Dear Ms. Dare:
I would not have read this book had it not been for the April Fool’s Day joke that led to my getting a copy of Legend of a Werestag in my inbox. Legend of a Werestag is a novella you published through Samhain and your writing in that novella made me hungry for a full length novel which you so conveniently were able to provide to me shortly after I finished LofaW.
The covers for the series and the blurbs made the stories inside seem very ordinary when, in fact, the writing is exquisite. This book doesn’t have a unique setting. Lucy and Jeremy meet and spend most of their time in pastoral England. This book doesn’t have unique characters. Jeremy is an Earl and Lucy is the daughter of the gentry.
It’s a romance and so the plot is terribly unique either. But that is what makes the book so wonderful. It takes familiar characters and a familiar plot and delivers a story that reads like its fresher than morning dew on the grass. (It’s that too trite? I’m not terribly good at the simile). Frankly I think the best recommendation is the excerpt because a small snippet can’t really describe the deftness of the writing.
Lucy Waltham has had an infatuation for Sir Toby Aldridge for as long as she can remember, an infatuation fostered by Toby and overlooked by her guardian and brother, Henry. Toby has all but engaged himself to Sophia Hathaway, a dark haired exotic girl that Lucy might have liked in another life-one that didn’t involve the words Toby and Sophia being used in the same breath. Lucy childishly decides that Toby must love her because she loves him but he has just not awoken to that fact. She decides she will seduce Toby but as she has never seduced any one, she must gain some practice.
Fortunately, Jeremy Trescott, the newly minted Earl of Kendall, is present at her home to be her test subject. She has no romantic designs on her friend but she can’t very well practice her wiles on her brother or the object of her seduction. Of course, Lucy is up front with Jeremy.
Jeremy doesn’t view Lucy in a romantic way initially, but he does love her as a sister and doesn’t want to see her hurt. Toby can’t marry Lucy as she has no money and Sophia does. It’s perfectly clear to Jeremy that Lucy’s pursuit of Toby will only end badly. What’s worse is that Lucy is attempting to suppress the very traits that make her Lucy, in order to win Toby’s attention.
Jeremy intentionally interferes with each attempt of Lucy’s to flirt with Toby, placing the two of them in closer and more intimate proximity until Lucy’s shenanigans end up landing her in a pickle. Lucy’s brashness affected not only her but those around here. You can see her maturation as she sees her responses to Jeremy having depth that was not present with her crush on Toby. There’s a great scene toward the end of the book when Lucy gains a true understanding of having responsibility, of growing up.
Lucy’s immaturity is not totally her fault. Her brother Henry had the raising of her and while he did the best he could, Lucy was allowed to run free in the country. Henry’s way of parenting was the path of least resistance. So long as Lucy didn’t cry, she could do about anything she wanted. It’s hard to have self control under those circumstances. Jeremy suffered from neglect as well, but it wasn’t careless like Lucy’s upbringing but intentional. A childhood deed turned his father from him, his mother into a basketcase, and forced Jeremy to learn to live without love.
I really adored Lucy. She was irrepressible and full of joy. She ate with gusto, pursued what she thought was her dream shamelessly, loved with a big heart. Everything about her was expansive, inclusive, and bright. Jeremy plays the dark straight man and does it well. His childhood was full of bitterness, neglect, and guilt. Jeremy needs Lucy’s light and Lucy needs Jeremy’s gravitas. They truly were a perfect match. B+