A True and Perfect Knight
A True And Perfect Knight features poorly developed characters in a swiss-cheese plot, with the added bonus of several historical inaccuracies – or rather, historical events that the author has moved around in time to suit the needs of her storyline. While a touch of mystery toward the end adds some suspense, the resolution is deeply unsatisfying, as key plot points remain unexplained.
Genvieve Dreyford is the new widow of a traitor. Her husband Roger was recently executed, and their lands turned over to new owners. In a frenzy to impress their new lord, the peasants decide to stone Genny, who, by association with her husband, is branded a traitoress as well. And then there’s the pesky rumor that she led her previously loyal husband into the treachery, which her husband’s best friend (and betrayer to the King) believes whole heartedly. So when he shows up to escort her to the King’s presence, she’s sure she’s going to die, and it isn’t really an unwarranted expectation.
Sir Haven de Sessions is prepared to hate the enchantress who led his dearest friend into treachery against King Edward, whom they had both served so loyally together. Roger himself told Haven as he was about to hang that he couldn’t trust Genny, even as he swore Haven to protect his family. So, Haven knows Genny must be responsible for the treason. And then there’s the fact that Owain, a Welshman who formerly served Roger and has now been sworn fealty to Haven, told Haven that it was Genny who fed him false information that prevented him from stopping Roger and his treachery (which, btw, always remains entirely vague). Damning evidence, indeed. But, Haven sees that Genny is a good and caring mother who seeks to do her best by him and his men – even as she curses him for betraying Roger to the King – and decides she must be innocent, a fact that he relates to the King, persuading his liege not to hang her. Instead, the King marries them, and send them off to take a castle in Wales. Will they learn to trust each other? Will Genny be proven innocent? Will you have any reason to care? Such are the mysteries – mostly unsolved – that the majority of the plot pursues.
First, let’s look at Haven. He was willing to give his best friend up to the King, upon learning of Roger’s treachery. Okay – that’s reasonable, he’s an honorable knight. Sure, they were best friends from adolescence on, and he feels rampant guilt, but we can accept this. But later in the book, he is quite willing to defy the direct orders of the King (which were all quite mysterious, and never explained), by allowing the Welsh to aid him in his new keep, all because Genny – whom he still doesn’t entirely trust – wants him to. I’d go on, but that’s the entirety of Haven’s character development, so I can’t. No really, that’s all there is.
Now, what do we know about Genny? She was married to Roger against her will, a union her parents agreed to. We don’t know why. Roger clearly has no interest in her, she doesn’t seem to have any lands or possessions other than what he brought to the marriage, and she’s French. We know that she’s French, because we’re told so, and because she and her son Thomas frequently break into grammatically incorrect and inappropriate French. But that’s a minor point. Her whole attitude is a transparent attempt by the author to make her seem both self-sacrifing and spunky – unfortunately the author’s attempts are a failure. In addition, she has this habit of manipulating men by praying at them, in order to get them to do what she wants. For some reason, this works. It’s neither attractive, nor believable, but there you have it. Also, she can’t understand how Haven could possibly have put his loyalty to the King and his desire for peace above the love he bore his best friend – who just happened to be a traitor – so she blames him constantly for Roger’s death. Eventually, she falls in love with Haven, and apparently stops caring why he betrayed her husband.
Now, for the plot. We have Haven blaming Genny based on some pretty strong evidence – none of which is ever explained or disproved other than to say, oh well, Roger was a traitor, of course he’d be a liar too. But why blame Genny, to what end, especially as he was hanging? Not important, I guess, since we never find out. Nor do we find out the explanation of that little story of Owain’s, who himself happens to be a good and loyal character, and one who has no problem whatsoever obeying and respecting Genny, even though he thinks she led Roger into treachery.
And last but not least, we have the King himself. He clearly and pointedly instructs Haven not to let any Welsh anywhere near the castle he’s been sent to take (although we don’t ever get any explanation for this edict), but when Haven goes directly against these orders by allowing the Welsh to remain, the King shrugs this off. And later on, when he wants to get the truth from Genny – whom he believes is a traitoress – he extracts a promise from her to always tell the truth, somehow believing that a traitoress couldn’t possibly lies under oath. If the real Edward I were like this, we’d probably be referring to Great Wales instead of Great Britain these days.
All in all, this is hardly an auspicious print debut for Ms. Charnley, who was previously published in e-book format. While not quite bad enough to rate an “F,” this book has a long way to go to achieve “average.” I would skip this one, and hope that next release will prove better.