Touch Not The Cat
What do you get when you mix a Celtic myth, feuding Scottish clans, and an English lord? A romance novel, Touch Not the Cat, by Tracy Fobes. Set in the Scottish Highlands during the 19th Century, this intriguing story brings to life the Celtic myth of the grimalkin, a wraith-like wildcat, supposedly the familiar of the MacClelland Clan.
Catherine “Cat” MacClelland, daughter of the laird of the MacClelland Clan, has tried to keep her clansmen fed and housed, despite financial troubles that have befallen her family. Catherine is also the grimalkin – periodically she turns into a tawny leopard and roams the Highlands. Her curse prevents her from mingling in “polite society” for fear someone will discover her secret and burn her as a witch.
The curse is the result of a feud between Catherine’s clan and the Clan McQuade. The only way to break the curse is for the grimalkin to fall in love with the enemy – a McQuade. Catherine’s father knows this and blackmails Nicholas, Duke of Efington, into marriage with his daughter. How did an English Duke become a member of the Clan McQuade? He’s a bastard, of course!
Most of the story is dedicated to Catherine and Nicholas’s tenuous relationship – her fear he will discover her secret, his anger over being blackmailed into marriage, their mutual trouble with Nicholas’s evil cousin Harry. Nicholas is an intriguing hero, definitely not the type to fly off the handle at any sign of disobedience from his wife. Catherine suffers under the burden of her curse, and knows that Nicholas is her salvation, but she is still reluctant to open her heart to a man she feels will reject her.
Fobes pulls in the reader with a novel idea – the grimalkin – and tells a good story about it. Her descriptions are great, most notably of Catherine’s transformation from woman to wildcat. Nicholas is a strong character, very well-defined and well-developed by Fobes. If she had added more distinctive secondary characters (perhaps a brother or sister for Catherine?) as well as a more threatening outside-the-relationship conflict (Nicholas’s evil cousin wasn’t that evil!) the story would have packed a little bit more punch.
If you like Scotland books and you like a little bit of fantasy in your romance, you’ll like Touch Not the Cat. Although not overtly sensual, Nicholas and Catherine’s relationship is multi-faceted. Nicholas’s strong character carries the story, and he might carry away your heart, even if you don’t turn into a wildcat on occasion.