Meggie Sherbrooke has loved her "dratted" almost-cousin since she was thirteen. Of course, over the six years intervening between the time they met and the present, Meggie almost forgot him; that is, until her coming out allows them to cross paths again. Meggie is immediately smitten, and then heartbroken, as Jeremy announces his engagement to another. Aware of her feelings, Jeremy later behaves rather badly in an effort to disillusion Meggie and free her heart to love another.
Earl Thomas Malcombe expresses his interest in Meggie, but knows her heart belongs to another. Only when medicine he brings saves the life of a younger brother does Meggie afford him the opportunity to spend time together. While she immediately captures his heart, Meggie still mourns the loss of love that never was. Kisses distract her, however, and eventually lead her to marriage with Thomas. But words overheard only an hour after their vows are spoken provoke jealousy and anger, thus ruining their wedding night.
As Thomas and Meggie travel cross country to his family home, they are delayed by a homicide, soon followed by an attempt of Meggie's life. When Meggie's family arrives to offer their protection following a second attempt on her life, Thomas' jealousy increases. Often his negative reactions create unnecessary distance in their relationship, despite Meggie's assurances regarding her commitment to their marriage.
PENDRAGON is my first exposure to author Catherine Coulter's prose, I admit to feeling a bit torn about this book. On the one hand, she creates a lovely background with strong characterizations and delightful gothic elements. Meggie's puppy love for her cousin that eventually gives way to true love with her husband is a delight to watch. On the other hand, her heavy-handed innocence and pressing the point regarding tongues and kisses grows a bit tiresome. Likewise, Thomas presents a bit of difficulty to like. On the one hand, he is a strong male character who handles his brother's escapades with grace. On the other hand, I wanted to shake him and tell him to pay attention when he yields too much to his jealous emotions, especially given his crude use of his wife on their wedding night. Yet even that scene is offset nicely when Meggie and the innkeeper share a bottle of champagne and talk of men. Further, the sparring between Meggie and her mother-in-law also proves to be a delight. She never allows the older woman to repress her spirits despite sometimes cruel, often inappropriate, comments. While I'm not entirely satisfied with PENDRAGON, the remarkable strengths will certainly have me giving this author another read. Recommended.