To Tame a Wild Lady
I had high hopes for To Tame a Wild Lady, especially considering that the first of the series, To Lure a Proper Lady, was one of my favourite books of 2016. That book’s charm was found in its unexpectedly droll but deserving hero finding love with a similarly intelligent woman. In this, the second of Ms. Macnamara’s Duke-Defying Daughters books, it feels as though all of the humor allotted for the series was spent in the previous instalment and what remains is just a similar conflict of family duty verses personal desires.
Caroline Wilde may be a lady but her behavior more often than not would label her a hoyden. Caro’s interests don’t go much further than her father’s stable yard and in persuading a famous sportsman to allow her to join his next great hunt. Fortunately for Caro her father’s hypochondria has kept him bedridden for years and far removed from the actual running of the estate or in pushing her into an unwanted society marriage. The recent exposure of their estate manager’s embezzling of the family wealth doesn’t affect Caro much as long as she can keep her prized mare Boudicca and the open fields on the land for her personal use. That all changes when her brother-in-law hires Adrian Crosby as the new estate manager.
Adrian’s ideas on how to replenish the Duke’s coffers include using the fallow land for farming and perhaps expanding the stable with a breeding program using Boudicca. Almost immediately, Adrian and Caro come into conflict as her horse’s health and the fields are necessary for her own plans to hold a hunt at the Sherrington estate big enough to impress the sportsmen she’s invited so they’ll welcome her into their fold. About the only thing they can both agree on is the importance of the Sherrington estate in their future, with Adrian hoping his improvements to the land will prove to everyone that a baseborn man can be respected.
When Caro’s older sister and her husband leave the estate for personal reasons, it falls to her to oversee Adrian as well as look after her nephew. Things seem to be going well until she receives a letter from an old adversary threatening to ruin her chances with the other sportsmen if she doesn’t honor a fraudulent bill of sale for her horse or provide him compensation in the form of a foal. Caro’s only chance to protect her horse is to confide in Adrian about the danger; however the more she depends on him to protect the lands and her property the deeper she falls for his honorable nature as well as his handsomeness.
Unfortunately, To Tame a Wild Lady suffers because of the selfishness of its heroine. Caro is primarily driven by her own need to ignore her station so she can pursue her dream of being accepted as a horsewoman who can stand toe-to-toe with the gentlemen. She is completely disassociated from the reality that she would never have been accepted into their group because of her gender, so she makes self-serving plans rather than working in concert with her family and the man they’ve hired. Caro is also quite taken by Adrian’s physical appearance and puts herself in his path to ogle his rugged muscles and chiseled face. The simple fact that Caro herself recognizes that she’s motivated by lust should have been an indicator that perhaps she should get to know Adrian a little more before throwing herself at him.
Adrian tries to be a good boy for about a half a second before he too is falling in lust with Caro and jeopardizing his position at her father’s estate by letting himself be seduced. They go through the motions of resisting but every part of their relationship is forecasted clearly for the reader. Petty squabbles to hide their attraction? Check! Alone at remote location due to a storm? Check! Ruination not being that big a deal for Caro? Big Check! There is a severe lack of true passion in their relationship despite all their deep feelings for each other. Caro is more passionate about her horse’s wellbeing than she is about how her actions could hurt Adrian’s place in the household or how they could affect the other members of her family.
As a follow-up to an excellent book, To Tame a Wild Lady falls short. I’m left at a crossroads as far as the series goes, as I have a mild interest in the final Wilde daughter finding a true match but I’m worried it could be another paint-by-numbers romance. Hopefully this is only a sophomore slump and Ms. Macnamara will be back to form to tell Pippa’s story.