Not even a generous dowry can tempt any man to court Kathryn...
...until Sir William rides into town. Will she give in to becoming his Kate?
Kathryn's strong will and sharp tongue have branded her a shrew in her small town. And even the temptation of her father's wealth cannot sway the men in her direction.
Astride his warhorse, William is the pinnacle of manhood and a burr in Kathryn's side. His impish "Kate" calls raise her hackles, yet she can't keep from being lulled by his voice.
Though he claims he is the only man for her, she is certain he only desires her rich dowry. When he proposes marriage, she accepts as a way out of her miserable home but expects nothing.
Freed from her cruel family and judgmental town, Kathryn must decide if she will continue her battle of wills with the sometimes charming, often maddening Sir William. Does she remain the shrewish Kathryn or find a way to be Will's Kate?
This delightful re-imagining of "The Taming of the Shrew" is sure to enchant longtime Shakespeare fans and newcomers alike.
"Full of familiar characters and new insights, Finding Kate is a smart and subtle retelling, rich in Shakespearean references and vivid historical details." - YA Historical Fiction Author, Katherine Longshore
If you like Philippa Gregory, Scarlett Scott, Alexa Aston, Susan Meissner, and Jillian Eaton, you'll love this beautiful spin on Shakespearean romance stories!
What reviewers are saying:
★★★★★ "A smart and subtle retelling, rich in Shakespearean references and vivid historical
★★★★★ "An amazing book about partnership and knowing someone better than they know themselves. Beautifully written!"
★★★★★ "Magnificent historical detail, clearly carefully researched and lovingly rendered."
★★★★★ "Crisp storytelling, impressive command of historical detail, and elegant prose."
★★★★★ "A quick, fast-paced read and blends popular Shakespearean scenes with a new spin on the story."
Read an Excerpt
A Novel of the Taming of the Shrew
By Maryanne Fantalis, Amanda Roberts
City Owl PressCopyright © 2017 Maryanne Fantalis
All rights reserved.
If you asked my father, he'd tell you I got my husband thanks to his clever plans. If you asked my husband, he'd say he won me over with his wit and his charm. But really, it all started with a horse, a horse that stopped me in my tracks and changed my life.
A flash of bright color in the corner of my vision made me turn my head. Two men were leading an enormous blood-red horse out through the door of the inn's stable and onto the pounded dirt of the adjacent yard. I halted, my breath rushing out in astonishment. The beast was the approximate size and color of St. George's dragon, or so it seemed to me, and it moved with the same sinuous, menacing grace. When it snorted, I jumped, half expecting gouts of flame to burst forth. The tread of each massive hoof raised a cloud of dust in the yard and seemed enough to shake the world, or at least the whole of England. I had some experience of the world, of course. I had seen large horses before, plowing the serfs' fields outside of town or drawing Father's heavy wagons full of merchandise, but this creature with flames in its eyes and cinders in its lungs was a thing apart.
The horse came to a stop, gleaming in the sun, and the men stepped away. One of them I recognized: Tom Smith, the town's farrier and blacksmith. He moved toward the horse's flank as the other, a stranger, grasped the stallion's headstall, reaching under his chin. He looked the beast in the eye, seeming to engage him in a silent conversation, and then nodded to Tom. The smith crouched beside the giant animal, running his hand down a foreleg like a tree trunk and lifting one of the massive hooves. He rested it in his lap, cradling it firmly between his thighs while he inspected the shoe and the underside of the hoof. The stranger stood over him, throwing one arm across the horse's neck and leaning into its bulk. The horse barely flinched at the man's weight, even on three legs, as though he were no more burden than a fly. Though I quivered at the fire I sensed barely restrained within the animal, neither man seemed concerned.
Even from this distance, I was arrested by the newcomer. His face was carved in pure angles: a straight nose, strong cheekbones, a level brow, a lean mouth that curved, even at rest, toward a smile. His hair, of a color somewhere between gold and brown, was short — a warrior's cut — and standing up a little over his forehead. My fingers twitched, longing to smooth it down.
I wondered what color his eyes were.
He looked up at just that moment and spied me staring. He smiled, a wise smile, a knowing smile.
My skin flushed hot from my scalp to my toes. I drew in a breath that was thick with horse stench and, choking, hurried to catch up with my father and sister, neither of whom, of course, had noticed a thing. Falling in step behind them, I kept my eyes cast down at the cobbles, another lifelong habit, to avoid the glances of the other townsfolk also on their way to church on a Sunday morning. Instead of nodding to neighbors, I watched my shadow where it stretched out thin before me, tripping on the heels of my father and younger sister. The two of them walked arm in arm, their golden heads close together, whispering — about what, I could not tell, which suited me well enough. In a few strides, we were past the inn and in the village square, and from there the church was only a few steps across the lush green.
