Oh holy happiness! I picked up this one on interlibrary loan for an upcoming presentation of current popular children's books (yes, I know this came out in 2006, but the recent one just came out) and could hardly put it down!
If you've been reading my reviews for long, you'll notice a pattern of me falling in love with girls who are smart, strong, and smart-alecky with a twist. Catherine Royal is all of the above and more! This is the second book in a row I've read that involves the main character living in a theater, which I found to be really interesting as I rarely have some of the same characteristics in books by two different authors - hope that made sense. (The other is Eyes Like Stars).
Cat is an orphan who doesn't know who her parents were, but Mr. Sheridan has been her guardian of sorts since she was left on the steps of the theater. She's grown up around the raucous gangs of Covent Garden, knows which areas of London she should avoid at all costs, knows everyone and everything that goes on in the theater, and has a heart of gold that gets her into some serious hot water.
Her troubles start when she overhears Mr. Sheridan talking about the diamond that is hidden in the theater. She promises to keep the secret, and she does so quite well until Pedro shows up. Accidentally divulging the secret to him, she wonders if she can trust him when she finds him looking for the diamond. Add in the new stage prompter who is more than he seems, a bully with ethics and a bully that would be better off in Newgate (prison for those of you that don't know), and you've got yourself one rip-roaring story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
I also absolutely adore how this novel was designed. You have a lovely listing of the cast of characters at the beginning of the story, as well as a map of London and a word of warning from Cat herself (as she is the narrator telling us the story) saying that, "This is not the world of the drawing room and country estate...If you want to survive in my neighborhood, you have to be prepared to use coarse language that packs a verbal punch." Now, before you get upset about the language, it's the common language of London in the 1790s. It's very different from today's brand of bad language. There is also a list of the slang used in the book at the back which can be quite helpful. Generally speaking the reader will get the gist of what is being said, but sometimes a quick check confirming your thoughts will make you laugh a little louder.
Can you stand one more glowing bit about the design of the book? It's divided up as a play, with 5 acts, each having 3 - 4 scenes. The beginning of each act has a map of a more detailed location in London, and a quip from Cat about what is going to be happening. Theater lovers take heart! This has enough drama that you'll want to stage this one as a play yourselves!
Notes on the Cover:
Cat peeking out of the curtains at the theater. The girl on the cover is pretty close to how I imagine her, and I like the theater curtains and the feel that she is lurking. Cat does do her fair share of hiding, but it's generally just because she's in the wrong place at the wrong time. She really never intends to go looking for trouble - it is somehow attracted to her.