Touch Not the Cat / Mary Stewart
London: Hodder & Stoughton, c1976.
This was just sitting on my shelf, unnoticed and unread until my husband asked, hey, have you read this one? How could I have neglected a Mary Stewart novel for so long, especially one with a maze in it? Well, that is now remedied.
This was written in the 70's and has telepathy as a main plot point: Bryony Ashley is the daughter of a family who has lived at Ashley Court since the 1600s. Her father has died in Europe in a suspicious car accident, and so Bryony returns home to England to sort things out and resolve her grief.
She also wants to find out who her mysterious "lover" is, the one she's been telepathically linked to since childhood. The concept and the terminology is a bit hokey, but the romance is still pretty well done. Bryony assumes that her lover is one of her cousins (ick) because this telepathy thing has been passed down through the generations... but it's not necessarily so. She has identical twin cousins, James and Emory, who are quite a pair, and their younger brother Francis who is conveniently out of the way on a hiking trip for much of the book. There's also Rob, a childhood friend, still living nearby with his mother. He was a lovely character, reminding me strongly of another Rob, the one in Susanna Kearsley's recent The Firebird.
Bryony must figure out what her father's last message to her means, and this involves their family motto -- Touch Not The Cat -- as well as the rather neglected maze and garden house at its centre, at Ashley Court. Her search for the truth about her family legacy draws in all the previously mentioned characters, as well as the American family renting Ashley Court (Bryony lives in an estate cottage). The story also includes brief, dream-like snippets of the life of her 16th century ancestor and his own lover, the 'gypsy' who brought their psychic trait into the family line. It's well written, melodramatic but enjoyable, and really difficult to puzzle out.
While I still love the sweet witchiness of Thornyhold, one of my Stewart favourites, this book was a more modern, dense read that I also liked for its own clever storyline. But then it takes work to be disappointed in a Mary Stewart novel, I think ;) While some reviewers have mentioned the slow moving storyline, I enjoyed the pacing and all the historical and familial background. Plus the maze! I love mazes.
Reliable comfort reading, and great to be have read some Stewart in time for Anbolyn's Mary Stewart Reading Week, which I only discovered a few days ago, thanks to Danielle at A Work in Progress and Barb at Leaves & Pages. And a very happy birthday goes out to Mary Stewart, who turned 97 on September 17th!