this discussion of Lucy to a friend (also a geek) and, explaining the objections folks had to the character, got tangled up. Finally, I said: “15 Intelligence, 3 Wisdom”

    She got it.

    (my word: coming83.  Good ghu. Don’t think I could. I’d run out of oxygen first)

  19. 19
    Vanessa says:

    I was at Borders today and had this in my hand, with echoes of the Dear Author review in my head. Everything in the review was positive, which is usually a good thing, and most times I follow wherever they lead, but the description of the the heroine is what caused my hesitation in my buying the book. While it was obvious that some people like how Lucy is, I feel like everything that was positive in the review would be HUGE negatives for me :/ This review describes everything I *think* I’ll feel if i read this, but I’m still debating over whether I wanna chance it or not… I know I’m gonna end up walking by it for a few weeks until I just say fuck and pick it up anyway lol

  20. 20
    Lynz says:

    I actually really liked this, and Lucy. I read it back in May and started raving about how great Dare’s writing is as soon as I finished. And I don’t mind Lucy’s antics at all. Yes, she can be annoying, she can be manipulative, and she’s rather clueless at times – and some of her antics made me cringe. Literally. But despite that, I truly enjoyed reading about her. Maybe part of it is that I’m her age. Teenagers do stupid things; I’m one of them, I should know. I thought Lucy was a really well-written depiction of what people my age are like when we fall in love.

    I also thought she realized how she truly felt about Jeremy quickly enough that her original lack of understanding wasn’t that frustrating. And I’m sure the sex scenes helped me like the book. Anything sounds good when written in Dare’s voice, but a dash of creativity made them really stand out in my mind.

  21. 21

    Based on the excerpts I’ve read, I will probably buy this one.  But I don’t like stupid heroines either, so it might be a chore to read it with an open mind.

  22. 22
    SB Sarah says:

    Finally, I said: “15 Intelligence, 3 Wisdom”

    That is really the perfect way to describe Lucy. And it’s probably the big divide between those who love the book and those who don’t as to whether Lucy increases her wisdom sufficiently or not.

  23. 23
    Patsy says:

    I loved this until they left Waltham Manner and the “big misunderstanding” took up the plot space.  Dare’s writing is wonderful, and I love a brooding hero who isn’t too brooding, which is why I loved Jeremy before they left Waltham.  As for Lucy, she was annoying, but also funny, and I agree that her manipulations and idiocies accurately reflect being 19.  Honestly, I enjoyed some of her manipulations because, hey, she’s testing our her feminine wiles and who wants an angelic heroine?  Speaking of which, Sophia sounds like a riot and I can’t wait until the next book.

  24. 24
    Alexa says:

    I’m halfway through the book and I love Lucy.  I think she’s a breath of fresh air…a nineteen year old who acts nineteen in the matters she knows nothing about—namely, love.  She’s never had a season, never been to Town, has nothing upon which to base her idea of love except the poetry of Byron.  I can’t say if she will grate on me at some point, but right now, I just love her mixture of innocence and sly wiles.  She knows how to manipulate—that she learned from her less-than-attentive brother, but she’s just manipulating for the wrong thing…only, of course, she doesn’t know it.

    By the way, I also adore Sophia.  She reminds me of Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility…only more contained.  Until she’s not…I hope!

  25. 25
    Susan/DC says:

    Alexa said:

    I’m halfway through the book and I love Lucy.  I think she’s a breath of fresh air…a nineteen year old who acts nineteen in the matters she knows nothing about—namely, love.

    Dare’s skill in accurately portraying a 19 y.o. is, for me, exactly the problem.  If I want to read a coming-of-age book I’ll read YA.  When I read romance, I want the story to be about the romance, about two grown-ups falling in love, not a story about an adolescent’s growth arc.  When I was a teenager I loved this stuff, but now I’m an adult who has watched her three children grow up.  After seeing teenagers from the other side, I quite frankly don’t trust their not-quite-connected neurons enough to believe wholeheartedly in the HEA.  OTOH, I am looking forward to Sophie’s story.  She seems a little bit older and wiser and more interesting to me because of it.

    My spamword is must65—no, I don’t insist that heroines must be at least 65, but having seen the difference in maturity between my 20 y.o. and my 26 y.o., I do like heroines to be at least in their 20s.

