Monday, October 06, 2014

Touch Not the Cat

I read Mary Stewart's wonderful paranormal romantic thriller, Touch Not the Cat, for both the R.I.P. Challenge and last week's Frightfall Read-A-Thon.  It's a shortish book--only 302 pages in the mass market paperback version--but it still took me all week.

Published in 1976, it was a nostalgic read for me.  That was the year I graduated from high school, and while all the action takes place in Europe, mostly England, but a bit in Madeira and Germany, the time and mores felt familiar from my teenage years.

Beyond the nostalgia, there's a lot to like in this novel.  The paranormal element is mental telepathy -- that is, the heroine, Bryony (love that name!) communicates mind-to-mind with her "lover," whose identity she doesn't even know.  She comes from an old family, the Ashleys, some of whose members share this ability, and so she assumes the person she can communicate with telepathically and who she has come to love romantically is related to her.  The family estate is entailed and when her father mysteriously dies, the estate must pass on to her uncle and his family of sons.  She cannot inherit it from her father being female.   Honestly, I had to work to suspend my disbelief around the mind-to-mind communication, but it was a fun premise and a kick to think about.

The estate is pretty cool too--complete with a moat and maze and secret dwelling within the maze where one of Bryony's ancestors, Wicked Nick lured maidens for romantic liasons back in the 1830s. There are Bryony's dashing twin cousins, one of which might be her mental lover, an American family that is leasing the estate, a friendly vicar, a hunky caretaker, a link to Britain's Roman past, and a way cool family motto..."Touch Not the Cat," which has Scottish roots and is linked to the shy but deadly Scottish wildcats.

There's a great Romeo and Juliet theme that run throughout the novel, in both plots (the modern day one and the one from the 1830s) as well as in chapter intros and more subtle references in the text that are fun to recognize.

The mystery is a bit light-weight.  Nothing gruesome happens, and there's a nice happily-ever-after with the nasties slinking off to parts unknown rather than being brutally dealt with.

A fun read...not terribly spooky but awfully fun.


  1. I like how Bryony can always tell the twins apart. She's such a great character. This isn't my favorite Mary Stewart book, but I do like it a lot. And what a fun R.I.P. read! Great post.

  2. I enjoyed this one, especially after Byrony came home. I loved exploring The Court. And while I had a hard time with the telepathy, I was quite taken with her Lover :)

  3. This sounds really good.

    I think that such telepathy based plots were very popular at the time that this was published.

    I think that I too would enjoy the nostalgia.

  4. I am a big fan of Mary Stewart. I've read a lot of her books but somehow missed this one. Thanks for stopping by.