How to Tame a Willful Wife by Christy English

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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?

Grade: D

When I saw this was a “re-working” of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, I was intrigued but knew I would have to Approach With Caution. The play has fallen out of favour in recent years because of the mysogynistic views it displays which, regardless of how they were seen by contemporary audiences, are not to modern tastes. A “reworking” as a piece of romantic fiction therefore has one huge.problem to solve, namely how to make the hero attractive to the reader while retaining those controlling and unpleasant aspects of Petruccio’s character so as to remain reasonably faithful to the spirit of the original.

Unfortunately, that problem is not resolved in this book.

Anthony Carrington is, we are frequently reminded, the most beautiful man in existence. He is also arrogant, possessive, domineering and controlling – very apt considering upon whom he is modelled. But in order for him to function as a romantic hero, he has to have a few redeeming qualities, or the reader has to be able to see some developments in his character throughout the course of the story to indicate that he is capable of self-reflection and change; that there is at least the possibilty that he and his lady-love will continue to be happy after the story has ended. Sadly, I didn’t feel there was much – if any – character development in Anthony. Indeed, he has a massive (and highly irrational) fit of jealousy towards the end of the novel and there is no real indication that he is never going to display such distrust of Caroline again: and so I found it really difficult to believe there really is a HEA for them. His redeeming feature seems to be that he’s a red-hot sex-god between the sheets (or up against the door, wall, on the table, the rug or in the carriage) but while he’s sexy as sin, he’s not the sharpest tool (!) in the box when it comes to matters outside the bedroom.

I’m sure that, at the time the novel is set, it was quite the done thing for a woman to obey her husband without question – and that’s what Anthony expects. It’s unpalatable for the modern reader although certainly it’s in keeping with Anthony’s role as the Petriccio of this story. But the thing is, the only reason for the witholding of any explantion for his instructions is because Caroline NEEDS to be ignorant of his reasons in order for the plot to work. And to make it even worse, Anthony tells Caroline his orders are to secure her own safety – but he won’t tell her what he’s so desperate to keep her safe from!

As to Caroline, she’s not really all that “wilful”. She’s headstrong and used to doing as she likes – but then so are thousands of other romantic heroines. She’s not happy at being married so quickly or at her husband’s high-handedness but at the first sign of a disagreement or indication they should actually talk he’s only got to touch her or look at her and she melts into a puddle of goo and they end up shagging each other senseless instead!

There were a couple of times where she acted stupidly and with complete disregard for her own safety, simply to assert her independence which made ME want to smack her, so at least there were times I could sympathise with Anthony!

I can forgive much in a romance novel in terms of the storyline if the characterisation is good and can care about the people I’m reading about. But in this book, there was no depth to the principals and although backstories were hinted at, these were not explored sufficiently enough to explain their motivations.

On a more positive note, the writing was generally good (although there were certain repetitions which began to get irritating after time) and the sex scenes were pretty hot. But overall, I don’t think this “re-working” worked.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.

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