"In nomine Patri, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti...."
Ordinarily, I would entertain myself during Mass by picking apart the priest's errors in Latin. He fumbled his words at least a dozen times every Sunday, and I endured the tedium of Mass by placing bets with myself as to which of the sacred words he would destroy this week. Would he say "terror" instead of "terram" as he did last week? Or would he have corrected for that, only to make a disaster out of the "Confiteor"? Meager entertainment, but better than nothing.
Yet this Sunday, my thoughts wandered out of the church like errant children, back to the sunny morning and the stable yard of the Brewer's inn. Questions arose and floated through my mind, elusive as soap bubbles. Who was he? Where was he from? Was he just passing through, asking the smith to check his horse before he rode away again? Or would he stay? And if he did stay, would I see him again?
With a start, I came back to the present and realized I was alone in the church. Everyone had left. They should not have. ... They should have. ... Gripping the edges of the bench I sat upon, I drove my nails into the wood. No. In Whitelock it did not matter what should or should not have happened. Father behaved as he liked and everyone followed his lead. It had always been so, sure as the sun shined or the rain fell.
Drawing a deep breath, I released my fingers one by one and stood. I took my time getting to the rear of the church and paused in the doorway, looking out at the folk of the town in the square. About a hundred souls, more or less, gathered in little groups around the thick grass of the green, formed where the roads out of town knotted together. The packed turf of Church Street ran north and south and cobbled High Street ran east to west. Directly across from the church, a clutch of sturdy little wattle-and-daub buildings squatted like chickens at roost, their little shops quiet on a Sunday. The sooty planks of the shed around the forge leaned against the Smiths' house and buckets of sand assembled like soldiers just outside the wide door. I looked for, but did not see, the giant red horse being fitted for new shoes there.
I stepped down from the church's stone lintel and crossed the rutted dirt onto the green. None of the groups opened to invite me, which disturbed me not at all as I did not seek to join any of them. Instead, I stopped and shaded my eyes, looking along the two roads. When the man with the blood-red horse left town, which way would he go? Up Church Street, past the fancier shops — the dressmaker and the chandler, the glover and the mercer — to take the great King's Road to Leicester or Nottingham? Or would he head south, toward Coventry? Would he travel west past the church, toward Shrewsbury and Wales? Or continue east, past Father's house, going all the way to London?
Or, I thought with a chill despite the warmth of the summer morning, had he already gone?
I frowned, lowering my hand. If only I had a horse of my own ... nay, more: had I a man's rights, his freedoms....
Were I a man, I would mount up and never look back.
Two farmers ambled past, relishing their morning off, their stained and wrinkled shirts exuding an odor of earth and sweat that simply would not wash out. One of them removed his cap and scratched at his tanned brow. Squinting up at the sky, he said, "Rain tomorrow, you think?"
The man beside him peered upward. "Nah. Not for a day or more."
A sigh escaped me. This same conversation, about the chances of rain or snow or the return of fair weather, was repeated outside the church every single Sunday. Did they never grow weary of it?
A clutch of matrons had gathered in the shade of a crabapple tree to one side of the church, cackling and gabbing in their Sunday finery. "Did you hear?" said one. "Elizabeth Darrow is with child again."
"Are those new sleeves, Eleanor?" another said, ignoring the first.
"Again?" said the next. "My goodness, what is that, their eighth? Bless them, they are as abundant as rabbits."
"Did you like it? It's the rosemary that makes all the difference."
To my ears, their voices were like wind over empty jars: all cacophony, no music. I tried to shut out the sound, wishing again that I could leave like the knight on his horse or at the least sneak away home, like the children I spied slinking around corners to play at games forbidden on the Sabbath. But Father was on the far side of the green, holding conference with the other elders of the town, and my sister Blanche stood like a queen surrounded by her courtiers under an ancient oak, and neither of them would even begin to entertain the thought of leaving yet. Even now, Blanche's laughter rang out, a beacon no less imperative than the church bell had been, pulling all eyes to her, even mine, though for me to look at her was tantamount to staring into the sun. The other young folk of Whitelock surrounded her, hanging on her every word, pale shadows around her dazzling crimson silks and expensive lace. No, Blanche was happy to stay and would complain at being made to go home.
It was I, forgotten at best and scorned at worst, who suffered from Father's dictates. Aye, if I had a man's freedom, I'd be long gone from here. There had to be a place where wit was valued over beauty. Where I, and not Blanche, would be favored. And maybe even loved.
I glanced at Father and his circle of somber men. Would he notice if I walked away? What would he do if I did?
