by Mary Stewart
(Edited) Publisher's Blurb:
After the tragic death of her father, Bryony Ashley returns from abroad to find that his estate is to become the responsibility of her cousin Emory. Her family's estate with its load of debt is no longer her worry. Still, her father's final, dire warning about a terrible family curse haunts her days and her dreams. And there is something odd about her father's sudden death...
Bryony has inherited the Ashley 'Sight' and so has one of the Ashleys. Since childhood the two have communicated through thought patterns, though Bryony has no idea of his identity. Devastated, she believes that the mysterious stranger is her destiny... the lover-to-be who waits for her now at Ashley Court. Now she is determined to find him. But passion is not all that will greet Bryony upon her return -- for the crumbling walls of the old mansion guard dark secrets, tragic memories... and inescapable peril.
My Reaction (with SPOILERS):
I listened to the audiobook version, and as always under those circumstances, I find myself with less to say than if I'd read the words on the page.
Though it's not as good as The Moonspinners or Nine Coaches Waiting, I enjoyed the book! It delivers just about everything you'd expect from gothic-mystery romantic-suspense. It was a bit predictable that Rob would turn out to be Bryony's "lover"-- and of course there's a last-minute discovery that will be the saving of Ashley Court-- but still, enjoyable.
What I found less enjoyable were the snippets from Romeo and Juliet at the beginning of each chapter... and the flashbacks to the Ashley of the past (though I guess those were at least somewhat significant to the plot)... and Rob's "country" accent, as read in the audiobook version. I eventually got used to it, but it's still not my favorite thing. I found myself wondering if that accent was "written into his speech" in the book, or if the reader just gave her best effort at the accent, since it's mentioned that he has one. I was even more irritated by the country accent of the woman in the flashbacks. (Maybe I'm just an accent snob...)
I found it amusing, while glancing at a few other readers' reviews, that some are so utterly revolted by the thought of a first-cousin romance. Now, when I think about actual first cousins I personally know getting married, it does seem odd, but for whatever reason, I've never had a problem with that in literature. It wasn't that many generations ago that first-cousin marriages were very common occurrences. Maybe it's all the old books and BritLit that I read, but I'm not troubled. (Unlike the person who referred to it as "incest". (g)) Also, someone says that in the American version, the first cousins were changed to second cousins! What a hoot!
Again, while browsing reviews, I saw people saying that the book is dated. Well, at one point (near the end), Bryony says something like, "This is the 70s"! Apart from that, I honestly didn't find myself thinking, "This feels so 70s!" If anything, it felt like it could've taken place any time after air travel became fairly commonplace (since Bryony takes a flight early in the book). It was much less "dated-feeling" than many books I've read. In fact, the one I'm reading now feels extremely dated-- and it was published within the past few years. What makes it feel dated is the too-frequent references to specific brand names and current technology. I didn't notice that Mary Stewart did that at all, in Touch Not the Cat.
Sidenote: The modern cover-- all black, except for a black cat walking into a purple and green spinning, glowing, magical/mystical vortex-- is very strange. It seems more appropriate for science fiction-- or possibly fantasy. Despite the telepathy, this book doesn't feel like either genre.
Incidentally, I read just a few days ago that this author, Mary Stewart, had died. She was in her 90s, I believe, so she had a long life. I've only read a few of her books, but I look forward to enjoying more of them in the years to come.