Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review: Lyon's Bride: The Chattan Curse by Cathy Maxwell

Neal Chattan and his two siblings are the last of their line. It is a line that has been plagued with a curse that kills a Chattan when he falls in love. His brother and sister want the curse and their line to end with them and have sworn not to marry or to have children -- but Neal wishes otherwise.

He believes he can live around the curse and has enlisted the aid of a matchmaker who will help him find a woman of good family and of good childbearing health -- but she must also be a woman he can never fall in love with.

He is surprised to see that the matchmaker his solicitor has hired is Thea Martin. Many year ago, before Thea was disinherited, she and Neal shared a close friendship that enabled them to survive a childhood that was riddled with sadness and disappointment. Then Neal disappeared and never spoke to Thea again -- and Thea made reckless decisions that resulted in her banishment from polite society.

Initially, Thea thinks it's a joke but Neal is persistent and tells her the story of his family -- and the reason why he abandoned her all those years ago.

Thea reluctantly agrees to help Neal find his match -- but as they spend more time together -- and as Neal sees all the perfect ladies with their impeccable lineage and bloodlines, he realizes it is the imperfect and impossibly-flawed Thea that he wants.

On The Chattan Curse

There isn't an easy way to talk about this book and I am uncertain of my own reaction to it. While reading through it, I had doubts about the whole premise of the story: a centuries-old curse that haunts every generation of the Chattan Family.

It's difficult to have a curse as the central plot of the story -- the greatest challenge of curse stories is to get the readers accept that the curse is real.

How does one prove that the curse is real? The heroine, Thea, also struggles with this question. She does not doubt that Neal and his family believe the curse but she initially has trouble accepting it. Even though Neal recites how each generation of Chattan succumbs to the curse early in their married life, one can't help but think it might be a genetic predisposition or purely coincidental --

"...The idea of a curse is an antiquated notion. It is the device of the uneducated mind. We now know someone can't put an evil eye out on another person with just a few words of mumbo jumbo."
- Revered Wells to Thea, p. 253

But the curse is real. And even Thea comes to realize, eventually, that it is. But the curse itself is problematic:

Watchers of the threshold, Watchers of the gate,
open hell and seal Chattan's Fate.
When a Chattan male falls in love,
strike his heart with fire from Above.
Crush his heart, destroy his line,
Only then will justice be mine.

- p. 9

Falls in love with whom? Must it necessarily be romantic love? Must it be at the moment when a Chattan falls in love? Or the moment they admit to being in love?

How did Neal's forebears come to realize that a curse had been placed on them? The woman who uttered the curse flung herself into the fire right after she said it. The first Chattan male who succumbed to the curse died six months after his marriage far away from Scotland where the curse was created --

On Lyon's Bride

Taken separately, the search for "Lyon's Bride" is a decent story and complete in itself. The part where Thea applies her talent as matchmaker and ends up being matched was done nicely. I liked how Maxwell exposed the many different personalities of the debutantes and their parents -- even the most genteel of peers and the closest friends find their inner ruthlessness as their daughters all vie for the attention of the prize of the Season.

The best part of this particular episode was the way the author resolved the plot to compromise Neal into marriage.

The "courtship" between Thea and Neal had the most emotional pull. I loved the idea that Thea was learning to trust Neal again after he suddenly abandoned her that summer when they were children. Add to that her very unhappy marriage and her regrets (about her impulsive/rash decisions in the past) and you have a heroine who doesn't really want to be a heroine -- but would prefer to live a quiet, unassuming life with her two sons.

Seeing Neal again reminds Thea of how she was before -- carefree and happy. Part of her longs to return to that part of her life, but part of her doesn't want to.

In addition, I enjoyed reading about Neal's siblings: Harry and Margaret. I can see how their family history has tormented them and shaped them, but I loved their family dynamic. Thea's sons, Jonathan and Christopher, were also well-fleshed out. They played a key role in the story and weren't merely window dressing.

But the story is Lyon's Bride: The Chattan Curse -- and the combination of the two parts results in a confusing reaction for me: I felt the book was interesting enough for me to keep reading it (and I finished this one very quickly) -- but, I could not help but notice the gaps in the story.

For instance, why would a man cursed to die if he falls in love, agree to a week at the country in order to get to know his potential bride? Wouldn't it have been better if he married her sight unseen? The more impersonal the better?

Finally, is the paranormal element in the story intentional? If so, I didn't feel it was a consistent element in the story.

Lyon's Bride: The Chattan Curse is the first book in Cathy Maxwell's The Chattan Curse Trilogy. The second book, The Scottish Witch
, is Harry's story, and will be released October 2012.

To find out more about Cathy Maxwell and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

(If you're curious, my favorite Cathy Maxwell books/series are:

All Things Beautiful <-- so sad, so angsty, so beautiful T_T The Cameron Sisters Series:
Temptation of a Proper Governess
The Price of Indiscretion
In the Bed of a Duke
Bedding the Heiress
In the Highlander's Bed

The Scandals and Seductions Series:
A Seduction at Christmas
The Earl Claims His Wife
The Marriage Ring
His Christmas Pleasure
The Seduction of Scandal

... I think I've read most of her books. Except the novellas featured in anthologies. ^_^)


Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...