How accurate do you want your historical romances? That’s a question that I grapple with every once in a while as I’m reading. When a story is too overly modern—with Medieval heroines spouting feminist beliefs from the latter half of the twentieth century—and getting away with these diatribes in a time when women were publicly humiliated at best and stoned or drown at worst for such beliefs, I’m pulled right out of the story.
On the other hand, do I really want to read a novel in which the hero punishes the heroine according to dictates of the time? In a romance particularly, do I want to read about women put in the stocks, locked in dungeons, or whipped because they demand to be treated equally? Do I really believe it when I’m told later that they’ve fallen in love with the men who tormented them?
Having never been a fan of Taming of the Shrew, my answer is no. Because of this, I had trouble with Defiant which somewhat parallels the love story of Kate and Petruchio.
Lady Gwyneth of Windrose Castle is beautiful, spoiled, and arrogant. She’s spurned countless suitors, but is finally being given no choice but to marry by her sister’s husband who has control of the castle while their father is banished.
Rather than succumb, Gwyneth goes to her sister in crime, a peasant whom she saved from rape by killing the attacker. Through the years, the two women have become close, even though her friend works in a brothel where only one man named Jared hasn’t gotten an erection while she bathed him. The friend suggests that they kidnap Jared and force the priest to marry him to Gwyneth. Then she can take possession of the castle her mother left her, lead Jared around by the nose, and won’t be bothered with suitors again.
Jared St. John has just escaped from prison where he was unjustly accused of killing his brother. Although he cherishes a lock of Gwyneth’s hair that he obtained years before when he saw her at a feast, he really doesn’t want to get married, instead intent on finding his brother’s true killer.
With her prostitute friend’s help, Gwyneth marries Jared after they drug him. Horrified when he rapes her after the ceremony, she wants the marriage annulled, but her family and Jared are adamant that she’s truly married and can’t break the bond.
After a lot of physical punishment at her hands, Jared, a falconer, decides that what Gwyneth needs is to be tamed just as he subdued and tamed his bird, and he spares her no indignities to do so. Time and again, Jared thinks he has the upper hand only to find Gwyneth has tricked him and run off to be with her friend. Slowly, however, through his gentleness—in between using Medieval restraints on her—they fall in love.
To like this book, one needs to like Gwyneth, and I didn’t. She was like bigots who, despite every bit of evidence to the contrary, still hold their beliefs. No matter how kind Jared was to her, Gwyneth used her duplicity to run from him. She was one of those women I’d like to slap upside the head and yell, “Look around you, woman! Why do you constantly provoke this nice man?” But Jared was equally problematic. He loved her hair, her body, her plucky spirit, and not much more. She was an ingrate and he kept coming back for more.
Trapp tries to convince readers of this couple’s love in the last 30 pages or so. But by that time I’d had enough of the two. As I said before, some heroes and heroines just flat out deserve each other.