When I originally conceived this project, I actually had Catherine Anderson’s entire Coulter extended universe on my list of planned reviews. She wrote Keegan’s Lady first, then wrote a series of contemporary novels beginning with the Kendrick brothers and then the Coulter brothers before finally leaving it behind with a quartet about the Harrigans. Ryan Kendrick married Bethany Coulter whose brother Tucker married Samantha Harrigan, giving us about 12 more books set in this universe. Early Dawn’s Eden Paxton and Matthew Coulter are the historical ancestors of the contemporary family.
After finishing Lucky Penny, I realized I didn’t have Baby Love in ebook form, and my battered physical copy has long been packed away. I don’t like Baby Love enough to buy it again which I have done for some of my favorite books. I’ve waited for them to show up in digital sales or the occasional free releases, and sometimes I love a book so much that I have purchased a digital copy so I’ve been able to replicate a lot of my physical library.
I genuinely like Catherine Anderson, don’t get me wrong. But after rereading five of her books in a row, I realized that I really didn’t want to read another twelve straight books. She’s one of those authors who writes relatively well but leans on the same tropes and same character types. This does not bother me, but it does make rereading series more of a challenge since the books start to blur together.
Anderson writes about men who are tough on the outside, soft on the inside. They curse a lot, they always think they know best, and they don’t tend to have a lot of emotional baggage. That’s left for the heroine, who is always suffering from sort of emotional trauma or abuse.
In Keegan’s Lady, Ace has more of a background to deal with but it’s been directed into revenge not emotional conflict. Caitlin is recovering from not only an abusive father and brother, but also a brutal and violent rape. In Beautiful Gifts, Patrick had the closest tragic background–a drinking issue that’s already been dealt with off the page. Faith has an emotionally abusive father and husband from whom she’s running away. In Summer Breeze, Joseph is more solid while Rachel is the agoraphobic. Early Dawn is more even–they both have emotional conflict, but of course, Eden has been sexually assaulted. And then finally, Lucky Penny in which David is emotionally fine, but Brianna is an uptight mess who has never met a man who didn’t try to rape her.
Not only are the emotional conflicts always so similar, but the problems i have with the romances tend to the same. In several of them, the hero makes all the decisions. He thinks he knows what’s best and the heroine is usually trying to just keep her head above water. In several of the books, I was left unconvinced by the HEA and was more convinced that the woman was just making the best of the situation she was dealt with.
That’s realistic to the time period, so I’m definitely not knocking it. Men always held all the power, and women had to find their own ways to subvert the system. I just kind of wish there was more acknowledgement of it. Brianna and Caitlin were particularly upsetting to read because they had their lives turned upside down because Ace and David decided they knew what was best, and they had no choices at all.
So that’s enough critique. I actually really like all of these books. For all the problems I have with the way romances are developed and how cardboard and interchangeable some of the characters are, I usually like the plots relatively well (Early Dawn drags a bit too much, but Summer Breeze was a lovely break from a lot of conventions). Catherine Anderson writes this time period and setting better than almost anyone else I’ve read.
Objectively, the best book in this series is Summer Breeze. It has the strongest romance, plot, and characters. It’s also subjectively my favorite book. My least favorite is probably Early Dawn because of the graphic sexual abuse or Lucky Penny because David becomes more insufferable every time you read it.