Cassandra Pomfret holds strong opinions she isn’t shy about voicing. But her extremely plain speaking has caused an uproar, and her exasperated father, hoping a husband will rein her in, has ruled that her beloved sister can’t marry until Cassandra does.
Now, thanks to a certain wild-living nobleman, the last shreds of Cassandra’s reputation are about to disintegrate, taking her sister’s future and her family’s good name along with them.
The Duke of Ashmont’s looks make women swoon. His character flaws are beyond counting. He’s lost a perfectly good bride through his own carelessness. He nearly killed one of his two best friends. Still, troublemaker that he is, he knows that damaging a lady’s good name isn’t sporting.
The only way to right the wrong is to marry her…and hope she doesn’t smother him in his sleep on their wedding night.
This is a lovely retelling of The Taming of the Shrew that does not diminish either of the protagonists’ strengths as they fall in love with each other. Cassandra Pomfret is what one might consider a feminist activist, though she never uses those words to describe herself. She is not well liked for this reason. Ashmont, the duke in this story, is like many of Chase’s previous love interests–a man used to doing whatever he likes, but slowly realizing that isn’t the way to live his life. Both Cassandra and Ashmont have loving family and friends, which was great to see. My only quibble with this book, and it is tiny, is that the villains felt unequal to Cassandra and Ashmont.
Cassandra is from a politically active and wealthy family, but she is uninterested in being the power behind the throne as it were. She is vocal about her dislike for bills that would have a negative effect on the working class, which does not earn her the respect of her social circle. She is also interested in helping women learn how to protect themselves physically, at least. Cassandra lives in a time where it was hard for women to own their own property after marrying, let alone be openly involved in politics. However, Cassandra isn’t bothered by how much her social circle dislikes her on her own behalf, rather, this bothers her because it carries over to her family, particularly her younger sister who wants to marry. On that note, Cassandra is close with her sister and on good terms with her mother, but has a complicated relationship with her father. This plays out in the initial conflict that starts out the story. Last, but not least, Cassandra does not have any patience for Ashmont’s nonsense, for many reasons. The most obvious one is that Ashmont is a man used to money fixing his problems.
Ashmont is not a terrible person–he is not abusive or anything like that. He is a bit thoughtless. He and his friends are well-known in this world for playing pranks that have made them oddly fascinating to the peerage. When Cassandra and Ashmont first meet in this book, Ashmont has just experienced something humiliating and a bit traumatic, and he is desperately trying to forget about it. Over the course of the book, through his interactions with Cassandra, he becomes more thoughtful and self-aware. This was only believable because even while he was trying to forget the terrible thing he just experienced at the beginning of the book, we got to see him acknowledge, even if obliquely, that it was bad and he was partly responsible for it. If it weren’t for these glimpses, his transformation would have been less believable for me.
We also get to see Cassandra and Ashmont interact with their friends and family. Ashmont has a clever uncle who helps him navigate his feelings for Cassandra and how to keep those feelings from having a negative impact on Cassandra (this isn’t because he is being a stalker, but because the social circles they move in would be unkind to Cassandra.) He also has a kind of aunt/maternal figure, who plays a similar role for Cassandra. Cassandra has her younger sister, her best friend, and the other women in a club who share similar interests with Cassandra. It was interesting to watch the interactions between Cassandra and her family and friends soften her towards Ashmont, not in a creepy way, but in a gaining-a-new-perspective way. Ashmont goes through a similar process.
As I said earlier, my only quibble with this book was that I felt that the villains did not match up to Cassandra and Ashmont. We know who the villains are fairly early on in this book, but their motives seem slightly silly when compared to what Cassandra and Ashmont believe and learn. Which is silly, because if this year has taught me anything, it is that motives do not have to be world-changing for them to result in something awful.
If you enjoy a good historical romance loosely retelling Shakespeare, I recommend this book.