Heart of a Warrior

The Heir


A Loving Scoundrel

The Pursuit

The Devil Who Tamed Her
by Johanna Lindsey
(Pocket, $25.00, PG-13) ISBN 1-4165-3730-9
I took immediate offense at this title. “Tamed her?” It may have worked for Shakespeare and Cole Porter, but times have changed. Surely they aren’t still writing books where the hero thinks a heroine with a little spirit and personality needs “taming,” are they? Well, yes and no. Yes, that’s what the hero thinks, but actually he’s volunteering to be her therapist and help her relate better to other people. And the heroine needs rehabilitating more than taming.

Ophelia Reid (she should be termed Lady Ophelia because her father is an earl –incorrect titles abound in this book) was the wicked other woman in the author’s earlier book, The Heir. In order to turn her from despicable to delectable, some major adjustments have to be made. How better to do that than through a little Regency Freudian psychotherapy? It’s not Ophelia’s fault she’s such a vicious witch ... it’s Daddy’s!

When the story begins, Ophelia and her maid are leaving the home of Duncan MacTavish after their wedding has been called off for the second time. Her father had arranged the marriage; he is determined that his surpassingly beautiful daughter marry up. (Since he’s an earl, this narrows the field drastically.) Only eighteen, Ophelia never had a say in the engagement.

Ophelia is now determined to return to London and find a husband she wants. Ophelia knows that she is vastly more beautiful than any other debutante. This is a horrible burden because men are forever throwing themselves at her feet, proposing marriage without even getting to know her, etc. etc. All the other women are horribly jealous and resent her.

Duncan thinks Ophelia is the most spiteful shrew imaginable and beyond redemption. His best friend, Raphael Locke, Viscount Lynnfield, heir to a dukedom (now that’s marrying up!), disagrees. Duncan and Raphael place bets on whether Ophelia is capable of changing. Raphael, poor dear, is so handsome and such a prime catch on the marriage mart that he’s been forced to flee the country to escape all the matchmaking mamas and their daughters. (Do you detect a pattern here?)

Without her knowledge, Raphael takes over as Ophelia’s coachman. Rather than heading toward London, he secretly takes them north to his grandfather’s large hunting lodge. On the way, they stop at his aunt Esmerelda’s house. Ophelia is still unaware of Raphael’s true purpose. He recruits his aunt to accompany them so that they will have a proper chaperone. He has even sent a note to Ophelia’s father informing him that she will be a guest of his family.

When they arrive at the isolated retreat, Raphael informs Ophelia that he is going to help her get a better disposition. Ophelia resists, but so far from any other dwelling as they are, she is stuck. Gradually, Raphael helps her understand why she distrusts people the way she does. It seems that her father was so overwhelmed that he had sired such an extraordinarily beautiful child he took over her entire life and controlled her every contact. When Ophelia realized that she was only a pawn in her father’s ambitions, she became resentful and.... Oh, never mind. It’s just all too silly to continue.

So Ophelia and Raphael are snowbound in this northern spot with only his half-deaf aunt and a few servants around. You can use your imagination to figure out what’s bound to happen.

Successful romance fiction is based on a credible relationship between two admirable and likeable characters. From that perspective, The Devil Who Tamed Her is not a real romance. Raphael has got to be one of the most conceited and annoying title characters to land in print in a long time. Ophelia is just slightly less irritating. She’s not without some intelligence and wit and actually lands a few zingers.

She was doing it again. Did she not even realize it? Was being snide and spiteful so ingrained in her that it was the only way she knew how to be?

She guessed what he was thinking, accurately. “Oh come now, you don’t expect me to be cordial to you, do you? I haven’t even begun to insult you. Give me time, I’m working up to it.”

A few remarks, however, no matter how clever, cannot redeem the book’s myriad of faults –annoying characters, ridiculous plot, and technical errors. If this theme intrigues you, you’re much better off watching the videos of The Taming of the Shrew with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor or Kiss Me, Kate with Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson. There’s little for readers in The Devil Who Tamed Her.

--Lesley Dunlap

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