Size Doesn’t Matter (38): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger

Size Doesn’t Matter (38): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerGoddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare
Series: The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy #1
Published by Ballantine on July 28, 2009
Genres: Romance, Historical
Pages: 374
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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two-half-stars

In this lush and seductive novel, exciting new author Tessa Dare takes desire to brazen heights.

Ever the bold adventuress, Lucy Waltham has decided to go hunting for a husband. But first she needs some target practice. So she turns to her brother’s best friend, Jeremy Trescott, the Earl of Kendall, to hone her seductive wiles on him before setting her sights on another man. But her practice kisses spark a smoldering passion–one that could send all her plans up in smoke.

Jeremy has an influential title, a vast fortune, and a painful past full of long-buried secrets. He keeps a safe distance from his own emotions, but to distract Lucy from her reckless scheming, he must give his passions free rein. Their sensual battle of wills is as maddening as it is delicious, but the longer he succeeds in managing the headstrong temptress, the closer Jeremy comes to losing control. When scandal breaks, can he bring himself to abandon Lucy to her ruin? Or will he risk his heart and claim her for his own?

Obviously, I was suspicious of Tessa Dare’s first series. I mean, for one thing, the covers look like Amish romances. No me gusta. Then, there’s the fact that this may be the worst series title I’ve ever encountered in my life. Plus, the heroines aren’t even dairymaids, so I mean what even is up with that? (Spoiler: the heroine read a book about a wanton dairymaid to learn about sex, and it’s still the worst series title ever.) I was right to be a bit hesitant it turns out, because, much as I ate this up like a greedy kid gobbling Halloween candy, Goddess of the Hunt is sort of like Tessa Dare writing a stereotypical romance.

Like, I’m pretty sure I know some of the authors Tessa Dare was heavily influenced by, because I’ve read this book before. Without spoiling it, the dramatic interludes all triggered deja vu. It felt like I was reading a novel by Judith McNaught, rather than Tessa Dare sometimes. View Spoiler »

There were, however, a few elements where the Tessa Dare shone through a bit. Lucy does fit the romance archetype of the saucy hoyden to a T, belove of authors like McNaught, but Dare allows Lucy some freedom she wouldn’t have had with another author. Lucy’s the initiator in almost all of the sexual encounters and she has absolutely zero regret or shame about any of it. That part is great. Also, the love rival of the start, the prim, proper lady, turns out to be not so much the prim or the proper and to be a friend. That sort of thing never happened in the romance novels I read as a teen. Dare’s humor, which will become her trademark, hardly makes an appearance here at all.

It will be interesting to watch Dare grow into her own style as a romance author. She clearly hadn’t found it yet here, but I can sense it lurking beneath the surface. Meanwhile, I’ll just enjoy her hot sex scenes and ability to make me feel things, as I read through these books where she’s still trying to do romance the way other people had for years.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (38): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerWhat You Always Wanted by Kristin Rae
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on March 29, 2016
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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three-stars

If only…he was the boy she’s been dreaming of.

Theatre girl Maddie Brooks has always had high standards for guys. But she has yet to find one who can live up to the classic Hollywood heartthrobs, especially the dreamy song-and-dance man Gene Kelly. When Maddie begins to carpool with Jesse Morales, her new neighbor and star pitcher of the baseball team, she’s struck by his wit, good looks, and love for his family—but a guy so into sports is definitely not her style. Then Maddie discovers that Jesse was raised as a dancer and still practices in the community theatre’s dance studio to keep in shape. Perhaps her perfect dream guy exists after all! But when it becomes clear that baseball—not dance—is Jesse’s passion, can Maddie find a way to let her dream guy go and appreciate the charms of the amazing guy in front of her?

This fun, high school theatre romance in the If Only line is for anyone who has ever wished for that impossibly perfect guy.

I came very, very, extremely close to DNFing What You Always Wanted, but I stuck it out for the love interest, who I liked, and that ended up being a good call. There’s a lot I like about this book, but the heroine and her voice were a struggle for me.

