"A sensual historical romance with a feisty heroine and deliciously determined hero."—Night Owl Reviews
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?
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 tempted 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 handsome.
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Montague Estates, Yorkshire
Everything depended on this one shot.
Caroline Montague pulled back on her bow, the bite of the string sharp against her fingers. She closed one eye, sighted down the slender shaft of myrtle, and let her arrow fly.
There was a moment of stunned silence, followed by polite applause led by the man beside her. She had scored a perfect hit in the center of the target, besting every man present. Her parents would be furious.
"A lucky shot, though impressive, Miss Montague," remarked Victor Winthrop, Viscount Carlyle. Since she was not an official competitor, he had still won the day, but Caroline was pleased to wipe the smug look off his face.
"Luck had nothing to do with it, my lord." She curtsied to the company gathered on her father's lawn and tried to smile demurely-a feat more challenging than any archery contest.
These men were here with one purpose: to win her hand in marriage. She was on sale to the highest bidder to cover her father's mounting debts. But damn them all if they thought she would be an easy prize.
Caroline handed her bow to a nearby footman and took up the trophy Carlyle had won, a golden bowl inscribed with the image of Venus rising from the waves, an object of art her father had liberated during the Italian campaign against Napoleon.
"Forgive my impudence, gentlemen. I can never resist a target when it presents itself." The men around her chuckled.
"To the man of the hour, Lord Carlyle. May his arrow always fly swift and far, and may his aim improve," Caroline said.
She grinned, meeting the earl's blue eyes as she handed him the golden bowl. His gaze shifted from the curve of her breasts to her face, and he gave her a rueful smile. All the men had spent that morning eyeing her curves. Carlyle was the first man to stare so openly, and to laugh at himself afterward. She laughed with him, not knowing that the eyes of her husband-to-be lingered on her even then, and on the man who stood beside her.
Anthony Carrington, the Earl of Ravensbrook, his face as forbidding as stone, stared at the man who would become his father-in-law. Only his great respect for Baron Montague on the field of battle kept him in the room at all. "I have never seen such blatant disregard for a woman's place in the world. To take up arms among men, to best a suitor with a bow, even a man like Carlyle, is unseemly."
Even his own mistress, Angelique, an experienced woman of the world, would never be so brazen.
"Ravensbrook, consider," Lord Montague said. "My daughter is very young."
"All the more reason she should smile and obey, not humiliate the men around her."
Lord Montague sighed. "I am the first to admit she is spoiled. And headstrong. After my last son died, she has been the light of my life."
Anthony heard the sorrow in his old friend's voice and left the rest of his protest unspoken. He fingered the marriage contract that lay on the mahogany table in front of him. He had ridden for four days straight with a special license from London, so the banns would not have to be read. He could marry Caroline within the week and return to Shropshire to beget an heir, and his old friend's debts would be paid with honor. Every detail of his marriage to Montague's daughter was in order. Everything but the girl.
"Her mother warned me of this, time and time again, but I did not listen," Montague said. "I have been so long on the Continent that Caroline has grown up beyond my reach, without a father's hand to guide her. You must teach her, my lord. I have seen you take a battlefield in less than an hour. Surely you can tame one woman in less than a fortnight."
Anthony did not soften. His sister had paid the price of a family's indulgence and would continue to pay it for the rest of her life.
"She must be pure," Anthony said. "I cannot present a woman to society as my wife without a guarantee of virtue, both in the past and in the future."
Frederick Montague rose slowly to his feet. "I have been your friend as well as your commander. I love you, Anthony, as if you were my own son. But if such words pass your lips again, I will not be able to answer for myself."
Anthony swallowed his ire and tried not to dwell on the mistakes his sister, Anne, had made. Frederick's daughter had to be more sensible than his sister had been. He was allowing his fears and his pain from the past to color his view of the present. And now, in his fear, he had begun to insult his host and his friend. Frederick needed a way out of the mire of his finances. He needed to see his daughter married and settled before the year was out. Anthony would do a great deal more than marry a beautiful, penniless girl to help the man who had twice saved his life.
