The previous two books by Christy English were set in the era of Eleanor of Aquitaine which explains why I got a Medieval vibe off of How to Tame a Willful Wife rather than a Regency one.
In the first chapter of the book, Andrew buys the hand of Caroline in marriage and pays off her father's debts. After noticing her skill at archery and her father's explanation that Caroline has been allowed to run a bit wild while he was at war, Andrew is naturally concerned about his bride's innocence. I completely understood his concerns and was on board when Andrew asked the Baron if he could speak with Caroline alone. When the Baron granted permission I'm sure he didn't intend that Andrew would lie in wait for Caroline in her bedroom and engage in predatory behavior. Quite frankly he was a complete and total asshat during that encounter and the way it was portrayed was very creepy and slightly stalkerish. I wasn't sure if the guy was hero or villain. Even though I do love a good battle of the sexes story, when I found out it was Andrew acting in that very predatory, alphahole manner I wasn't sure if I would like either the hero or the book. Unfortunately I did not like either one.
Anthony's dictatorship of their marriage really got on my nerves. I sort of get why he was like that as his sister was ruined by a peer. However, since Anthony conspired with the Prince Regent to cover up this incident, no one knew what had happened. Anthony doesn't explain his orders to Caroline, he just demands, and demands, and demands. It was no wonder that Caroline didn't follow his demands, which caused huge misunderstandings between Anthony and Caroline which were completely unnecessary but, there had to be conflict somewhere.
Caroline though, is no better. She was such a contradiction. When the story opens she is feisty and has spent all of her life doing “boy” things. She rides in breeches, she has been trained in combat, fencing and archery. She knows how to kill a man and throw a dagger with deadly accuracy. Caroline defies Anthony at every turn, yet as soon as Anthony touches her she has a complete personality shift and becomes docile and submissive, no longer the “willful wife in need of taming.” This aspect just drove me insane. What was the point of establishing that Caroline was a strong female lead if she has a split personality at a simple touch?
I expect certain things in the time periods I read. When I read a Medieval I expect the people and situations to be harsher as people were fighting for supremacy and the favor of the king. By the Regency era though, the aristocracy was well established and times were more civilized, so I don't expect to read a “conquer all” mentality in either the hero or heroine of a Regency era book.
How to Tame a Willful Wife read like it was based in the Medieval era rather than the Regency. Anthony read as more of a medieval conqueror taking what he wanted from Caroline without any thought for her, and he very easily could have been read as a villain, rather than the hero. Caroline also read as more of a medieval lady rather than a Regency lady. The dialogue felt old-fashioned, and was rather corny most of the time. Anthony and Caroline were unlikeable characters and I cannot recommend How to Tame a Willful Wife by Christy English as a Regency set romance.
Reviewed by: Valarie Pelissero