Friday, November 9, 2012

How to Tame a Willful Wife by Christy English

How To Tame A Willful Wife:

1. Forbid her from riding astride
2. Hide her dueling sword
3. Burn all her breeches and buy her silk drawers
4. Frisk her for hidden daggers
5. Don't get distracted while frisking her for hidden daggers...

Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, expects a biddable bride. A man of fiery passion tempered by the rigors of war into steely self-control, he demands obedience from his troops and his future wife. Regardless of how fetching she looks in breeches.

Promised to the Earl of Plump Pockets by her impoverished father, Caroline Montague is no simpering miss. She rides a war stallion named Hercules, fights with a blade, and can best most men with both bow and rifle. She finds Anthony autocratic, domineering, and...ridiculously gorgeous.

It's a duel of wit and wills in this charming retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. But the question is...who's taming whom?

Was the phrase ,“the lady doth protest too much”, written by Shakespeare?  If so, it perfectly coordinates with how I felt about the premise of How To Tame a Willful Wife by Christy English.  (Google tidbit:  Yep!  It’s from Hamlet.) 
Caroline Montague is the child of a baron who honorably served his country in battle.   The baron persuades one of his former soldiers, Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, to marry his young, pure daughter to get himself out of financial trouble.  When we first meet Caroline, she is besting the men in an archery contest.  She is quite the tomboy, having been tutored in swordplay, archery, and all things masculine, but she knows very little of love and marriage.  Anthony, an honorable but taciturn man, treats the marriage as little more than a business arrangement.  After all, he still has a mistress.
Despite Caroline’s requests for more time to get to know her intended, before she can say “I would rather be fencing”, she is married. Their relationship starts out as a battle of the wills, but soon progresses to physical interaction.  (How diplomatic do I have to be here?  The second he touches her, she melts like butter.)  Caroline seems spineless in the face of this interaction, though she continues to spout the “I am woman, hear me roar” line throughout the novel.
Anthony is an honorable, likeable man, but he does not explain his reasons for doing anything.  There is a secondary character who impregnated and abandoned his sister, and when this scoundrel starts sniffing around his wife, Anthony is imperious and orders Caroline to stay away.  She is never told why.  So, of course, she does what she wants.  This begins the cycle of Anthony’s orders and Caroline’s disobedience that marks much of the novel.  Honestly, she seemed a little like a petulant child who just rebels at being told “no”.
Later, Caroline has an unpleasant interaction with Anthony’s mistress, as well as the man who got his sister pregnant and then abandoned her.  She flees and from there, the story begins to be resolved.  I found the end of the book to be the weakest part.  Maybe it’s because romance novels in which the main problem could be solved with a simple conversation are not my favorite types.  Each character acts within their personalities, though, and the resolution is sweet.
 I did want to know more about Anthony’s sister, and whether or not she ever decided to reenter society after being ruined.  I think that would make a great future book.
I liked How To Tame a Willful Wife, but I didn’t love it.  It read like a first novel.  I hope that the plots of English’s subsequent novels get a bit more convoluted, complex, and contain deeper characterization.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

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