"Forgive me, Frederick, if I spoke harshly. But she has too much freedom, and you have been away for so many years. How can you be sure?"
"She would never betray me by tossing aside her virtue under a country haystack. Caroline has known her duty all of her life. She has always known that her marriage would be arranged as soon as I came home from the war. The war is over, and I am here. It is time."
Anthony bowed once. His friend was an honorable man, but like all honorable men, he could not conceive of dishonor in those he loved. If Anne could fall victim to a seducer's lures, then any woman could.
"Of course, any daughter of yours would be virtuous, Frederick. I never should have said otherwise. But I would speak with her alone."
Montague met Anthony's eyes, and for a moment, it was as if the baron could read his thoughts. Anthony wondered if even the protection of the Prince Regent had not been enough to squelch all rumors. Perhaps his sister's seduction was common knowledge, in spite of all that had been sacrificed to conceal it. Anthony stared into the face of his friend but could see no evidence of pity or contempt. Frederick knew nothing of Anne, then. Anthony wished he could be certain of it.
"You may speak with Caroline," Frederick said. "If you find that she is not virtuous, you may cast the marriage contract into the fire."
Caroline strode into her sitting room, slamming the door behind her. The sound gave her a small measure of satisfaction. The long evening, with its endless dinner and its games of charades felt interminable. Her suitors had not come alone but had brought their sisters and mothers with them. All London women wanted to talk about was fashion and one another. She hoped her father chose a match for her soon so she could get a moment's peace.
After years of living in a society of fewer than twenty families, the influx of London nobility into her world was more exhausting than she would have believed possible. Southerners, with their superior ways and nasal accents, grated on her nerves. How could they talk so much without really saying anything? And yet she was honor bound to marry one of them. Why her father could not find her a decent man from Yorkshire, she could not imagine.
She stopped fuming then, for in the shadows of her bedroom, she found a man sitting in her favorite armchair.
"Good evening, Caroline."
She opened her mouth to scream, but reminded herself she was not a fool, nor was she a swooning female like those in the novels she read. She closed her mouth again, the voice of her mother rising from her memory, telling her that open mouths catch only flies.
"Who are you?" she asked, working to keep her voice even and calm.
"A friend of your father's."
"I've never met you before. If you were Papa's friend, he would have presented you along with the rest of my suitors."
The man laughed, his chestnut eyes running over her body. His black hair brushed his collar and was tossed back from his face to reveal a strong jaw. Dressed in a linen shirt and dark trousers, he had cast off his coat, and it lay beside him on the arm of the chair. His green-and-gold waistcoat gleamed in the candlelight, his cravat loosely tied.
His large body was too big for her delicate Louis XVI furniture, but he sat with one ankle casually crossed over the other knee, as comfortable as he might have been in his own drawing room.
"I am your friend, too, Caroline."
"You are no friend of mine."
He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. She thought it foolish to call a man beautiful, but she could not deny it. And clearly, he agreed with her.
In spite of his arrogance, this man was worth ten of every fool she had spoken to that day. There was no doubt in her mind that if he had entered the archery contest that morning, she would not have beaten him.
There was a latent power in his gaze, in the stillness of his posture that made her think of a lion set to devour her. Instead of frightening her, the thought gave her a moment's pleasure. She had never before met a man who seemed to be as strong-willed as she was. She wondered for the first time in her life if this dark-eyed man might be her equal.
She dismissed that thought as folly. No matter how beautiful, whether he was her equal or not, a man alone in her room could be there for no good reason. The heat in his eyes warmed her skin, but she forced herself to ignore that, too. She would be ruined if anyone even suspected she had spoken with a man alone in her room. He might be there to kidnap her for the ransom her father would pay...or worse.
As if to echo her thoughts, the stranger spoke. His words were like cold water on her skin, waking her from the madness of her attraction for him.
