There comes a time in every reader’s life when you read a book that just clicks on all levels – a flawless, much loved storyline, a dashing, sexy hero, a darling heroine you’d want as a best friend and the endearing secondary characters who become like family. Such was the case for me with Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me. The first time I read it I was completely blown away and it’s one of the few books that I’ve read multiple times. It’s my “go to” book . . . my comfort read . . . and yes, my very favorite book. It features one of the most popular and beloved heroes of all time, Anthony Bridgerton, the head of the well-known Bridgerton family. But what would Anthony be without his leading lady, Kate? Nothing, I tell you. This blog is all about my girl, Kate.
We first meet Katharine Grace Sheffield when she and her sister, Edwina, are embarking on their first
season together. At twenty-one, Kate may seem a bit old to be
having her debut, but her family only had enough funds for one trip to London,
so they decided it best to do so when Edwina turned seventeen. They are there with Kate’s stepmother and
Edwina’s mother, Mary. Right away, we
learn three important things about Kate: she is fiercely loyal to her family,
she is sensible, and she is completely selfless.
Despite the fact that her sister is this season’s “incomparable” and is
beauty and grace personified, Kate doesn’t pout about it nor feels any
jealously towards Edwina. She accepts it
as fact and is happy for and utterly devoted to her sister. Who wouldn’t want a sister like that? In fact, Edwina and Kate are so close, that
Edwina pronounces that she will not marry anyone her sister does not deem
worthy. When Kate observes Edwina dancing
with Viscount Bridgerton, the “reprehensible rogue”, her defenses are instantly
raised. There is no way that that rake is going to marry her sister. Later, the viscount tells Kate that she is as
lovely as her sister. Big mistake, but
Kate handles it very well. “And you, Lord Bridgerton,” she replied in a
tone that could have frozen champagne, “are almost as handsome as your
brother.” Heh. Kate gives as good as she gets. London
Competitive only begins to describe how Kate is around Anthony at first. In fact, it is their conflict and verbal sparring that absolutely drive this story. Not to mention it creates some of the most memorable scenes in any historical romance, such as the Serpentine debacle and the infamous Bridgerton Pall Mall game. Who doesn’t love that Kate, having picked the black “mallet of death”, deliberately sinks Anthony’s pink ball in the lake? I could read that scene over and over and never tire of it.
But it isn’t always combative between the two. While it’s obvious they enjoy vexing each other, it’s even more obvious that there is a spark there. The more they’re around each other, the more they want to be. And Kate’s heart really softens towards Anthony when he does the one thing she doesn’t expect – he rescues her friend Penelope from the young lady hurling nasty insults at her by giving her the cut direct.
. . . and in that moment Kate had the oddest feeling that she understood this man completely.
But even stranger – suddenly she wasn’t so certain that he was the soulless, reprehensible rake she’d taken such comfort in believing him.
“Did you see that?”
Kate, who, along with the rest of the assembled company, had been staring openmouthed as Bridgerton led Penelope from the room, his head bent to hers as if she were the most fascinating woman ever to walk the earth, turned to see Edwina standing next to her.
“I saw the whole thing,” Kate said in a dazed voice. “I heard the whole thing.”
“He was . . . he was . . .” Kate stumbled over her words, unsure of how to describe what exactly he’d done. And then she said something she’d never thought possible: “He was a hero.”
|This is how I picture Kate. How fitting!
(Photo courtesy of biography.com)
With great reluctance, he slowly tore himself away from her, letting his hands rest on her slim shoulders and straightening his arms to keep himself far enough away so that he wouldn’t be tempted to continue where he’d left off.
And the temptation was there. He made the mistake of looking at her face, and in that moment he would have sworn that Kate Sheffield was every bit as beautiful as her sister.
Hers was a different sort of attraction. Her lips were fuller, less in fashion but infinitely more kissable. Her lashes – how had he not noticed before how long they were? When she blinked they seemed to rest on her cheeks like a carpet. And when her skin was tinged with the pinks of desire, she glowed. Anthony knew he was being fanciful, but when he gazed upon her face, he could not help thinking of the new dawn, of that exact moment when the sun was creeping over the horizon, painting the sky with its subtle palette of peaches and pinks.
Wow. What girl wouldn’t want to have someone feel that way about her? But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?), despite what Anthony thinks of her, he tells Kate not to expect love from him. They will always have a mutual friendship and respect, but never love. Kate tells him that that is okay with her, but deep down inside, it’s not. And Kate starts to become a little selfish. Good for her!
All her life, she’d been the one who’d received the second glance, the second greeting, the second kiss on the hand. As the elder daughter, it should have been her due to be addressed before her younger sister, but Edwina’s beauty was so stunning, the pure and perfect blue of her eyes so startling, that people simply forgot themselves in her presence.
Introductions to Kate were usually met with an embarrassed, “Of course,” and a polite murmured greeting while their eyes slid back to Edwina’s pure and shining face.
Kate had never minded it much. If Edwina had been spoiled or bad-tempered it might have been difficult, and in all truth, most of the men she’d met were shallow and silly, and she hadn’t much cared if they only took the time to acknowledge her after her sister.
She wanted Anthony’s eyes to light up when she entered the room. She wanted him to scan a crowd until he saw her face. She didn’t need him to love her – or at least that’s what she was telling herself – but she desperately wanted to be first in his affections, first in his desires.
And she had an awful, terrible feeling that all this meant she was falling in love.
Falling in love with one’s husband – who would have thought it could be such a disaster?
Anthony helps Kate conquer her biggest fear and she knows that what she feels for him in indeed love, though she doesn’t understand why Anthony can’t feel the same. (Readers know that he believes he’ll die before he turns thirty-nine, as his father did.) Drinking himself into a stupor along with some shrewd advice from his brothers confirms to Anthony that he does love Kate and that it shouldn’t matter if he dies in five, eight, ten or fifty years from now. What matters most is loving that one person with all your heart while you can.
“I was so sure that it was the one thing that could make this . . . this . . . I don’t really know what to call it – this knowledge of my own mortality . . .” He raked his hands through his hair, fighting for words. “Love was the only thing that was truly going to make that unbearable. How could I love someone, truly and deeply, knowing that it was doomed?”
“But it’s not doomed,” Kate said, squeezing his hand.
“I know. I fell in love with you, and then I knew. Even if I am right, even if I’m fated to live only as long as my father did before me, I’m not doomed.” He leaned forward and brushed a feather-light kiss on her lips. “I have you,” he whispered, “and I’m not going to waste a single moment we have together.”
Kate’s lips spread into a smile. “What does that mean?”
“It means that love isn’t about being afraid that it will all be snatched away. Love’s about finding the one person who makes your heart complete, who makes you a better person than you ever dreamed you could be. It’s about looking into the eyes of your wife and knowing, all the way to your bones, that she’s simply the best person you’ve ever known.”
So, dear readers, as you can tell, I love this book and I absolutely adore its heroine, Kate Sheffield. Who are some of your most unforgettable heroines? What qualities do they have that make you feel that way? Please share!