It’s always delightful to have a new Emily Larkin story to read, and when Ms Larkin announced this duet novella with Grace Burrowes, both stories with a prompt to include cats, I (naturally) pounced.
Given both novellas contain Regency era manners, cats and a love story, they’re very different while both being very charming!
Lieutenant Mayhew’s Catastrophe by Emily Larkin
Lieutenant Mayhew’s Catastrophe doesn’t contain any of the fantasy elements of the Baleful Godmother series, but it does trip along with all the vivacity and wit I’d expect.
Willemina Culpepper, who grew up around army camps with her family and father, Colonel Culpepper, is on her own now but determined to get back to having an adventurous life, which she’s definitely not getting in the quiet village where she lives with her aunt. She’s meant to be going to Twyford to become a companion for an ambassador’s children, but when she helps a fellow passenger – Lieutenant Mayhew – find the wayward kittens he’s taking as gifts for his niece and nephew, they both miss the coach.
A series of mishaps keeps them in strife as they try to meet the coach, find new modes of passage or just keep from falling in the mud on their way to Twyford. Willemina – Willie to her friends – has an absolute delight in the unpredictable, and Mayhew’s honour, good humour and chivalry make all their trials more of a friendly adventure than anything dangerous.
The escalating ridiculousness of their predicaments and shared laughter are comical, and a final disaster turns out to be perfectly timed for the happy ending. It’s all a confection of fun and fluff, and an adorable read on any day when you need something light and uplifting.
Catnip and Kisses by Grace Burrowes
The courtship of Antonia the prim librarian and Max the unkempt scientist commences when Max brings an unsolicited cat to the library to act as a mouser. But there’s a lot more to Antonia than her perceived spinster primness, just as there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes for Max Haddonfield.
Max, mostly raised by his sisters, is as big as a bear and gentle as a lamb, fostering stray cats and a stray pickpocket as well, as he carries out scientific studies he hopes will improve the lot of his fellow human beings. Antonia is not as isolated a bluestocking as she appears, and is plagued with a cousin who thinks their ‘inevitable marriage’ will keep the money in the family, and seems incapable of seeing that this is not, perhaps, the way to woo.
These two unusual people who defy stereotypes set about falling in love in their own distinctive way, with obstacles (largely but not solely in the shape of the obnoxious cousin) to overcome and wider lessons to be learned.
Their unexpected journey is witnessed by a lively supporting cast, including the two elderly Barclay sisters who haunt the library. Max’s young, thieving protege, Dagger, is a fabulous too, and the scene where he reveals the fears stoking his behaviour is one of my favourites.
Catnip and Kisses contains a lot of both cats and kisses, which is as it should be, made fun and light with a pair eccentric characters whom you can’t help loving, and cheering for.
Buy Love and Other Perils