"I've come to claim you, Caroline."
She did not look at him again but reached into her reticule. No man would claim her. She would be damned if her father's work, and her own, would come to nothing. Not this man, or any other, would touch her that night.
She took a deep, calming breath. Her father's men had trained her for just such a moment, when she would be alone and threatened. Now that the moment had come, she was ready.
"You'll ‘claim' me only when you pull the last weapon from my cold, dead hand."
She drew her knife from her reticule and threw it at him.
Her aim was ill-timed, for the man moved with sudden grace and speed, slipping like an eel out of the way of her missile. Her dagger was sharp, and its tip embedded deep in the cushion of her favorite chair. Caroline swore and turned to flee.
She did not get far, for he caught her arm before she reached the door. She moved to strike him, but he dodged her blow with ease. He caught her wrist in one hand, wrapping his other arm around her waist. "Settle, Caroline, settle. I mean you no harm."
"Then let me go."
"I will release you if you promise to stay and speak with me."
His scent surrounded her, spicy and sweet together. She took in the smell of leather, the scent that made her think of freedom, and of her stallion, Hercules. The stranger held her but not too close, his hands gentle now that she had stopped trying to kill him.
"I have nothing to say to you," she said.
"I have something to say to you. Give me just five minutes, and then I will go."
She nodded once. He released her, stepping away carefully as if she were a wild mare he hoped to tame. She stood suspended in the center of his gaze, his unswerving regard surrounding her like a soft trap. There was something in the way he moved, in the heat of his hand on her arm that was distracting.
She forced herself to forget his touch and the sweet scent of him. She kept a careful distance between them, moving with unstudied grace to light the lamp on the table by the door. As her match caught, the lamp cast a buttery light, bringing the room out of shadow. She infused her voice with a confidence she did not feel.
"Speak your piece, then go."
"You are used to giving orders, it seems, Miss Montague. You will find I am not accustomed to taking them."
She drew her breath up from the depths of her stomach and used all the power her father had taught her, giving added strength to her voice. This man claimed he wanted to talk, though he did nothing but plague her. Caroline stared him down, as she had been taught to stare down unruly servants until they bent to her will.
"Give me your name or get out."
The man laughed. He stepped back toward her favorite chair, drawing her blade from the cushion, leaving a few downy feathers to trail the air in its wake. Those bits of down settled on the carpet, and Caroline cursed again. Her mother was always telling her not to throw daggers in the house, that they ruined the furniture.
"My name is for my friends," he said.
His fingers caressed the edge of the blade as he contemplated her, a half smile on his face. Her eyes narrowed. She could not begin to guess why he was so familiar with her. She had met many men that day, but he was not one of them. She would have remembered him.
She kept her voice even, in spite of her rising temper, in spite of her nerves. She did not move to the bellpull to ring for assistance. She could not allow word of his presence in her room to get out to the guests at large. Her reputation would be lost, along with her father's plans to pay his debts from the profit of her marriage.
"My friendship must be earned," she said.
"And yet, I seem to have your enmity, though I have not earned it."
"You're here, aren't you? After I have asked you repeatedly to go? I say again, leave this room, or next time my blade will not miss you."
Caroline kept her eyes on the man who stood holding the weapon he had claimed. His dark gaze drifted from her face to her breasts nestled against the soft silk of her gown. Her breath quickened. She had been ogled a great deal in the past twenty-four hours, but her body responded as if it knew him already.
"I would not attack again, if I were you," he said. His eyes moved over her breasts where they swelled above the high waist of her gown, and over her hips where they curved beneath her skirts, returning once more to her face. "Whatever you choose to do, I am going nowhere yet."
There was a promise in the way he looked at her. Though he was half a room away, she fancied she could feel the heat rising off his body through the thin silk of her gown. Unable to look away from him, like a snake with its charmer, Caroline wondered what it would cost her to stand in that man's heat even for a moment.
"If you will not go, then I will."
"And leave me in possession of the field? I am surprised to find you such a coward."
