Guest post by historical romance author Michelle Willingham.
Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is a classic play that pits a charming man against a strong-willed woman. Laurin Wittig's medieval romance, Charming the Shrew, is an entertaining, compelling version of this tale, set in the Scottish Highlands.
Tayg Munro is renowned as a war hero and a man wanted by every unmarried maiden within a hundred miles. After he returns home from the battlefield, Tayg feels the shadow of his elder brother's death. He tries to follow in his brother's footsteps, struggling in his role as the clan's future chief. But inwardly, he wants a very different life—one where no one tries to glorify his days of war.
During a visit to the MacDonell Clan, Tayg disguises himself as a bard in order to learn whether they are truly faithful to King Robert the Bruce. He is suspicious of the MacDonells, particularly when their chief, Duff "Dogface" MacDonell demands that Tayg deliver a mysterious message to his betrothed wife in Assynt.
Known as the Shrew of Assynt, Catriona MacLeod is facing an unwanted marriage to Dogface MacDonell. Burdened with four brothers who torment her and one who is too quiet to stand up for himself, she defends herself in the best way she knows how—lashing out with words. But words will do nothing to help her escape the marriage, and Catriona takes matters into her own hands, running away. Her bad sense of direction takes her the wrong way and she's caught in a snow storm, only to be rescued by a handsome bard.
Tayg hides his true identity from her and is startled to learn that the sharp-tongued Shrew of Assynt is a stunningly beautiful woman with ebony hair and deep blue eyes. When he gives her the parchment from Dogface MacDonell, Tayg discovers hidden within the message, a secret plot to kill the king. With no choice but to warn Robert the Bruce, he journeys with Catriona in an effort to stop the king's enemies.
Along the way, Tayg is deeply attracted to Catriona. Beneath her sharp tongue lies a softer woman, a woman he desires more with each day that passes. Cat, in turn, is unsure of how to manage this man who somehow understands that her shrewish temper is a means of hiding her fear.
Pursued by her brothers and Dogface MacDonell, Catriona must decide whether to lower her defenses and learn to trust a bard who cannot sing but whose kisses break down the walls of her heart. The closer they become, the more she wonders if Tayg is not all that he seems. Their journey toward the king becomes another journey for her—a journey of finding her own self-worth and understanding that not everyone is a threat. As she learns to curb her sharp words, she begins to make friends among strangers.
Tayg, in turn, is falling hard for this woman who has never known the love and security of a true family. With her, he can be himself, and he's no longer trying to mimic what his brother might have done. Instead, he relies upon his own decisions to protect others. As Cat begins to return his feelings, he's worried that once his lies are revealed, she will once again feel betrayed by someone she loves.
During the second half of the book, the story becomes impossible to put down, taking the reader on a journey where characters transform, digging deep to find the courage to become who they really are. Wittig's writing is solid and the ending is absolutely magical. It's a historical romance that will leave a smile on any reader's face.