A Knight's Vow
Grade : D+

From the blurb on the back, A Knight’s Vow sounds like about 50% of all Medieval Romances:

“He was her father’s enemy, and now he was her husband by the king’s decree.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Actually, A Knight’s Vow is a mite different from similar medievals I have read, and had loads of potential. With a heroine who knows her way around the lists (not a brand new idea, but still interesting), and a hero who is sympathetic and noble (not new either, but a plus, in my mind), it could have been a grand read. Unfortunately A Knight’s Vow is based on a shaky premise, and while the heroine may be fierce and the hero noble, they still manage to remain unlikable for the first two thirds of the book.

James Markham, the Earl of Bolton, has finally had enough of debauchery at Court and is headed home with the dowry of the woman who abandoned him to marry his brother. While on his way, he is robbed by The Black Angel, a woman who has made it her goal to see the Earl of Bolton and his family suffer. She want to see him humiliated, then die by her hand. Her plans for his eventual death are shattered, though, when she is captured and given to James in marriage, for The Black Angel is none other than Lady Isabel Atherstone, the last remaining member of the family that has been feuding with the Boltons for generations. With the option to kill James lost, Isabel decides that she will make it her life’s goal to humiliate him in front of anyone and everyone. It is a task made easier as she has no training in the womanly arts, no table manners, and insists on wearing James’ clothes instead of the dresses he provides for her.

There are certain things I expect from a hero in a medieval romance. I expect him to know how to use a sword, and I expect him as well to be almost overly confident in himself (a trait important for survival in a position of power during such a violent time). James is, of course, a master of the sword. He also, unfortunately, comes off as weak at times, even with the example of his people being well taken care of and loyal. A supposedly arrogant, overly confident lord would never allow his wife to get away with the stunts that Isabel pulled, and yet James not only did so, but allowed himself, in fact, to be humiliated.

Isabel’s behavior was totally illogical after the marriage. Her husband:

  • Didn’t force her to have sex with him – ever;
  • Was thoughtful of her needs, even though it was begrudging at times; and
  • Showed himself to be just and kind when dealing with his people and the boy who was captured with her;
So instead of warming up to James, Isabel’s illogical reaction to any proof that her impression of him was wrong goes something like this: He is actually caring for the needs of his people. Maybe he isn’t so bad after all. Hmm. Oh well, back to my plan of vengeance.. The author wanted to prolong the misunderstanding, I am sure, to keep the story going, but in doing so, she made the heroine appear to be less than intelligent, even considering her upbringing and background. Only in the last third of the book, when Isabel becomes both more vulnerable by giving up her life’s ambition yet also stronger by taking charge when James becomes ill, does she become sympathetic.

The whole vengeance plot itself is based on something that happened generations ago, and when I read what it was, my first reaction was you’ve got to be kidding! Although the genesis of the ill will was indeed rather bad, it did not warrant generations of harm between the two families, although, admittedly, Isabel’s family did most of the harm.

A Knight’s Vow has some elements to recommend it. It has a wonderful period feel, it has sympathetic secondary characters, and in the last third it has a heroine who just might be worth a happily ever after. Gayle Callen, from what I read on the author’s page, is an author who has been honing her craft for quite some time before finally getting published. She has loads of potential – if her lead characters were more sympathetic, she would have written a good book, despite the Big Misunderstanding plot line. Though this book wasn’t enjoyable, I am going to be keeping my eye on this author.

Reviewed by Rebecca Ekmark

Grade: D+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : October 28, 1999

Publication Date: 1999

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Recent Comments …

  1. Personal impression is subjective. What works for one person doesn’t always work for others, as we all know. However, when…

  2. I appreciate your comments, I find their tone completely in line with the tone of the review itself, not an…

Rebecca Ekmark

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