The fury in her belly rose like a flash fire, lodging itself in her throat so she choked on it. Her anxiety was burned away as she sputtered with ire.
"I would never be afraid of the likes of you."
"No?" He raised her knife to the light before laying it down gently on the mahogany table. "You seemed quite frightened when you first saw me, frightened enough to cast this dagger." He sat in her favorite chair once more and smiled at her. "It seems you missed. Perhaps you need more practice."
"It is dark in here," she said, the excuse paltry in her own ears.
He laughed. "Myself, I prefer a more biddable woman who does not carry knives."
"Then by all means, you have my permission to go to her."
"You will find, Miss Montague, that I do not need your permission for anything."
He did not move to leave but stared at her, taking in the contours of her face as if he were trying to read her soul. She forced her body to relax as she always did before a fight. She thought of the second knife hidden beneath the mahogany table beside him. If she could not get her dagger back, she could always take up the second knife and kill him with it.
The thought was not as comforting as it would have been five minutes before. He watched her, still smiling, as if he knew all her secrets, as if he wished to teach her one or two more.
She shook off the stupor she had fallen into. She dismissed the thought of the hidden knife and turned her mind to escape. Whether or not she lost her reputation, whether or not he thought her a coward, she had to get out of that room.
The man rose to his feet and closed the distance between them so swiftly she did not see him move. She felt only the warm pressure of his hand as he drew her against him. His body was hot on hers where his chest pressed into the softness of her breasts. He breathed in her scent, as if she were a loaf of newly baked bread or some morsel he meant to devour in one bite. He did not keep her standing but sank down once more in her favorite chair, bringing her onto his lap in one smooth motion.
After a day of men ogling her, all eager to paw her if they could, Caroline had had enough. She struggled to free herself from his grip and managed to get at the knife on the table. Her father's training came back to her without thought, without fear. She drew the blade up to his throat but found she could not drive it home. "I could run you through right now, sir. But first, tell me who you are."
"I am impressed, Caroline. You have defended your honor well. But you do not need to defend yourself against me."
"Who are you?" she asked.
"I am Anthony Carrington, the Earl of Ravensbrook. The man you are going marry," he said.
Caroline barely registered the stranger pushing her arm away from his throat as he claimed her dagger. She blinked at the shock of the news that she was betrothed to this man, and then wondered if he might be lying.
Caroline found herself distracted once more by his touch. He kept one of her arms pinned between his weight and the arm of the chair. He held her other wrist so she could not move against him again. His free arm wrapped around her waist, drawing her close, keeping her safe from falling. They sat together, her skirts foaming around them as she perched on his lap. His thighs were hard beneath her, unyielding. His chest was warm against her breasts.
Their breaths mingled as they looked at each other, his dark eyes holding her prisoner just as his hands did. Caroline forgot about decorum, reveling in the scent of him and in the new-discovered flame he stoked deep in her belly, one that burned even as she touched him. She was still pressed against him, her breath coming short, her mind lost to all but what she felt, when his hand touched her breast.
She leaped like a scalded cat, moving so quickly he lost his grip on her. Freed from his embrace, Caroline was on her feet in an instant. She raised her hand to him, intent on causing him what harm she could.
The man stood and caught her wrist before she struck his face. Her aim was true, and he had to move fast to stop her. They were both breathing hard, as if they had been engaged in mortal combat. They faced each other like enemies, measuring each other with their eyes.
"Never touch me again. Get out of my room," she said. "Get out of my father's house."
His chestnut eyes lost their intensity. The fire in them was banked slowly as he breathed. She watched the effort he made and what it cost him to let her go. She snatched her hand away, rubbing her wrist where his grip had bruised her.
"I had to know if you'd ever been touched before, Caroline."
"I was not, until you sullied me. Now get out."
He straightened, donning his coat with the air of a man pleased with himself and with what he had discovered in her room. Caroline felt the overwhelming need to curse him, but she swallowed the words. She would not give him the satisfaction.
