Kate Rothwell offers The Rat Catcher for free on her blog ([...]), and since it's set in an unusual setting, I decided to give it a try. I have not yet read her Kensington releases but plan to do so, and I think this free novella is a nice way to become acquainted with her writing.
Set in 1880s New York, The Rat Catcher is the story of an impoverished, orphaned gentlewoman named Callie Scott and a rugged, taciturn police detective with the name of Cutter. Both characters possess a certain appeal, and their romance is very believable. Though the beginning is rather choppy and slow, the story picks up when Cutter enters the scene. His arrival signals that The Rat Catcher is not a straight romance, but one with a suspense subplot--which isn't a bad thing. It's short, at 235 pages, but Rothwell manages to pack a good story within the shorter format.
As delightful as the novella was, Callie was a major problem for me. In historical romance there is a fine line to walk between writing a heroine accurate to the times and a heroine that is too modern. Rothwell made Callie a somewhat accurate Victorian miss, but in the process, she made a number of very naive decisions. After a while her innocence was not endearing or charming; at times I found her stupid. However, Cutter balanced this out, and I like that he was not traditionally educated, yet he was intelligent and thoughtful.
I also never got a sense of who Callie was. Why was she so destitute? What happened to her parents? Why did she not have relatives who knew of her orphaned situation until very late in the book? Because of this, Callie came across as a generic caricature of a gentlewoman thrown out of society. The world-building was an iffy thing as well. I never felt I was in 1880s New York, and the police procedure and the underworld was very sketchy. The Rat Catcher is not a terrible book by any sense of the word (btw, the title is confusing. I initially thought the hero would be a rat catcher in the vein of Mick from Judith Ivory's The Proposition)--it is a nice was to pass a few hours. If you're interested in reading a sweet, charming historical romance set outside of the Regency--and happens to be FREE--pick up The Rat Catcher.
on March 4, 2012
If you're tired of the usual Lords and Ladies of romance and wishing to read about real people, this is the book for you. I loved the characters -- sweet Callie is the perfect foil for the yummy Cutter, and as both overcome their circumstances in Victorian England, they find unexpected love. Really a wonderful read. Highly recommended not only for the characters but for the excellent eye for detail and terrific dialogue that often left me smiling.