A Knight of Honor
A Knight of Honor starts out strong, with an interesting plot, intriguing characters, believable dialogue, plus plenty of action. But a sagging middle and character inconsistencies reduce the final result to no more than an average read.
At the age of thirteen, Taylor Sullivan is forced to witness her mother burned at the stake for infidelity, despite Taylor’s pleas to her father to spare her mother’s life. Taylor flees the castle that night, accompanied by Jared, who had served the Sullivans for fifteen years, with her father’s words, “There is no such thing as love,” ringing in her ears.
Eight years later, Taylor and Jared are still together, working as mercenaries. Taylor is jumped by ruffians who rob her of her mother’s ring, and who leave her with a beaten and bruised face.
Enter Slane Donovan, a knight who is repaying a debt of honor to his older brother by hunting down the Sullivan heir, Taylor, and returning her to her father – and ultimately to Slane’s brother, Richard. The Donovans’ land borders the Sullivans’, and both are being threatened by a land-hungry noble, Corydon, who has plans to steal their properties through conquest. The Donovans have men-at-arms, but no money to pay them, and the Sullivans have gold, so Richard Donovan reaches an agreement with Sullivan to wed his daughter to enrich Donovan coffers with her dowry, and join forces with Sullivan to protect both their holdings.
Slane knows Taylor only by description, so he does not recognize this beaten, bruised, and street-wise woman as the heir for whom he is searching. He hires Taylor and Jared to find the ring and its bearer for him, not knowing Taylor already fully intends to recover her ring whether she is paid or not. Once the deed is done, Donovan has to convince Taylor to return home with him, no easy task since Taylor has only deep wounds and bitter emotions concerning her father and her past.
The first half of this book shines, with Taylor revealed as a savvy but emotionally wounded woman, lonely yet unable to trust anyone other than Jared. Her phobias, rooted in her mother’s execution, are subtly depicted and believable, and she is at once strong yet vulnerable. Her bitterness toward nobles makes her a prickly companion for the ever-so-noble Slane.
Slane is not handled quite so skillfully, and the author’s feminine voice creeps through in his thoughts and speech. He is rather slow to recognize his true feelings for Taylor, although this is supposed to be due to his determination to remain true to his own betrothed, Elizabeth. The reader is also reminded of his eye color on nearly every page (or so it seems), a writing quirk that becomes annoying.
The first half of the book moves at a rapid pace, and Taylor’s interaction with Slane is amusing. By the middle of the story, however, the plot sags, with too much repetitive internalization and too little progress made in Slane and Taylor’s relationship. Toward the end, the characters of both Taylor and Slane fall apart, with Slane acting in a weak and wishy-washy manner, not in keeping with the strong moral convictions concerning honor he is supposed to possess. Taylor suddenly seems to lose her fire and spirit when it is most needed, and becomes emotionally paralyzed and unfocused.
On the positive side, there are a few late plot twists that revive the reader’s interest, and the dramatic climax echoes the opening, providing an artful frame for the story. With a better developed and more consistent hero, and the pacing evened out, this could have been an outstanding story. At least the beginning and end provide a satisfying read with a memorable heroine.