Enchanting Kittens
by Cindy Holbrook, Nancy Lawrence & Haley Solomon
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-6356-7
**
Zebra clearly loves kittens! We’ve had Christmas kittens and winter kittens and spring kittens and autumn kittens. As a cat lover myself, I’ve enjoyed a number of these charming anthologies. But sad to say, this latest compilation of stories featuring kittens didn’t work for me. Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that in two of the stories, the kittens weren’t kittens at all and in the third, the kitten really didn't have much to do with the plot. Let me explain.

In “A Fairy Tale” by Cindy Holbrook, the hero is turned into a kitten. In “A Bewitching Minx,” the “kitten” is really the spirit of a former tenant who doesn’t want any single women living in her house. In “The Black Cat,” the kitten is transferred from the heroine to the hero, but otherwise doesn’t play much of a role in the story.

Cindy Holbrook’s story is the most rooted in fantasy. Blake Farewell, Duke of Trenton is a warlock from a long line of warlocks. One morning his father Creighton (also a warlock; one wonders if he is also a duke) has a vision in his crystal. Legend has it that should the heir of the Farewells fail to marry the woman with a snowflake on her shoulder before All Hallow’s Eve, the entire Farewell clan will become slaves to the fairies. Creighton has seen said woman in his crystal and sends Blake off to the town of Chancellorville to woo and win her.

But the nasty fairy Trillon intervenes. She turns Blake into a kitten before he can meet Alwayna, an apprentice witch. Of course, Alwayna adopts the kitten as her familiar. Blake can summon his powers at times to appear to Alwayna as a man, but this does make wooing rather difficult. Of course, Blake must learn the true meaning of love before the Farewells can be saved.

I enjoyed Nancy Lawrence’s story the most, probably because it had a real, live romance. Sebastian, Lord Byfield has eschewed woman since his betrothed betrayed him. But while chasing a kitten found by his niece, he meets his new neighbor, Amelia Merriweather. Sebastian is not happy with his new neighbors. Ever since they moved in, there has been the most terrible din at night. Well, it turns out that Amelia has been awakened by the same strange noise.

Their joint efforts to discover who (or what) is responsible for the racket brings them together as they are forced to wonder about the role of the kitten in all this What is enjoyable about this story is that we see the two fall in love, something that I always appreciate in my romances.

“The Black Cat” is the story of Lord Guy Santana, Earl of Camden who meets both a black cat and a gypsy girl on a dark road one rainy night. The lovely girl informs him that she is his destiny. Shortly thereafter, Guy finds himself engaged in a duel at cards with the old Marquess of Fotheringham. (The reason for this event is somewhat improbable.) At any rate, Guy wins, the stake being the marquess’ cat and his granddaughter.

Guy takes the cat, who becomes quite a fixture in society, and refuses the granddaughter. Of course, the gypsy girl and the granddaughter are one in the same, but it takes both quite a while to realize each’s true identity.

It is always difficult to rate anthologies. Perhaps the fairest approach is to evaluate each story separately.

While I found that Holbrook’s novella had some of her usual humor, I found it too fantastical for my taste. It is indeed a fairy tale more than a romance. The characters didn’t engage me either, although I did find Blake’s discovery of the power of love somewhat appealing. 2 hearts.

The Lawrence story was the only one in the book that I wished were longer. I really liked the relationship between Sebastian and Amelia and I really wanted to know more about these characters. The short format didn’t permit the kind of character development that enrich a romance. Still, it was quite acceptable.

Solomon’s contribution was my least favorite The actions of the characters didn’t make a whole lot of sense. And there really wasn’t all that much interaction between the hero and the heroine. There were a lot of loose ends and inconsistencies and improbabilities (and a few errors as well.) All in all, I fear I would rate this story as one heart.

So the average is a two. In short, this anthology just didn’t work for me. Perhaps others might feel differently.

--Jean Mason


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