  26. 26
    Cathy says:

    I read this book yesterday, while recovering from a whirlwind long weekend of traveling and visiting.  I liked GotH, but didn’t love it.  I did find Lucy annoying at times, but she also reminded me a bit of Jane Austen’s Emma (one of my favorite JA characters).  What frustrated me about the book is that halfway through, what I thought was going to be the central conflict for the whole book was resolved, and I felt like the story devolved into the standard “hero wants heroine to suddenly become perfect noble wife, and wraps her in cotton to save her from Stuff.”

  27. 27
    reader says:

    I just finished reading this book, and I give it an A. And I’m actually quite confounded how you could give this a C!?!

    I did not find Lucy TSTL or annoying. I found her to be a very believable and innocent 19-year-old girl with no clue about men or love or anything in between.

    Also, I really felt this book to be more Jeremy’s story than Lucy’s, and I absolutely fell in love with Jeremy. I love me a tortured, reserved hero.

    The writing was fabulous, the humor divine. It had me smiling one minute and rushing to the next love scene one minute later. I had a ball following these two on their road to romance, and I think Ms. Dare did a fantastic job of throwing different obstacles in their way that worked and were believable.

    I also loved how the book ended, with a great hook for the 2nd in the series. Can’t wait for the next one!

  28. 28
    SonomaLass says:

    Finally getting around to commenting on reviews for this book—I promised myself to read it with no spoilers for a change. It was one of my favorite reads this summer, because of the fine writing, the excellent characterization, and yes, the unique heroine Dare created in Lucy.

    I think the age thing is the key with Lucy, along with the lack of guidance she had growing up.  I felt like I was reading a book about one of my daughters, instead of the “me” empathy I would have with an older heroine, but I didn’t mind that.  Of course, I read quite a bit of YA, too. If a heroine is young, I like her to ACT young.  I get annoyed by youngsters who are somehow as wise about the world as we all thought we were at that age. It was refreshing to watch an obviously smart heroine make dumb mistakes, based on passion and a flawed understanding of the world, and to have that flawed understanding make sense (which it did for me) based on what we knew about the character’s history.

    I liked how Lucy grew without changing, if that makes sense—she and Jeremy both had to learn things about themselves and each other, and they both made huge mistakes in the process, which I thought were justified by their personal histories.  I also liked how lust, even love, wasn’t enough to make them happy together.  They had to find trust, and respect, and all those dimensions of love that some romances slide over.  Bottom line for me was that I liked them both, I rooted for them to get together, and I never felt like the obstacles between them were silly, which is quite often where I balk at romance.

    I can see how others would (and obviously have) felt differently about this book. YMMV and all that.  I’m glad, though, to see that Dare’s writing ability gets big thumbs-up, because I am counting on that to carry me through the next book.  Sophie?  There’s a character on whom I’ll need to be sold.

    Oh, and I can’t comment about this book without mentioning how much I LVOE the covers for this series!  Look, she has a head!  And there’s a picture of a couple, but they are not exposing any portion of their anatomy—nor are they posed so as to make us speculate on the angle of penetration or the disposition of limbs.  Not very snarkable, so I wouldn’t want all covers to be like this, but I do like this look.

  29. 29
    Bethany says:

    I read this review before reading the book so I went in with the notion that Lucy’s determination to stay “out of love” with Jeremy would last the whole book given that it took up quite a bit of bitchery in this review. It only lasted 140 pages- slightly over 1/3 of the book! In a 360 page romance novel I don’t expect the characters to right away admit they want in each other. In fact, in most books the hero, if not the heroine, spends a good 300 pages refusing to admit that he’s in love with heroine. So why was it so bad when the heroine did it for 1/3 of the book?

    As for her being manipulative- hell yea, at times she was manipulative. And I found it awesome in the sense that it was a young woman (very young as many have discussed in the comments) who was willing to step on some toes (many of them deserved to be stepped on) to get it. I could not understand how no mention of Henry being an ass was mentioned in here. Basically he’s spent the last 3 years ignoring everything that his sister needs and when it comes back to bite him in the ass he buries his head in the sand until it’s too late. He’s the idiot in this book.

    TSTL? Well bad news for anyone waiting for Sophia’s story to get away from that b/c if you thought Lucy was bad (I didn’t at all seeing as how the only thing she did that could have possibly maybe gotten her killed was run into the forest after her Aunt and that was totally understandable) then Sophia is going to drive you nuts (there’s a scene with a shark…).

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