Cathy Maxwell's Lyon's Bride: The Chattan Curse is the first of the “Chattan Curse” series. The Chattan family has a problem. After an ancestor jilted a young woman ending with her suicide, her mother placed a curse on them- if a Chattan falls in love, he will die soon after. Neal and his siblings are the first generation of multiple children, the previous ones ending with the death of the Lord after siring a son to carry on the curse.
Thea and Neal were childhood friends and neighbors, but he abruptly disappeared without letting her know why. Now older and wiser, Thea is a widow with two small children to provide for. Her family is of no support, and she resorts to becoming a matchmaker for London's ton. By relying on her skills and knowledge of the ton, she has made numerous matches for “difficult” clients. When a well-known solicitor contacts Thea, her meeting with him lands her directly back in the presence of Neal, now Lord Lyon. He requires a wife, but with stipulations - he cannot love or really even like her. Thinking it is a joke by her family, Thea refuses the very lucrative offer of employment. Neal plays on her obvious need to provide for her sons, convincing her to assist him in the hunt for a bride. Possible choices are paraded before Lyon, but he wants none of them; he is still enchanted by the woman who stole his heart all those years ago. He loves her kids and is now hoping to figure out a way to break the curse…
After the first few chapters, it was painfully obvious as to the reason Neal ran away from his friend. For once, a hero that doesn't cover up his feelings - it is so refreshing! Neal is a character that wants change - for himself and his siblings. He wants a family enough to marry, but doesn't want to risk his heart in case the curse is real. Even though his parents' marriage was cold, Lord Lyon wants better for himself. A charming mix of strength, tenderness and loyalty, he treats Thea's sons as his own, even before she capitulates. Thea's character reminds me very much of a 21st century woman. A single mother with limited to no resources, she is using her knowledge to provide for her kids. She has hopes and dreams for her sons, just like you or I harbor for ours. Her strength of will is commendable and she knows herself very well. While disillusioned with love, she doesn't feel sorry for herself, choosing to focus on her children.
I was impressed that this book tackled two subjects that you don't find very often in Regency themes: drug addiction and step-families. Maxwell did not sugar coat the ugly truth of drug addiction. From the pain and helplessness the family feels for the abuser to the pain and physical symptoms of drug withdrawal, the author lays it all out for the reader to understand and experience. Coming from a blended step-family, I can appreciate the work that it takes to make a family work, especially one that does not start out as “one.” The need to make each child feel special in their own right, to make them feel safe and secure is a universal challenge for all parents that are combining households.
Ms. Maxwell does a wonderful job of making the reader cheer for her characters, their weaknesses, triumphs and tribulations. Lyon's Bride: The Chattan Curse proves there are characters out there that are easy to identify with and face some of the same issues then as we do now. I am definitely looking forward to the rest of series!