His Blushing Bride

Lord Langdon's Kiss

The Incorrigible Lady Catherine
by Elena Greene
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-7095-0
Lady Catherine Harcourt, daughter of a duke, is facing a difficult task. Her odious father wishes her to marry a marquis many years her senior. If Catherine can elope, she can avoid this fate, and as luck would have it, Lord Verwood wishes to marry her. He’s young, charming, and she doesn’t hold out hope for much more in a marriage than kindness, so Catherine agrees to escape from a ball and run off with Verwood.

Catherine’s father gets wind of the scheme and puts a stop to it, then offers Catherine a choice. Marry the elderly marquis or be sent off in disgrace to her great-aunts’ cottage in the Lake District. Catherine defiantly agrees to leave. The duke, not to be outdone, hires two difficult servants to accompany Catherine and make sure she is kept a virtual prisoner in Larkspur Cottage.

Catherine manages to escape on her first morning and runs onto the neighbor’s property, where she spies a child frantically struggling in a river. Catherine saves the little girl and is brought face to face with Mr. Philip Woodmere, a gentleman farmer and owner of Woodmere Hall. Philip is instantly intrigued by the tall young woman who so gallantly saved his young sister. Why does she seem so sad, so resigned?

Catherine finds two allies in her matchmaking aunts, who insist that she be allowed to partake of whatever society the local area has to offer. Catherine and Philip are soon meeting at local parties. But he is rumored to be engaged to a local girl, and what would the scandal of her thwarted elopement do to his sensibilities?

Apparently a lot more than it did to this reader’s. Catherine and Philip fall in love and share many of the same interests nature walks, local sights, a love of poetry and when Catherine finds out that he’s not engaged at all, it would seem to be clear sailing. But no. The duke will never give his assent to their marriage, and Philip’s social standing would be damaged beyond repair should they elope.

I can’t help it this conflict felt ridiculous. Catherine falls into despair over “the scandal”, but my reaction was, “whatscandal?” Catherine’s attempt to elope never made it past a ballroom. Nobody knows what happened or didn’t happen except Catherine, two of her friends, Verwood and the duke. So why should the fact that she almost eloped cause one minute of problem for Philip? And it’s not like this is London. Philip is a gentleman farmer in a northern shire. One would think if he married a duke’s daughter, his social standing would be set for life, even if they eloped. And nowhere is Philip portrayed as such a prig that he wouldn’t overlook a bit of bad judgment on the part of his beloved.

So, after a fun beginning and a lot of spunk on the part of Catherine, the story simply ran out of steam and conflict. Or to put it another way, the conflict is all in Catherine’s head.

On another note, what’s with the title? Catherine is about as far from incorrigible as a heroine can get, except in the eyes of her nasty father, and who cares what he thinks? As for the back cover blurb, it’s completely misleading and doesn’t follow the thread of the plot. Whoever wrote it didn’t have much knowledge of the book, it appears. Petty gripes, you may think, but taken together with the story line, this books smacks something that might have been a lot better if more care had been taken with it.

There is a bit more sensuality here than you’ll find in most Regencies, which was an enjoyable change. Not enough to scorch the pages, but Philip and Catherine have a nice, hot spark between them.

A bright beginning, an annoying middle, and a pleasing ending make The Incorrigible Lady Catherine a mixed bag. Elena Greene is a fairly new Regency author with plenty of talent, but this book isn’t quite developed enough to recommend.

--Cathy Sova

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