|Mathilda Leighton, the widowed Mrs. Charles Leighton, is a man-tamer. She’s employed (by women, of course) to train men so that they will make decent husbands. Lord Astor’s sister Adelaide has arranged for Tilly to stay with them for this purpose. He’s in need of taming because he frightens his prospective bride.
Tilly and Jaiden, Lord Astor, are together often as she embarks on her assignment. Jaiden has no interest in the intended bride. In fact, he’s never been interested in women except older women for a certain purpose. He is, however, interested in the unusual Mrs. Leighton. They advance quickly to first names.
Adelaide is in love with Sir Daniel Sheldon, Jaiden’s best friend. Sir Daniel is with Scotland Yard and is investigating the missing wives case. Jaiden was once a detective with Scotland Yard but now runs his own successful business, but he still enjoys discussing puzzling cases with Sir Daniel.
Tilly has a secret ... actually, more than one. She’s the green-eyed woman behind the missing wives. She helps abused wives escape their brutal husbands. (The same plot is the basis of Marry the Man Today by Linda Needham if this plot holds appeal.) But she’s made a mysterious enemy, and there have been attempts on her life.
Sometimes a book is so disappointing it’s hard to decide where to begin.
The Taming of Lord Astor is set in 1874. I mention that because nothing in the story itself would lead you to believe it’s set in the Victorian era. Not the heroine who’s a scatter-brained ninny. Not the hero, a former detective who’s made a career shift to wealthy, successful businessman and inventor. Not the disorganized plot that skitters from one subplot to another, head-hopping along the way. Not the multiple broken rules of social conduct or proper form of address for members of the peerage. Certainly not the dialogue that sounds modern both in diction and in topics of conversation.
In one scene, Tilly, Lord Astor, Sir Daniel (not Sir Sheldon), and Adelaide are in a carriage. Tilly blurts out, “I am not a lesbian.” Everyone is surprised but no one is shocked speechless. Furthermore, no one asks what she means. (The first use of “Lesbian” in a homosexual context was in a medical treatise in1890.)
Tilly makes a practice of blurting out inappropriate remarks. When Tilly and Lord Astor are barely acquainted, she asks, “Have you ever hit a woman?” His response so pleases her, she continues on the walk whistling and almost skipping. Lord Astor thinks she’s intriguing. The poor guy must be suffering from delusion.
If I hadn’t been reading The Taming of Lord Astor in order to review it, I would have abandoned it by page 25. It could be an object lesson in when good romance traditions go bad. The premise – that with proper training men can be made ready for marriage – is both absurd and insulting. The heroine and hero are completely mismatched. There’s no sexual – or any other – tension between them at all. They fall in love because the genre demands it, not because they’re right for each other. Rather than being lively and original, the heroine is appallingly empty-headed. The stereotypically handsome, accomplished, and wealthy hero has potential, but he’s wasted on her.
There is one amusing exchange between them. It’s not Victorian in feeling but then nothing else in this book is. In order to “tame” Lord Astor, Tilly is exposing him to civilizing influences such as art. They are touring an art gallery, discussing the various pictures. Tilly says...
“ You have realized I know nothing about what I’m saying – that I’m purely making this up as we go along, correct?”
“Within five seconds of stepping through the door,” he replied.
That’s as good as it gets.
Tilly ... rhymes with silly. And that’s just for starters.