cover image KATE HANNIGAN


Catherine Cookson, . . Simon & Schuster, $25 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-3773-4

In her first historical romance, finally available stateside in hardcover, the late British novelist Cookson (The Fifteen Streets , etc.) shows her chops and introduces her beloved heroine Kate Hannigan. Intelligent, beautiful and out of place in the squalor of her humble home in the "fifteen streets" slum, Kate first captivates the blue-blooded Dr. Rodney Prince when he delivers her illegitimate daughter, Annie, one oppressively cold Christmas eve. His fellow physician, Dr. Davidson, finds Kate a plum "situation" with some kindly Protestants, the Tolmaches, who educate the girl far above her station, feeding her desperately thirsty mind as she struggles to raise Annie on her own. Kate and Dr. Prince are periodically reunited over the next few years as Annie grows into a sensitive young girl and Kate herself blossoms into a thoughtful, dignified woman. Dr. Prince's obvious affection for Kate fuels gossip among the denizens of the 15 streets, who suspect he's Annie's father. Gradually breaking down class barriers, Dr. Prince slowly surrenders to his love for Kate and her adorable daughter. His own cold and calculating wife, Stella, strings him along with affected gentleness and cheer, only to reject real intimacy and the possibility of children. Stella's conniving, a hysterical patient's mad whims and the doctor's near death in the Great War threaten to thwart Kate's happiness, but love prevails in the end. The cozily familiar plot holds few surprises, but Cookson's trademark northern English color and lovable characters will win over first-time readers and delight old fans whose paperback editions have grown tattered. (Jan.)