A Midsummer Knight's Kiss
A Midsummer Knight’s Kiss gives Elisabeth Hobbes another solid notch in her quiver of appealing romances. While I liked this one less than her phenomenal last novel, she still produces a fine romance that, even with its problems, will make readers happy.
Back when they were kids, Rowenna – Ro – Danby and her cousin Robbie constantly got into mischief, to the consternation of their parents. The two are as thick as thieves and constantly in one another’s company, bonded by their odd-person-out nature in the household; Rowenna is not ladylike and even worse, is her father’s bastard and Robbie has a pronounced stutter and is treated poorly as a result. Then his father – who was a mercenary before he worked his way to prosperity – tells Robbie a position has been secured for him as a squire, which means the cousins’ close friendship must end. This is sad enough, but before he leaves, Robbie learns a stunning truth – he is not the biological son of his father, but of a man his mother was with previously involved with. They have kept Robbie’s origins a secret, so the family title may pass to him without question and his name will not be stained. But he cannot forgive the father he once adored, and heads off and away for his training without further word to his family.
Years later, Robbie is an aspiring knight seeking to make his way in the world, plagued by the fact that he doesn’t know his biological father and hoping to win the fair, convent-raised Mary Scarbrick as his bride. True, he’s never spoken to Mary – daughter of his liege lord – one on one, but surely if he wins a tournament he’ll convince her he’s worthwhile – and will earn his knighthood.
Fiery Rowenna remains unmarried, even though she’s grown into a stunning beauty, pretending to mildness in the vain hope of attracting a man who doesn’t care about her status as a bastard of partially common origin. Robbie is shocked the girl he once fondly called ‘Dumpling’ has grown so amazingly well, and Ro – looking at Robbie – realizes that no other man has accepted her for herself as he does. Ro tries to help Robbie win Mary’s hand – until she finds out Mary is shallow, bitchy and greedy. Suddenly all bets are off, but Rowenna fears Robbie dislikes her low birth. She sets her cap for Cecil, Robbie’s rival and friend, and suddenly Robbie is the one in anguish, thinking Rowenna isn’t attracted to him. Can these two talk things out, or is their mutual stubbornness going to doom them both?
So ye, the heroine thinks she and the hero are cousins for the majority of the book, but they’re not blood related. Those who find such a plot squicky should abandon ye olde barge, but others should carry on reading, because A Midsummer Knight’s Kiss is a sweet romance that works nicely.
Robbie is a great hero, if sometimes a bit too strongly wed to his sense of honor. This story is more his coming of age than Rowenna’s, and AMKK is about his learning the difference between romantic crushes and true love, between biology and real family, and between pride and honor. His journey is marvelous, and his stutter treated with realism and respect.
Ro was disappointingly foolish compared to other Hobbes heroines I’ve encountered. Though spirited and unafraid of liveliness, she constantly places herself in dangerous situations that only Robbie can rescue her from. Though she’s gentle, funny and good, sometimes her behavior grated on me.
But the romance is lovely and spot-on, perfumed by true understanding and desire. Hobbes, as always, gets how love works and writes beautiful love stories without a single flaw. It’s highly impressive.
I liked Robbie’s rivalry with his fellow squire, Cecil, who’s forever at his elbows, forever poking him in the ribs, and provides a distraction for Ro. Robbie’s stepfather, Roger, was phenominal – arch and grounded, he loves his son (and Robbie is definitely HIS son) no matter what. The way Robbie comes back to the family bosom is one of the story’s best facets.
Not quite as good is Mary, who’s unfortunately shallow and two-dimensional. Hobbes’ villains usually have more layers than she does, and I’m disappointed she wasn’t genuinely nice so the choice between Mary and Ro would be less cut and dried.
Hobbes’ sense of place and time, as always, sings. I’ve never read a book about the Peasant’s Revolt, but setting a romance during that time is an interesting choice.
A Midsummer Knight’s Kiss isn’t quite as good as Hobbes’ other work, but okay stories by her are worth more than their weight in gold.