The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy, Book #1
Heat Factor: The wardrobe scene is incendiary
Character Chemistry: I am so in love with you, don’t even try to talk sense to me. In fact, we don’t need to talk at all.
Plot: Best Friend’s Sibling → Sexytimes → Seducing My Spouse
Overall: The first half is EVERYTHING. Then they get married, and I want to smash their heads together.
Goddess of the Hunt is Tessa Dare’s first book, so it has a bit more unsophisticated tropey stuff going on than her more recent publications. And it’s not as funny. That said, the wardrobe scene might be one of the most memorable “I can’t resist this anymore” scenes in historical romance. If only these protagonists didn’t decide to be such unmitigated nitwits for the rest of the book, it would be truly excellent.
Here’s the situation: Lucy is the younger sister / ward of her brother, Henry. Henry has three best friends from school who come down to the country for a holiday each autumn. Things are changing because everyone is growing up. First, Henry got married (resulting in Lucy not being able to have a come-out because Henry’s wife keeps having babies), then Felix got married, and now it looks like Toby is going to get married. The trouble is, Lucy has been in love with Toby since she was a wee hoyden chasing after the older boys, but Toby’s going to propose to Felix’s sister-in-law. In order to prevent this terrible occurrence, Lucy has decided to seduce Toby. And she’s going to test her wiles on Jeremy because he’s got ice in his veins, so he won’t succumb. Which is why she wanders into his bedroom one night and kisses him.
WHAT?! You may well ask. There’s a lot going on here. As I said, it gets very tropey. Jeremy is Henry’s best friend, so we have a best-friend’s sibling thing off the bat. Then, when Jeremy tries to head off disaster, his friends ask him to fake-court Lucy to distract her. Jeremy, not entirely willing to engage in a fake relationship because his friend is too selfish to just propose already, tries to head off Lucy by pointing out that if she appears to be showing an interest in Jeremy, it’ll make Toby jealous, so she asks him to engage in a fake relationship with her as well. Basically, Jeremy is just being yanked around by everyone with no thought to his feelings about anything.
There are quite a few histrom trope checks in this book:
Jeremy = Earl with tragic backstory of loss and a lack of parental love
Lucy = Benignly neglected hoyden who needs to figure out how to be ladylike to catch her man
Jeremy = Overprotective worrywart because past loss + feelings are too much to handle
Lucy = Hothead who assumes Jeremy is reserved because he’s cold and unloving
Lucy spends the whole first half of the book declaring to Jeremy that another man (Toby) is her true love and that she’s going to make him marry her and then she doesn’t tell Jeremy when she realizes that’s not true. So when Jeremy, who has definitely caught feelings, is honor-bound to propose to her on the same night Toby gets engaged, Jeremy thinks that Lucy is dying of misery at the loss of her true love. They have a night of magical lovemaking (of course) and then Henry gets involved, and they talk past each other, each making assumptions about the other’s feelings. Jeremy still thinks Lucy wishes she wasn’t marrying him because she hasn’t said that she wants to marry Jeremy. And Lucy’s confused about why Jeremy’s withdrawn and regretful.
Jeremy needs to pull his head out of his ass. Like, all the time. He assumes every worst thing in every situation. He loses his shit because he has rough sex with Lucy–that she enjoyed–up against a tree, and she gets bruises. HE RUNS AWAY TO LONDON for four days FOR NO REASON. But maybe if he, like, ever, ever, EVER told Lucy what he was feeling, Jeremy wouldn’t be so miserable about how his life is going.
The only thing that would have made me more nuts would have been if Lucy had gone home to her brother for a visit, and Jeremy, feeling rejected, told her to just stay, so in turn she felt rejected–which is a storyline for a histrom that I’ve read…can’t remember which one…Judith McNaught? IDK–but thankfully Dare didn’t take us quite so far. By the time Henry butts in again, our protagonists have gotten themselves to a better place, even if they seriously need to work on their trust and communication issues.
If you’re looking for a historical romance that has a bit of a nostalgic flavor, this is a good one to choose. It might be worth it for the wardrobe scene alone.
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