By now, the matrons had noticed me. They swept me up and down with sharp eyes like needles on my skin. I shuddered and clenched my hands into fists, enjoying the feeling of my nails driving into the skin of my palms. I began to walk with determination toward no particular destination. All I knew was that I had to get away from the women and their scathing eyes, their piercing judgments, their unspoken condemnation: There she goes, the shrew, the old maid.
I made it as far as the lustrous clutch of holly bushes just west of the Brewer's inn before I was brought up short by a man saying, quite loudly, "But have you ever seen a woman so perfect?"
I froze, looking around for the speaker. He sounded so close, as if he were right at my elbow. But there was no man in sight, only the thick leaves of the holly all around me.
"I'll grant you, she is beautiful," another man replied, "but must we tarry a week entire?"
For the flutter of a heartbeat, I thought perhaps they were talking about me. My face flushed and my hands trembled as I pressed them to my mouth to keep from gasping aloud. But then the truth collapsed upon me like a pile of rotten timber: no, not Kathryn the shrew, Kathryn the unmarriageable, Kathryn the unlovely. I knew I should walk away and not listen to their conversation any further; gossip was a sin, and so was eavesdropping. But in that moment, I could not have made my feet move if my dress had been on fire.
"Your father will be mightily displeased," went on the second voice.
"What of it?" the first man said, all impatience and command. "It's just a few days. I'll still get to Warwick and deal with his affairs before he gets there, and he'll be none the wiser. And in the meantime, I'll spend my time with her. A girl like that is a treasure rarely to be found. So lovely, she would tempt Jove himself down from Olympus."
A treasure? Jove? Heavens above, did anyone outside of poetry speak thus?
"If you're determined to do this, you need to know the obstacles you face," said the other man, clearly the more practical of the two. "I am given to understand that there is an older sister yet unmarried, and the father will not permit anyone to court the younger sister until the elder is respectably attached."
"What of it? You'll step in and court the elder so I may have the younger."
I stiffened, grinding my teeth. There was now no mistaking who they were talking about. The beauty for whom Jove would descend from Olympus was Blanche, the younger sister, and the unmarried elder sister was me. With nails again drilling into palms, I leaned in closer to hear their words.
"No, no. You misunderstand," the second fellow replied. "As I have heard tell, the elder is a shrew of notorious harshness. No man of good sense would risk kissing her hand for fear she'd smite his head off as he bent before her. That's why she remains unmarried."
If the truth had been a hard fall before, it was more painful now. I closed my eyes and remembered why my heart was always bitter. Even these men — even strangers who had never met me — called me shrew.
The first man fell silent, resentment pouring off him even through the thick foliage. "There must be some way to get to her," he said at last, urgency in his every word. "We can go to her father, sell him something, meet her that way."
"Your father has all the wares and all the authority," the other man replied. "You have nothing to sell."
There was a thud and a yelp as a blow was thrown and landed. "You needn't remind me," said the first fellow. "If you're so smart, you think of something. What does a rich man need?"
I could tell him what my father needed. He needed to unload his unwanted older daughter. I opened my eyes and for a wild moment I contemplated pushing my way through the holly and taking out all my frustrations on these unfeeling young men.
The voice of Ellen Brewer cut through my nascent thoughts of violence and pulled me away from the holly thicket. Reluctantly, I dragged my feet the short distance to where Ellen stood by the ancient rowan tree in front of her parents' inn. The stout, solid place had been maintained with pride by her family since brave King Henry, fifth of that name, took his armies blazing through France and brought home a queen some seventy years ago. It had bedchambers for six guests but was mostly frequented by visitors to the common room below where her father served two kinds of ale and his famous hard cider. The inn — my steps grew decidedly less reluctant as I remembered the giant war horse and its handsome owner. Perhaps Ellen knew something of him if he was a guest.
"Good morrow, Ellen," I said, trying to make my voice as friendly as possible and shake off the lingering bitterness from overhearing the two men.
Ellen quirked a half smile that showed more of relief than real pleasure. "I thought surely you'd be caught spying on those two men," she said. "What were you thinking?"
I drew breath to snap back at Ellen in my own defense, then thought the better of it. In this town of some one hundred souls, Ellen was the only one whom I could count as a friend.
"I was strolling by myself. I can't help it if they choose to have a conversation out in the open where anyone can hear," I replied.
She swallowed a sound and I knew she wanted to scold me. But meek, timorous Ellen also had few friends in town and so we were always careful of what we said to each other. Any moment, the sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued matrons would spy us together and launch their word-arrows at our backs.
And they called me "shrew."
"What news, Ellen?" I asked, trying to deflect the stream of my thoughts.
"Have you heard about the visitors at our inn?"
