Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: How to Tame a Willful Wife by Christy English

From the Back Cover:

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?

My Thoughts:

Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, is doing his former commanding officer and close friend a favor by marrying his daughter and saving the family from bankruptcy. But he’s not pleased to discover that his bride-to-be was not raised to know her place as a lady of society. No wife of his will be out riding stallions, competing in archery competitions, and taking fencing lessons! She’ll have to be tamed if she’s to take her place by his side in London, and he’s not looking forward to the task. But once he has a moment alone with the tempting beauty, he decides that taming her may be a rather delightful endeavor, and that he is exactly the right man for the job.

Caroline Montague is not happy at being forced into marriage with a man not of her choosing, but she loves her father and is prepared to do what she must to save him from ruin. Unfortunately, her new fiance rubs her the wrong way from the moment she discovers him waiting for her in her darkened bedroom. His invasion of her privacy and ridiculous assumptions about marriage and her role in his life light a fire in her, but his handsome looks and commanding presence also light a fire in her, of a very different sort indeed.

After a quick engagement and a hasty wedding, Anthony and Caroline are off to his country estate in Shropshire, where they spend their days butting heads and their nights exploring every inch of each other’s bodies. The passion between them is intense, and despite Anthony’s efforts to curb her wild behavior, Caroline finds herself falling in love with him. But is his interest in her purely sexual? Why does he keep her secluded on his estate? Why won’t he take her with him on his business trips to London? Why won’t he open up to her about his past and his feud with the dashing Lord Carlyle, who seems to be genuinely concerned for Caroline’s welfare and happiness? Anthony’s keeping secrets. And because he is, Caroline feels entitled to keep a few secrets of her own. While the cat’s away, the mouse will play…

Meanwhile, Anthony thinks he’s doing the right thing by keeping his young wife safe and ignorant of the darker aspects of his life. But he doesn’t realize he is undermining her trust in him and jeopardizing the shaky truce of their newfound wedded bliss. And there are also some outside forces working against our couple. Anthony has a bitch of a former mistress who is not happy about being let go after ten years of faithful service. And the more he warns Caroline away from his enemy Lord Carlyle, the more leverage Carlyle gains against him. And you just know all of that is going to hit the fan in epic style at the Twelfth Night ball where Anthony is finally going to show his beautiful country bride off to the Prince Regent and the rest of the London ton. It’s a train wreck waiting to happen and I couldn’t turn my eyes away from it!

I really enjoyed this romance. I'm not normally a big fan of storylines where the hero sees the heroine for the first time and vows he will have her in his bed at all costs, and that's pretty much the way this one starts out. But it ended up working really well in the long run. I liked both of the lead characters--they were very nice foils for each other. There's a big age difference between them, and I thought it was handled very realistically. There is a lot of good, angst-y tension, and the story zips right along, interspersed with quotes from The Taming of the Shrew. It's pretty sexy too :) I thought it was a very good start to Ms. English's Shakespeare in Love series, though I did feel like the storylines involving Anthony's sister and his best friend were introduced only to be left hanging, I'm assuming (and hoping) that's because we'll be seeing them again in stories of their own. It's been twenty years since I saw a production of The Taming of the Shrew and I don't remember much, so I can't judge how well the story does or does not follow the theme, and How to Tame a Willful Wife is light on the history, but it is a very satisfying romance, and that ending--oh! The reader has to wait awhile for Anthony to finally come to his senses, but when he does, it's totally swoon-worthy! Fans of Regency romance should really enjoy this one.

My Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

**Please Note: This review references an advance digital copy received from the publisher via NetGalley, and therefore the final published copy may differ. Though I received this book from the publisher, these are my honest and unbiased thoughts, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.

This review also appeared on the Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers Blog!

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