Lord Caldwell & the Cat by Joy Reed
(Zebra Regency, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6356-3
***
Sometimes a book doesn’t have that special something that leads me to recommend it unequivocally, but nonetheless, offers an enjoyable few hours of entertainment. Lord Caldwell and the Cat is such a book. (Here we have Zebra and its cats again. The cat did not really play all that prominent a role in the story to warrant the title.)

Perhaps my response to this book is somewhat the result of the fact that we are reading Sylvester on the Heyer list. Indeed, Lord Caldwell is a “Sylvester-like” character: titled, rich, extraordinarily handsome, and just a little too full of himself. He even has a crippled mother to whom he is unfailingly kind.

As the book begins, Victor, Lord Caldwell informs his mother that he thinks it high time that he marry. Indeed, he came oh-so-close to offering for the beautiful and accomplished Lady Anne Stoddard. He didn’t quite come to the point, but he rather assumes that he will ask her to marry him when he returns to town in the spring. He has no doubt that Lady Anne will readily accept his suit. After all, he is one of the ton’s best catches. Victor’s mother is not ecstatic with his cold-hearted way of choosing a bride.

The mother informs her son that she has rented one of the estate’s cottages to her cousin and her cousin’s daughter. Said cousin had been recently widowed and had been left in a difficult financial situation. The cottage will be perfect for Cousin Martha and her little girl.

Victor has no problem with his mother’s action. Indeed, he feels an immense sense of self-satisfaction that he can offer charity to a needy relative. He heads over to the cottage, dog in tow, to inform Cousin Martha that there is no need for her to pay any rent at all.

When he arrives at the cottage, his dog is attacked by a cat and he is confronted by a red-haired termagent who not only upbraids him for his dog’s behavior but proudly refuses to accept his charity. Yes, Cousin Martha’s daughter is no child but rather a lovely young woman. And the sparks fly between the two from the first.

Catherine Everhart had suffered a double blow. Not only had her well-loved father died, but her fiancé had gladly accepted her offer to release him when the family’s financial reverses became clear. She has bravely faced the new realities of her life, but she still has her pride.

Further acquaintance elicits in Victor a strange fascination with his new tenant, despite the sparks that fly between the two whenever they get together. Concerned with his feelings, he precipitously decides to invite Lady Anne and her family to his home and get the matter of their betrothal settled.

Further familiarity with both Lady Anne and her family and with Catherine quickly convinces Victor that he has made a mistake. So, the remainder of the book deals with the problems Victor has in straightening out the mess he has made.

Reed’s solution to this problem is fairly conventional, as Lady Anne increasingly shows her true colors. The reappearance of Catherine’s former betrothed on the scene adds another complication.

The factor that keeps me from wholeheartedly recommending Lord Caldwell and the Cat is grounded in the author’s development of the relationship. There is too much telling and not enough showing. We spend a lot of time in the hero’s and heroine’s heads as they ruminate about their feelings. We don’t see enough of the two together to fully understand the undoubted attraction between the two.

Still, this is a pleasant and entertaining Regency romance. I enjoyed watchingVictor become both more human and more humble. Catherine doesn’t show the same kind of development, but she is an interesting creation. All in all, Lord Caldwell and the Cat provided me with an enjoyable read. I think you might find it the same.

--Jean Mason


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