Winter Kittens
by Kathryn Kirkwood, Judith Lansdowne & Jeanne Savery
(Zebra, $ 4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6106-4
Let me begin by saying that I love cats. I have had cats in my life for decades and I admit that there is nothing cuter than a kitten (or preferably two or more kittens). So I was pretty sure that this anthology would be cute. And cute it is. So if cute is what you are looking for, look no farther.

Kathryn Kirkwood's entry is perhaps the cutest of the three stories in this anthology. Maggie Pendleton has come to London to visit her aunt. The daughter of a clergyman, Maggie has reached her early twenties unwed, despite her beauty. She had frightened away any suitors by virtue of her erudition. When her father remarried and she found herself no longer responsible for directing his household, she decided to accept her aunt's invitation to London. Her stepmother warned her to hide her education from any young men she might meet.

Unfortunately, Maggie has not met anyone in London. Her aunt was called away to a sick friend's bedside and Maggie is stuck in the house. Her only entertainment is her aunt's cat and her new kittens. Everyday at 2 pm the kitten's father arrives to visit his progeny. Maggie finds her feline friends amusing but longs for more elevated conversation.

Richard, Marquis of Larchmont, has come to London at his sister's behest to "cat-sit" for her beloved pet Felix. Of course, this was in part a ruse to get Richard to town for the "Little Season" to look about him for a wife. But Richard finds the debutantes shallow and silly.

When Richard discovers that Felix disappears every afternoon, he decides to track the cat down. Thus he discovers Felix's family and meets Maggie. He discovers that he enjoys her wit and conversation and finds himself falling in love with the clergyman's daughter. But his mother does not approve. Find out how Felix smoothes the path to true love.

Judith Lansdowne's story, "Rescuing Rosebud" exhibits her usual light and humorous touch. Rosebud belongs to Miss Winifred Bittle who has come to see the sights of London with her aunt. The kitten was given to her by her brother who has gone off to war. Rosebud has a penchant for getting into trouble, none greater than when she escapes through an attic window and falls down the chimney of the house next door, to be rescued by Lord Carrington in the nick of time.

Lord Carrington has suffered a grave disappointment in love. He had wooed Freddie's cousin Mercy and lost her. More painfully, he had lost a bet on the success of his suit. He has to turn his favorite horse Jezebel over to Lord St. Martin. Not surprisingly, he has sworn off women.

But Rosebud has different ideas. She keeps requiring rescuing and Lord Carrington keeps seeing the charming Freddie. He discovers that he is much taken by the kitten's mistress, but he fights his attraction. Find out how Rosebud rescues Lord Carrington both from real danger and from losing his true love.

Jeanne Savery's story, "The Four-Penny Cat," is more serious than the other two. The widowed Carolyn Weston lives in a small cottage in a village near Lord Manningford's estate. When her larder was overrun by mice, she asked his lordship's housekeeper if she could have one of his cat's new kittens. The earl said of course, the kitten was only a one-penny cat. A year later, his housekeeper reports to the earl that Mrs. Weston now believes that she has become a four-penny cat, so successful has she become at catching mice.

His lordship is intrigued that the widow knows this piece of arcane medieval lore. He himself is a scholar of medieval history. He eschews society because of his scarred countenance and ungainly gait. But as he comes to know Carolyn and discovers that she does not seem repulsed by his appearance, he begins to imagine that love and marriage may not be closed to him.

This was my favorite of the three stories, perhaps because the cat does not bring the hero and heroine together. Rather, two interesting characters find love all by themselves. Rather than being cute, "The Four-Penny Cat" is sweet and tender.

Winter Kittens offers three nice stories that will entertain readers who enjoy regency romances and who like cats. None is outstanding but all three are well done. For myself, reading about clever cats like Felix and Rosebud always makes me wonder why my cats never show such brilliance.

--Jean Mason

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