Lucy is ahead of her time. She hunts with her brother and his friends, she outrides them, and frankly she's more outspoken than them. But from the start, one of them always made her feel special. But Toby, as he is known to his friends, is now on the verge of becoming engaged to another lady named Sophia, a thought Lucy can't abide. She wants Toby to realise they're perfect for one another, but has no idea how to go about it. Another of her brother's friend, Jeremy, that Lucy finds tedious to the point of annoyance, tries to convince her that she doesn't have a chance, but ends up pretending to be courting Lucy. Could animosity turn to attraction?
I think the actual writing of the book is better than its structure. The characters are sympathetic and interesting, and the way the author fleshes them, the words she puts in their mouths, their thoughts and their actions, make them rise above the clichés from which they sprung. The same can be said from the plot. In all actuality, there is no surprise in some of the obstacles that creep up in Lucy's path, but they are written in such a manner as to be humourous and entertaining and even touching at times. What this means is that here you have a book with a synopsis that would seem ordinary but that will yield a lot more entertainment than would have seen possible.
Another good point for the writing of this book is how consistently character descriptions and later actions match up. The resolution of the romantic conflict does make sense when you consider what the author gave us. It might sound like weird praise, but that is not always the case, and Dare does it very well. Some of the secondary characters are very fleshed out, and interesting, and despite being set up for sequels, still serve the story well.
One of the things I didn't like about the book was that after a certain central event in the book, the romantic conflict kind of takes a sharp turn and seems to go on autopilot. At that point both protagonists fall into the "I love so and so but I think my love is unrequited, and I have to pretend I'm not in love with so and so" posture. It's romance novel fodder of course, and I wouldn't complain about it, except it felt weird in this book considering how straightforward Lucy is previous this central event about what she wants, and how much of a risk taker she's been throughout. And it stretches up until the final resolution of the conflict in another rather cliché way. Like I said, the author's skill is great and she makes the reading of even those less interesting chapters still interesting, but it's definitely one of the low points of the book.
There is one thing that annoyed me a bit (other than a lackluster third period in the romantic conflict and the heavy use of clichés) it is how anachronistic some of actions, behaviours and relationships are. At one point I almost expected the female characters to go off to the fridge to polish off a quart of Haagen Dasz. Thankfully, nothing that blatant happens, but it provides easy reliability to the characters at the cost of the period feel to the book. I think it shouldn't be a trade-off.
Still an engaging book, better than the sum of its parts.
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Set in the year 1817. For the last several years Henry Waltham has hosted an annual hunting party in the autumn for his three closest friends at Waltham Manor. The only female among them had been his little sister, Lucinda "Lucy". Little Lucy has adored Sir Toby Aldridge since the first gathering when he dubbed her his "Diana, Goddess of the Hunt". Lucy never went off to school or had a Season in London. Henry kept Lucy at home, her education taught by a never-ending-line of governesses. But then Henry wed.
Looking back, it seems to Lucy that Henry's marriage is what began all her current problems. Felix, one of Henry's three friends, followed Henry's example and has recently wed. As much as Felix's new wife and Lucy dislike one another, Lucy feels that she could simply ignore the spiteful woman. Problem is that the hag brought her sister, Sophia Hathaway, to the hunting party this year and Toby is so smitten by her that he plans to propose. Desperate to turn Toby's affections toward herself, Lucy decides to seduce Toby. She even read a book on how to do so. For practice, Lucy wakes up Jeremy Trescott, the sixth Earl of Kendall.
After eight annual hunting parties with Lucy, none of Henry's three friends see Lucy as the desirable young lady of marriageable age in which she has become. Yet all the gentlemen, including Henry, have known about Lucy's crush on Sir Toby. But when Lucy wakes Jeremy up in the middle of the night to practice kissing seductively with him, Jeremy knows the men have a real problem. The men decide that Jeremy should distract Lucy from Toby and Sophia by paying a bit of romantic attention to her. Jeremy dares not inform them that after Lucy's practice kisses his brotherly feelings toward her have changed. Then Lucy comes up with a plan for Jeremy to help her make Toby jealous by pretending to court her. What starts out as Jeremy's way to eventually help Lucy keep her pride once Toby proposes to Sophia turns into self-torture, because Jeremy has begun to crave Lucy's kisses.
**** FOUR STARS! Tessa Dare's writing talent shines through on every page. This story is so well written that I could easily feel Lucy's desperation and later her confusion about her feelings. Yet I also understood why Jeremy kept silent about his own troubling past, as well as why he felt he did not deserve Lucy. Those of us who were tom-boys in our youths will easily relate to Lucy's situation. I loved every minute. I look forward to reading Sophia's story, Surrender of a Siren: A Novel. ****