"Visitors? More than one?"
Ellen gave a sly smile. "Indeed. Two wealthy gentlemen arrived last night and paid for a week's stay."
"Wealthy gentlemen?" If she was implying something about their eligibility, that was the kind of gossip that delighted Blanche, not me. Still, the man with the massive red horse. ... "Merchants come through our town all the time on their way to bigger and better places. Why do these men matter more than any of them?"
"The gentlemen are unmarried."
Ah. Unmarried, and staying for a week in our town. Suddenly the conspiracy behind the holly bushes began to make sense. One of these wealthy fellows wanted to court Blanche without his father's interference and didn't want to heed his friend's sensible advice.
I gave a little toss of my head. "Let everyone get in a dither about it, but the news can make no matter to me."
"I would not be so sure," she said, her tone dark.
"What can you mean?" I demanded.
She opened her mouth to speak but snapped it shut and shook her head. Instead, she grabbed hold of my arm and pushed me forward. "Kathryn!" she hissed urgently in my ear. I turned toward her, my eyes demanding an explanation. "Your father," she whispered.
From across the green, my father's gaze upon me rang like a blacksmith's hammer, sharp and fierce. He made a small movement with one hand, summoning me to his side. I stamped my foot in frustration. I had not had a chance yet to ask Ellen about the man with the red horse. "Later, Ellen, we must continue this conversation."
She nodded but was already slipping away. No one wanted to be between me and my father's anger.
I hurried to Father's side and dipped him a curtsy.
"Kathryn," he said, his teeth tight. "Please, join us."
The men exchanged a glance as dismal as their garb. Master Hover, a white-haired wisp, picked up the dropped thread of their conversation. "As I was saying, I thought the quality of strawberries Old Ballard brought to market last week was not up to his usual standard."
The others nodded gravely.
Excerpted from Finding Kate by Maryanne Fantalis, Amanda Roberts. Copyright © 2017 Maryanne Fantalis. Excerpted by permission of City Owl Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a great book! The first paragraph made me smile, and from then on I did not want to put the book down. I have never been a Shakespeare enthusiast. Yes, I've gone to Shakespeare plays and festivals. In school I had to read some Shakespeare plays, but I didn’t like them. Ms. Fantalis' writing of "Finding Kate", however, was totally enjoyable and understandable. As a self-proclaimed grammar critic, I found that this book had been proofed very well; thus, there were no distractions. Good luck, Maryanne, and I am looking forward to your next book.
Finding Kate is a new perspective on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, not set in contemporary times, but set instead well before the Bard’s period, during the War of the Roses. The choice is to our benefit, as Ms. Fantalis’s period detail shines. We drop into everyday village life to smell the smoke from the kitchen and stale beer at the tavern, feel the aches and pains of travel, and see the smugly superior grin on the priest’s face. Dialogue immerses us in court happenings and the struggle for the crown, and we come to understand a father’s business motivations as he marries off his daughters in the fifteenth century. Our heroine, Kate, is reviled in her village for her shrew-like tendencies, but not all is as it seems. Men come courting, though their attentions center on Kate’s fair sister, Blanche. One of the potential suitors, Sir William, sees through to the reasons that underlie Kate’s behavior, and takes her as his wife. Sir William remolds Kate as the lady of his house with methods—starvation, sparse quarters, filthy clothing, and sharp-tongued criticism—that, while misogynistic by today’s standards at best, begin to turn the light bulb on for Kate. Her triumph in leaving her “shrew” image behind as she becomes a loving wife and essential partner to Sir William is memorable. As the book ends, I wondered how the intelligent and newly-wise Kate would support Sir William as he chooses sides in the show-down between the House of Lancaster and the House of York?
I gotta say, I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard this was a retelling of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. (My biggest experience with the story is actually a ballet I loved to watch when I was a child by Bejart's company.) At any rate, Fantalis' take on the story was a fun twist. Seeing things from Katherine's POV was interesting. This would be a great read for a sunny afternoon.
Shakespeare Reimagined. This is a redo of The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare. I've never read or seen the play, though I've watched the musical Kiss Me Kate. Unlike the play, this story is set in C15th England in the reign of Richard III rather than Italy. From what I remember a lot of the dialogue in this book is in fact lifted from the play, including the cruelty after the marriage (or in the case of this book, after the betrothal). From other reviews I have seen, I think some readers would have preferred the author to deviate from Shakespeare's plot and find another way for Kathryn/Kate to reconcile with her lot and it does appear that Sir William "got her" and his treatment of her in his own home seems unnecessarily harsh but that is the way the story was originally written and this author has gone with it. I enjoyed it and felt it was well written I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review, and I was not required to write a positive review. The opinion expressed here is my own.