Maddie’s a theater snob, and I find her insufferable. I love theater, and I adore old movies (in fact, I’m obsessed with some of the ones she keeps pushing on people), but I still found the way she talked about them infuriating. I can’t decide if it’s because the book was trying for voice but was too try-hard or if Maddie actually just is that way and Rae hit the nail on the head. That said, I do like Maddie’s arc in the book. She doesn’t get to be the shining star of the theater program like she planned, and she has to deal with some of her dreams not being what she thought. It’s really interesting how she has to face the fact that she’s not going to be a musical star, no matter how hard she works, and she needs to focus on what she can rock.

The relationship dynamics are my favorite part. Jesse’s awesome, and I like that all of the problems they have as a couple are internal issues caused by expectations. Maddie wants Jesse to be something he’s not, and, in some ways, she’s right, but she’s also wrong. I like that they have the fight and have to work through it. Pushing unrealistic expectations on your boyfriend/girlfriend is an incredibly common relationship problem, and it’s not one I see encountered often in fiction, so I very much appreciate that Rae went there.

On the whole, What You Always Wanted wasn’t perfect for me, but there’s a lot that this contemporary handles in ways I haven’t seen much before. I’m even thrilled that the heroine struggles with allergies, another thing I don’t see much in fiction. It’s not my favorite contemporary, but I’m very glad I pushed through and finished.

Size Doesn’t Matter (38): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerSurrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare
Series: The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy #2
Published by Ballantine on August 25, 2009
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Goodreads
three-stars

Desperate to escape a loveless marriage and society’s constraints, pampered heiress Sophia Hathaway jilts her groom, packs up her paints and sketchbook, and assumes a new identity, posing as a governess to secure passage on the Aphrodite. She wants a life of her own: unsheltered, unconventional, uninhibited. But it’s one thing to sketch all her wildest, most wanton fantasies, and quite another to face the dangerously handsome libertine who would steal both her virtue and her gold.

To any well-bred lady, Benedict “Gray” Grayson is trouble in snug-fitting boots. A conscienceless scoundrel who sails the seas for pleasure and profit, Gray lives for conquest—until Sophia’s perception and artistry stir his heart. Suddenly, he’ll brave sharks, fire, storm, and sea just to keep her at his side. She’s beautiful, refined, and ripe for seduction. Could this counterfeit governess be a rogue’s redemption? Or will the runaway heiress’s secrets destroy their only chance at love?

Surrender of a Siren is, being partway into the third book now, the best book in this series on a technical level. However, the first one, which is problematic (as described above), is by far my favorite ship-wise.

I don’t really care about Gray and Sophia as a couple tbh. However, the sex scenes in this book are fantastic, and I was totally on board as soon as they started hooking up. I don’t unship them, like I currently do with book three, but I’m not aswoon at their connection. Still, hottest masturbation scene I’ve ever read so points for that.

Dare does some really cool, unique things with this novel; it’s less every romance novel ever. Sophia, of the big ideas and search for passion, runs away with a plan to get her inheritance without marrying and gets on a former privateer’s ship heading to Tortola. She doesn’t mind her reputation being in tatters; she’d rather truly live.

As with all Dare novels, Sophia really is the driver for most of the physical relationship, spending much of the book trying to get Gray to do the sex with her. Also different here is that the 2/3 of the way through the book relationship conflict that happens due to Sophia’s having lied about her identity isn’t as dramatic as I’d expected based on book two. Gray was mad but they work through it fairly easily.

Then there’s Gray’s brother and the captain of the ship, who is half black. A positive portrayal of a POC in a romance novel! There are a couple other black characters as well, and there’s no painful stereotyping. I love Captain Grayson, and he’s my favorite part of the third book so far.

I don’t know that I can really recommend this series, but if you’re stubbornly determined to read all of Tessa Dare’s books, this one does some cool stuff.

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