Christina Skye has written a masterful time travel tale in Christmas Knight. Readers will fall in love with medieval knight Ronan MacLeod’s chivalry and honor and will find Hope O’Hara equally engaging. Still, there’s a surprising lack of sizzle in this book. Bride of the Mist, an earlier book in this series, went beyond sizzling – it nearly scorched my hands as I turned the pages. Where that earlier book had nearly limitless sexual tension, internal conflict, and a riveting suspense sub-plot, Christmas Knight can’t compete.
American Hope O’Hara has used her inheritance to buy a dilapidated manor house in the Highlands of Scotland. Without so much as a ghost to scare up business, she’s in danger of losing her small hotel before it has a chance to succeed. Three elderly sisters living nearby, Perpetua, Morwenna, and Honoria, have taken an interest in Hope and her future. Any passing resemblance between these three women and the witches from Macbeth are intentional and a delightful tongue-in-check reminder of how talented author Skye is. They reminded me more of the bumbling fairies in Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty or Esmerelda in Bewitched than anything Will Shakespeare conjured up.
On a dark and stormy night as Hope is desperately trying to cover a hole in the roof, the sisters conjure up medieval knight Ronan MacLeod. He comes racing on his trusty steed, chain mail and all, seven hundred years in the future, to save her as she falls off her ladder. Who is this strange woman in her even stranger garb, and why does she claim the manor as her own? As for Hope, she obviously wonders if Ronan is crazy or a criminal. Still, his chain mail looks real, and his horse is the right size for a medieval knight. . . .
Ronan’s assimilation into the modern age is extremely well done. His reaction to zippers, television, and everything else he comes into contact with seemed reasonable to me. His reaction to Hope and hers to him seemed reasonable to me as well – they began to trust one another and fall in love. Their love is hampered, however, by the fact that this honorable man believes he is needed in his own time. As such, he doesn’t want to act upon his love for Hope. As for Hope, she vacillates between pure lust for Ronan and the fact that she can’t believe he’s a seven hundred year old man. She somehow trusts him while not believing him, something I found hard to believe. It takes a frightening (and very inventive) display from him to convince her he is telling the truth.
While all this is going on, Hope’s chef Gabrielle and young theatrical “bum” Jeffrey are trying to help Hope scare up business for the inn, literally. What’s a Highland manor without a ghost? And, for additional excitement, it appears to Ronan that someone is following Hope. While this suspense sub-plot builds rather too slowly, by the time the Draycott Abbey ghost arrives on the scene, along with Nicholas and Kacey (from Enchantment, the author’s novella in the anthology Haunting Love Stories), things begin to pick up.
There is plenty of wit and clever writing in Christmas Knight. The parrot Banquo, who seemingly quotes lines from Macbeth, rounds out the author’s tongue-in-cheek homage to Shakespeare. And while both Hope and Ronan face conflicts within themselves which make their characters more fully fleshed, the level of internal conflict between them is limited to a number of sexual interludes that end abruptly in one way or another. Readers expecting great sexual tension will be disappointed and frustrated by all the interruptions.
Frankly, clever writing aside, I was a bit disappointed all around with this book. As a great warrior, I felt sorry that Ronan wasn’t able to be more heroic; it is only at the very end of the story when he is allowed to act the part. The lack of conflict between Ronan and Hope frustrated me as well – it seemed the same scene was repeated over and over again until they finally were able to consummate their love. And, while the suspense sub-plot eventually ignited, the build-up to it was too slow.
Readers who have enjoyed this series will no doubt want to add this book to their collection – I certainly did. But be forewarned – it’s not a great read. For this author, it’s rather mundane. And, considering it deals with ghosts and time travel, that’s rather a shame. For a recommended read by this author, please try Bride of the Mist instead.