The Husband Hunt
Jillian Hunter is one of those authors whose books I enjoy, but I never feel compelled to go out of my way to find them. They are usually highly amusing and contain likable characters, but there is usually something that keeps me from putting her on my auto-buy list. The Husband Hunt exemplifies this. I liked the characters, found myself smiling on occasion, but in the end it just wasn’t quite right.
Catriona Grant has always lived at the mercy of her relatives. The illegitimate daughter of an earl, she spent most of her youth running wild, barely supervised by her lovesick mother, and later an uncle more concerned with cattle raids than civilizing his niece. Eventually her half-brother, the current Earl of Roxshire, takes her on, but he’s despondent over the loss of his wife and daughter and needs to marry her off to an elderly laird for funds. Unwilling to be used as a bargaining chip, Catriona runs away to the south in search of her distant cousin, Lionel, who visited once and gave her an off-handed invitation to visit him in England whenever she likes.
Knight Dennison, Viscount Rutleigh, is worried about his sister Olivia, who is wasting away in grief for her now-deceased husband Lionel. Lost for a way to save Olivia, he is shocked to find Catriona in his garden, but is pleased to see her put a sparkle back in Olivia’s eyes. His sister becomes obsessed with finding Catriona a proper husband, and in attempt to keep her happy agrees to help. Yet he doesn’t trust the mysterious Catriona any further than he can throw her. He’s sure she’s keeping a secret. Which she is: Catriona has the sight and can predict future events, but knows that it makes people uncomfortable so she tries to hide it. Despite her best efforts it comes out and despite Knight’s best efforts he finds himself falling in love with her.
Knight and Catriona have immediate chemistry. Knight is the typical put-upon hero. It’s amusing watching him try to talk sense to those around him, and be ignored. He is clearly devoted to his sister and would do anything for her, even spending a fortune trying to make a lady of a wild child who is more comfortable with stones and weeds and bare feet than dancing instructors. Yet even more obvious is his losing battle with his heart. Once he realizes Catriona is the love of his life, it’s enchanting to see how he’ll let nothing stand in the way of having her.
Catriona is a little harder to like, because she’s less sure of herself. She watched her mother pine to death waiting for her father, and from that point always came in second in the lives of those around her. To suddenly be the focus of everyone’s attention is overwhelming and hard to live up to. It’s even harder for her to accept that Knight loves her for herself and doesn’t wish her to change. He doesn’t mind that she has the sight, he doesn’t want her to be a proper lady, he just wants her. Eventually she learns to bask in his love and love herself.
If the story had just focused on their relationship it would’ve been fantastic. Unfortunately there’s a subplot about Catriona’s crazy Uncle Murdo, a sorcerer, and his apprentice, Lamont. They want a stone that Catriona possesses (she thinks it is the cause of her visions and brings her bad luck). Murdo wants to her to marry Lamont and use her magical talents. This plot seemed overblown, undeveloped, and distracted from the story, making the book less enjoyable than it could’ve been.
Hunter always creates delightful romances. Her hero and heroine may bicker, but it’s never annoying because there is an underlying sense of love and attraction underlying every scene. If Hunter would only focus on the relationship or improve the subplot so it was less ridiculous the story would improve immensely. I can recommend reading Knight and Catriona’s tale; just try to skip the stuff about Uncle Murdo.