If you’re familiar with my reviews, you’ll know that I have never found the topic of adultery to be romantic and that I’ve emphasized my dislike for it as a theme several times. Having said that, it seems there is one possible exception to that rule – and I’ve found it in Lady Cat.
Say you were a decent working woman, a governess, in Regency England. And say you married your widowed employer because he was dying and desperately needed a mother for his two daughters (and these daughters adored you). Also say that, when your husband dies leaving no male heir, his fortune and property will go to his vile and slimy (truly vile and slimy) cousin. This cousin has already tried to rape you, and once he gets his hands on your husband’s property and has complete control over you, he will not only rape you, but will molest your young step-daughters as well. He will also gamble away all the money, leaving you homeless and penniless. Then say your dying husband begs you to get an heir off his other cousin, whom you have never met, a man who is such a rake, he should be easy to seduce. It’s an outside chance, but if a single night in another man’s bed might possibly give you the male heir you need to save your entire world, would you do it?
This is the dilemma facing Lady Catheryn, former governess, as her husband lay dying. A highly moral woman, what he’s begging her to do goes against everything she stands for. Yet, in the end, she realizes she has no choice and does as her husband bids.
Lord Stephen Rockholme is a rake and a bounder, and tomorrow he’s leaving for Spain. As a soldier, he may live or he may die, but the one thing he knows is he wants to spend his last night a free man in the arms of a beautiful woman. Enter Lady Cat, under an assumed name. They are drawn to each other and do indeed spend the night in exquisite passion, something Cat’s ailing husband has never really been able to give her.
Five years pass during which time Stephen has never forgotten the lady in whose arms he spent an incredible night. When he seeks her out and discovers her true identity and the reason for her seduction, he is furious and plans a wicked revenge. Adding to his fury is the fact that their night together did indeed prove fruitful and Cat has borne Stephen a son, a boy he can never acknowledge. Right here is where things could have gone awry with stomping and whining and a big misunderstanding that goes on page after page. But it didn’t. Each time the author had a chance to fall into that trap, she neatly avoided it, making this hero and heroine two of the most rational characters I’ve ever encountered.
Stephen is a wonderful hero. A reformed rake, his experiences as a soldier have brought him fully into manhood, and he has many regrets about his misspent youth. It is now his goal to do the right thing by his son, and Cat and her step-daughters as well. Beautiful Cat is smart and about as feisty as they come. When faced with insurmountable odds, knowing she will likely suffer physical and emotional harm at the hands of two who would use her badly, she keeps a clear head and … and … well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself, won’t you.
A cast of secondaries who may have appeared in previous books or may appear in sequels, round out the story. Evil cousin Jeremey refuses to be denied his due and his machinations creates the true conflict here. Stephen and Cat are meant for each other, despite their rough start. When the going gets tough, they talk it out or have great sex. Not a bad relationship at all, when you come to think about it.
Lady Cat is a near-keeper and only a few minor flaws prevented it from being such for me. If you’re looking for intelligent characters who display more common sense than angst, passionate love scenes, and a satisfying storyline, you won’t be disappointed here. I’ve not read this author before, but I’m hoping a couple of the secondary characters from this book find their way into stories of their own.