"Good evening, Miss Montague. Until tomorrow."
"If I never see you again, it will be too soon."
Anthony smiled, his dark eyes gleaming as he walked away. "I think you'll change your mind."
"You are wrong, my lord."
"I am never wrong."
Her fingers closed on the dagger he had left on her mahogany table. She threw the knife without thinking, embedding it in the frame of the servants' door, just inches from his head. She heard his mocking laughter as he closed the door behind him.
What People are Saying About This
If you like Shakespeare updated to the future, but still in the past. How to Tame a Willful Wife by Christy English is the book for you." - Linda Banche and Her Historical Hilarity
"If you're a fan of Tessa Dare or Elizabeth Hoyt-historical romances featuring strong, outside-the-norm heroines-then you will enjoy How to Tame a Willful Wife. " - CC2K
"What made this book stand out, was the beautiful character development that Ms. English wove into the building romance. " - Rakes Rogues and Romance
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
HOW TO TAME A WILLFUL WIFE by Christie English is an exciting Regency Historical romance set in 1816 England. It is re-telling of Shakespeare's "Taming of The Shrew" and what a re-telling. A battle of wits between Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook,an older friend of Caroline's military father and Caroline Montague,promised in marriage by her impoverished father to his friend. Caroline is most definitely not your everyday gentle bred lady,why she wears breeches,rides a wild stallion,shoots arrows, practices with swords and throws daggers. Anthony is determined to tame is wife,but when passion,lust and love intervenes what follows is anything but taming. Is Anthony taming his feisty wife and would he have her another way? Or is Caroline taming her domineering,autocratic husband? A witty,emotional,with a bit of danger,a secret or two,and lots of passion you will not go wrong with "How To Tame A Willful Wife". A must read anyone who enjoys historical,romance, Shakespeare,Regency,and passionate couples. Received for an honest review from the publisher and Net Galley. Details can be found at the author's website,Sourcebooks Casablanca and My Book Addiction and More. RATING: 4.5 HEAT RATING: MILD REVIEWED BY: AprilR, My Book Addiction and More/My Book Addiction Reviews
Nice flow to the story
The heroine was a strong character but her counterpart was difficult to stomach. Not worth the read
This book had potential but Anthony was unlikable and Carolina did things just to do them..... seemed like lazy writing. Angeliques story was better.
A little to long good plot
Well written. It was a good story.
don't waste your time.
It was an ok book. A bit lacking as far as plot goes and a bit unorganized. All of the "love making" bits were redundant and lacked creativity and diversity. It feels like the book was written on a high school level. BUT it was a decent quick read.
I am military spouse! I read to get away from reality......I get that enough in real life! This author made me forget I had 103.5 fever, 4 children, a cranky husband and 2 hyperactive fur balls. Anyone who can take me away from my house forget the rest of the world has my devotion! The book was fantastic BUY IT
I like Charoline but not Anthony all that much. He did not redeem himself enough to deserve her. She had to make all the compromises. There were so many places this story could have gone. It seems the author was in a hurry for a happy ending. The only conflict in this story was Anthonys ego. This author is worth reading. I just hope she takes more time with her next story. Too many hints and not enough follow through.
I simply do not like the hero at all. He is a bully and he thinks that he can treat his wife any way he wants and his excuse is that she needs taming since she doesnt take his high handedness. I like strong heroins but in this book it seems if she doesnt fight back she has to deal with a husband who will push and pull and discard her. I dont like books that bring the heros past relationships in full force against the wife specially when the hero wants to have both his mistress and wife together. This is not a sweet romance. It is full of tension and I will not read it the second time. When there is Paula or Julia Quinn or Lisa Kleypas who give love stories a new meaning or even Grace Burrows with her sweet heros I have no patient for bullies.
I trully loved this book. The characters were great, well rounded and the book held my interest. I like a woman who refuses to be totally submissive to a man. Without spoiling the story, I'll just say it was well worth the money.