Author: Christy English
Series: Book #1 in the Shakespeare in Love series
Release Date: 6 November 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Number of pages: 352 pages
Source: ebook copy provided by publisher through NetGalley
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository US, Book Depository UK
Goodreads appetizer: How To Tame A Willful Wife:
1. Forbid her from riding astride2. Hide her dueling sword3. Burn all her breeches and buy her silk drawers4. Frisk her for hidden daggers5. 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?
My Thoughts: I LOVE Shakespeare retellings and The Taming of the Shrew is one of his plays I like the most, so as soon as I read the blurb of Christy English's latest novel and saw that it would be a Regency retelling of that story I was excited and impatient to read it.
We all know that The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare's most controversial plays, often criticized nowadays for its misogynistic ways, so I was curious to see how Christy English would manage this problem in her novel, which though set in Regency times is written for modern women. And I'm sorry to say that I'm not sure she managed it well.
While the story was certainly entertaining and kept me interested, while I had no problems with the main characters when on their own, once they got together and in their interaction with each other they just frustrated to no end.
Caroline is a quite modern woman for her time: she is independent of thought, intelligent and likes to be able to protect herself:
“Even if you have no respect for me, you must have a care for your own safety.” Anthony spoke calmly, his voice low. Caroline tilted her head as if to hear him better, a look of surprise on her face.
“I do respect you, Anthony. But I also respect myself. I am used to listening to my own judgment.”
“If you prefer blunted blades to ribbons and bonnets, that is your prerogative.”
She has many other interests beside the usual ones for which women were raised in her time (namely becoming a dutiful wife and mother of many children), she longs to see the world:
Caroline had never been on a ship, but she hungered for the sight of the ocean, the great swells that would carry her to far, undiscovered countries where the people had never heard a word of English spoken. Or to the wilds of Byzantium, where the great domes and marbled streets led from one delight to another, to Venice, where the very roads were made of water, where the air was filled with spices. Caroline knew she was foolish to think of such things. Like all women of her station, she would live out her life in her husband’s house, raising his children and keeping his home. She would go to London for the Season, for fittings and for balls. She would walk in the staid park of Regent’s Square, and take in the river Thames. London was as close as she was ever likely to get to the places she had read about in her father’s library.
At such times my heart ached for the very limited options and choices she had in her life, especially when reading about her quiet and sad resignation of her acceptance that this was the way of the world and she had no right to want more.
Anthony was a hero I'm feeling quite ambivalent about, couldn't put it better than Caroline herself:
Anthony was an honourable man, and often kind. He was controlling and infuriating and mad with jealousy and the need for control
He is acting very inconsistent: at times he is irritated and annoyed her independent and intelligent wife challenges him and fences, then at other times he is clearly proud of her and that she stands up to him.
Gone was the wild woman who had defied him at every turn since he had met her, the woman who had leaped over hedges on horseback to escape him. He had tamed her, and the taming was as sweet as he might have wished for. In the relaxation of the moment, a niggling sense of disappointment filled his breast to mingle with his bliss. He thought of the woman he had seen besting all comers on the archery range, the woman who had thrown a knife at him not once, but twice. That woman was strong enough to bear fine sons. He hoped that strength still lived in her, though her wedding vows seemed to have made her as docile and warm in bed as he might have wished.
I know that he had to have nuances not to make the readers dislike him for his overbearing ways, but he changed his ways on a whim, with no explanation or motivation for the reader to understand him. And when he got back to his macho misogynist thinking it really made me see red at times. He never gave his wife a chance to talk things through and it was clear that he didn't see her as his partner in life.
“I told you in Pembroke’s house never to speak to him, much less dance with him. How dare you disobey me.”
“Anthony, this is the prince’s ball, and Viscount Carlyle is his guest, as we are. I do not understand you.”
“I do not ask you to understand. I ask you to do as I say.”
“You ask nothing. You give orders with no explanation. How many times must I tell you I am not a hound to come to heel.”
“You are my wife, Caroline. You will obey me.”
“I cannot look at you. Pembroke will take you home.”
“I will not go. You must talk to me.” Caroline tried to pull away, but Anthony caught her arm once more in his grip. She winced, her arm bruised, but he did not release her.
“You will do as you are told. You are my wife.”
“I am not your whore, to be ordered about as you please.”
“You are my wife, and you will obey me.”
What frustrated me was that whenever Caroline stood up to Anthony, if he came close she took a glimpse at his manly beauty (because yes it was mentioned every time) and she melted like a puddle of need, forgetting her objections and arguments. She became an airhead governed by lust:
Anthony stood close behind her, breathing in the scent of her, suppressing the desire to kiss the curve of her throat.
As always, his nakedness made her throat go dry. Caroline took in his beauty and was distracted from her irritation. It seemed she could not stay angry with him whenever his clothes came off.
She felt an overwhelming urge to tell him she would accept any humiliation he served her, she would overlook every mistress he tossed in her face, if only he would touch her again.
Her throat closed, and any words she might have spoken were swallowed in her attempt to clear it. Caroline stared at him, taking in his beauty,
and he just closed every discussion with "you are my wife, obey me".
Verdict: How to Tame a Willful Wife was a nice but flawed read. I expected more and was left disappointed regarding the romantic relationship and dynamics between the hero and heroine. In my opinion Christy English did not succeed in making the hero a sympathetic character the reader could understand and relate too, he was too stuck in the old misogynist times and customs while with the heroine belittling herself and giving up her opinion at the promise of making love made me lose my respect and sympathy for her. Besides this quite glaring complaint I enjoyed the writing and will probably check out other stories by Christy English, but this one left me ambivalent and frustrated.
Review originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.