Earlier this summer, our family adopted Stella, a cat a friend found on the street. As you can see, she came with a bonus.
Last night, it became obvious that Stella’s kittens were about to arrive. She wanted to be in the nest we’d prepared (thanks to advice from a romance-reading Twitter friend who breeds cats) but also wanted me next to her. I am rather prone to worry, so I settled down beside her with a large brandy and a phone well stocked with romance novels (I can read on the phone, unlike my e-ink reader, in the dark).
Two hours later, we had six kittens. Stella did a great job, and I stayed fairly calm by reading Joan Wolf’s His Lordship’s Mistress. OK, actually I spent a lot of time live-tweeting the birth for interested friends, texting updates to my husband who lurked upstairs, and googling things like “when to call the vet when your cat is in labour” and “formula for kittens” (like I said, I worry).
But I did read a good chunk of His Lordship’s Mistress as well. Wolf’s traditional Regency romance, with its restrained, understated style, was the perfect antidote to my nerves. This is a romance that engages the brain as well as the heart.
When she inherits a bankrupt estate, Jessica Andover is forced to choose between marrying a rich man (the one who’s foreclosing on her mortgage) or becoming mistress to one. She chooses the latter, because she knows that marriage to a man who wants her only as a prize means she will never be free to be truly herself. So she goes to London to become an actress as a way of finding a protector. Of course she and Lord Linton fall in love. Linton is ready to throw caution to the winds and marry her, but Jess resists; she loves him too much to take a step which will alienate his friends and family. Although I found the main characters a bit too perfectly perfect, I liked the fact that they existed in a real historical context: their mesalliance would have social consequences they must deal with (unlike many in historical romance today); they discuss the effects of the Corn Law and enclosure of common lands. The novel’s exploration of Jessica’s constrained choices is, I’d say, a feminist one, but not anachronistically so.
Wolf’s book is available on Kindle or through Regency Reads, which has e-books for many out-of-print traditional Regencies. I’ll be trying more.
And yes, this post was largely an opportunity for gratuitous kitten pictures. There will be more!