Summer Kittens by Janice Bennett, Valerie King & Martha Kirkland
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6230-3
Is there a deep-seated conviction among the Zebra editors that all romance readers or at least all Regency romance readers are cat lovers? I ask this question because of the regular appearance of anthologies which have kittens as their unifying theme. Winter kittens, Christmas kittens and now Summer Kittens. I have nothing against cats, mind you. Indeed, I have two of my own. But I sometimes feel that the kitten theme has gotten just a bit cutesy.

As is the case with most anthologies, the stories in Summer Kittens are uneven. To begin with the best, Martha Kirkland offers a story of mistaken identity, or should I say, identification. Miss Margaret Denby is on her way home from visiting her clergyman brother when she is stranded at an inn. She has no maid with her since she expected to exchange the protection of her brother's groom for that of her brother Neville. Her maidless state leads two gentleman likewise stranded to conclude that she is a lady of easy virtue.

When another guest at the inn accuses Margaret of stealing one of her valuable Russian blue kittens, Mr. Jonathan Holm comes to her rescue. He buys the kitten in question for the astronomical sum of 25 and presents him to Miss Denby. Her acceptance of the gift furthers Jonathan's conviction that Margaret is not a respectable young lady.

Thrown together by the bad weather, the two strike up a friendship based on mutual tastes. Margaret does not realize that Jonathan has wrongly identified her status. It takes the help of said kitten to save the day.

Valerie King's story, "Trial by Kittens," has an interesting premise. Anne Tandridge had promised to marry her sweetheart Richard Kingsley before he went off to India to seek his fortune. However, in the three years since his departure, she received a meager two letters from her beloved. A feeling of betrayal and dire economic circumstances lead her to accept the respectable Sir Arthur Ide's proposal of marriage. Then, three days before the wedding, Richard returns.

How can Anne decide which suitor should have her heart and hand, especially after discovering her aunt's perfidy in keeping Richard's letters from her and failing to send her own letters to her betrothed?

Two orphaned kittens play a role in Anne's schemes to discern which man she should marry.

My least favorite story, "A Shocking Faux Paw," was the most cat-ful. The youthful widow Emma, Lady Stanyon, has a real affinity for cats. Indeed, she can feel their thoughts. When a terrified message comes to her, she looks across the busy Brighton street to see a tiny kitten about to be crushed under a carriage. Heedless of the danger, she rushes to the rescue, creating havoc and almost causing Viscount Breydon to lose control of his team.

During her abbreviated season years earlier, she had developed a secret tendre for the handsome viscount. Now, he seems interested in her as well. But can he accept her uncanny ability to commune with cats or the fact that she is always surrounded by felines? And what about the fact that her devotion to her little friends often leads her to outre behavior? The kitten who brought them together helps keep them together.

Each of the three stories in Summer Kittens has a nice Regency flavor. All have nice heroes, nice heroines and cute kittens. So if you are a devoted cat lover, these pleasant stories should prove entertaining.

--Jean Mason

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