| The Wizard's Daughter, the latest installment in Catherine Coulter's Sherbrooke family series, reads like historical romance as written by Lewis Carroll. What begins as a delightful Regency historical with a mysterious paranormal twist takes a strange path in the latter half of the book, when the main characters enter a dimension populated with wizards, gods and dragons.
The heroine, Rosalind La Fontaine, is the adopted daughter of Ryder Sherbrooke (Hellion Bride). She was just a little girl, having been beaten and left for dead, when Ryder found her and took her home to his family-run orphanage. Rosalind was an extraordinary child, but wouldn't speak for a long time after she healed. When she finally began to communicate, her first words were a strange little song. Where she learned the song and what it might mean is one of several mysteries.
Rosalind meets the hero, Nicholas Vail, at a London ball during her come-out, and the attraction between them is instantaneous and hot. Their short courtship is one of the more charming parts of the book, with classic Coulter hilarity such as the butler who bows and bows until the shine on his bald head has been noted and the family members' ongoing battle over Cook's nutty buns. The dialogue is also, of course, often hilarious.
Another mystery begins when Grayson Sherbrooke, Rosalind's adoptive brother, purchases a very old, very rare book from a mysterious vendor who disappears shortly afterward. The book, The Rules of the Pale, catalogs the beings who inhabit "the Pale," an otherworldly dimension, and is supposedly written by the reclusive and powerful Wizard of the East. The book is gibberish to everyone but Rosalind.
Nicholas is more involved with Rosalind's past and the mysterious book than is readily apparent, and unfortunately Rosalind is unaware of this until after she and Nicholas marry. Sparks fly when she does find out, and their relationship is seriously threatened until they enter "The Pale" by following the directions in the book. Once there, Nicholas and Rosalind find another mystery to solve and have to battle for their lives and the lives of the Pale's inhabitants.
This book earned a 3 heart rating mainly for the little details, but the overall plot garnered a 2 at best. The interaction between the two main characters and the rest of the Sherbrookes makes the first part of the book snappy, intelligent and fun. Even in the last third of the book Rosalind and Nicholas stand out as engaging and interesting characters, though keeping up with them once they enter the other dimension was pretty confusing. After the rock-solid reality of the Sherbrooke family, the denizens of "the Pale" are cartoonish and weird and so complicated as to become disinteresting. Remember Jabberwocky? Twas Brillig, and the slithy toves… is actually easier to comprehend.
As a long-time Sherbrooke family fan, I felt sure I'd enjoy this book. And I did, up to a point. Unfortunately that point is a big one and I can't recommend The Wizard's Daughter without major reservations.