Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review: How to Tame a Willful Wife by Christy English (ARC)

Caroline Montague is young, wild and free. As an only child, her father has spoiled allowed her to do whatever she wished -- this includes: riding a warhorse, training with a knife and sword, excelling at archery, etc.

But the family coffers are empty and Caroline must do her duty to marry and restore her family's fortunes.

All the men vying for Caroline's hand bore her, all but one: Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook -- who once served under her father. A military man who is used to being obeyed without question.

The problem is, Caroline's a woman who is used to getting her way without question as well.

Can two willful characters find a way to live together without killing hating each other?

Caroline is a promising heroine. She had backbone and was not afraid to go after what she wanted. I love that she didn't hesitate to throw her knife at Anthony when he accosted her in her own room, without any introduction. And I love how she confronted a man who was assaulting one of their female tenants. Even when she was at the receiving end of the man's assault, she never backed down.

"You were almost killed."

"No. The intruder was almost killed. I had my knife at his throat. It was you who let him go."
- loc. 1654

I understand where Anthony's character and world view comes from: he's a military man and is used to being orders and commands. His one experience of caring for a female (his sister) had disastrous consequences and he is determined not to make the same mistakes again. But Anthony is so, so rigid! It was frustrating!

He uses the word "obey" and "tame" so many times when he refers to Caroline. From beginning to end, Anthony remains as he was, except he falls in love with his wife -- which came as a bit of a surprise because their relationship never goes beyond the marriage bed.

There is a point in the third part of the novel where Caroline says to her husband, "Round we go again, and we go nowhere, Anthony." - loc. 2334 and, as a reader, I felt the same way.

More than a halfway through the novel, instead of intimacy and partnership, Caroline and Anthony have instead learned how to "deal" with one another:

Since a journey to London was what she wanted above all things, she knew better than to ask for it. She would make Anthony believe such a trip to be his own idea, so he would not fight her every step of the way on the road to town.
- loc 1961

What I did like about this novel are the insights the author provides on court life, when Caroline is finally introduced to the Prince Regent, she is besieged by the sights and sounds of court.

The Carlton House set, the creme de la creme of the ton all stood with their heads together, murmuring poison into one another's ears...
- loc 2315

I also enjoyed the confrontation between Caroline and Anthony's mistress -- Angelique was Anthony's mistress for 10 years and he treated her poorly. When Angelique meets Caroline at court -- wow! The tension was amazing and I thought that was one of the author's best scenes.

At the heart of the many conflicts in this story is Anthony. He never told Caroline the reason why he ordered her to stay away from Victor Carlyle. He never told Caroline about Angelique and he never told Angelique about Caroline.

He knew that his actions had a potential to cause hurt to the people around him but he never paid any attention to any of it -- but allowed the whole thing to snowball.

... he wondered idly if he should tell her of his mistress.
- loc 2105

* * *

He knew he was adding grist to the rumor mill by slipping away with Angelique, but he had to deal with her now. He had let this loose strand of his past dangle too long already.
- loc 2268

To Anthony's credit, he does make amends in a spectacular (and very heartfelt) way -- so is this a case of "All's Well that Ends Well"? I guess so.

It's a solid historical romance debut for Christy English. How to Tame a Willful Wife gives a nod to the historical romance novels of the 80s and 90s with its very Alpha hero -- but it also provides a fresh and very 21st century spin by introducing us to a very Alpha heroine.

How to Tame a Willful Wife is the first book in the Shakespeare in Love series by Christy English and will be released this November 6 in paperback and e-book.

To find out more about Christy English and her books, visit her website.

Her Shakespeare in Love series has a Facebook page!

Disclosure: I received the ARC through Netgalley. (Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca for accepting my request.)



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