What do you get when you mix a thirteenth century Scotsman, a twentieth century woman, three witches, one real ghost, one fake ghost, a familiar, secondary characters from another novel in the series, a stolen manuscript, a Christmas setting, and a Shakespeare-quoting parrot? A convoluted mess! Christmas Knight is a book with too much of a good thing…or maybe too much of several good things. So much is packed into its pages that the characters get lost in the shuffle. It has some nice components, but they are fleeting.
Hope O’Hara has just purchased and renovated Glenbrae House in Scotland, which she plans to turn into an inn. Unfortunately, the bills are piling up, but few guests are coming. One stormy night, the tarpaulin covering a hole in the inn’s thatched roof blows off. While Hope is on the roof repairing it, she almost falls to her death. Fortunately, Ronan MacLeod arrives in the nick of time to catch her. He has been summoned from the thirteenth century by the Wishwell sisters, three witches who know that Hope is in danger.
Ronan quickly figures out that he has come forward in time, but Hope doesn’t buy it. She figures he is just some soldier with holes in his past. Ronan and Hope are both attracted to each other, but both are hesitant to get involved. Because of some incidents in her past, Hope believes she isn’t very good in bed. Ronan has deep feelings for Hope, but he is afraid to become involved with her for fear he will be sent back to his own time.
Got that so far? Because there is much more. First there is the inn, which isn’t getting any guests because someone is sending bad reports about it to travel agencies. For a while, Hope and some other characters try to increase business by pretending Glenbrae House is haunted. Meanwhile, Hope finds a valuable brooch which had been Ronan’s in the thirteenth century. She sells it for a nice sum, but it is stolen and she’s being blamed. Then there are items missing from the house, and several malicious pranks. Then Nicholas and Kacey from Draycott Abbey arrive), bringing their daughter and the Draycott Abbey ghost with them. There is also a sub-plot involving the secondary characters. And while all this is going on, it is Christmas.
Some books manage to carry off complicated plots, but this isn’t one of them. There is simply too much going on, and there are some loose ends that never do get tied up. For example, in the obligatory scene where the villain has Hope and Ronan cornered but needs to talk just long enough for help to arrive, he forgets to mention whether he is the one responsible for complaining to the travel agencies. And the over-abundance of supernatural beings really does it in. I kept expecting a vampire and a werewolf to show up to complete the cast.
With a plot like this, characterization is sure to take a back seat. Hope is not very interesting, and she has few identifiable personality traits. Ronan, on the other hand, has too many. He alternately speaks like a medieval knight and a modern beta-type man. Once in a while, the writer seems to remember he is supposed to be Scottish, so he would spout off a Gaelic phrase or two. He has an interesting past, but we never get to hear any of the good parts. Basically he is just a cardboard cut-out of a man in a kilt. Periodically, he likes to offer sage comments, like “Life is a river we can never step in twice. The water flows, always moving, always different, just as we are always different. There’s no way to stop the change, Hope. That is why we feel pain.” If you don’t have much tolerance for comments like that, Ronan may actively annoy you.
The few love scenes are thrown in quickly, and they aren’t very good. During the main one, Ronan and Hope have a running conversation. I almost forgot what they were doing, and I wondered if they forgot also.
There are two main groups of readers who will be particularly disappointed with this book. If you buy it either for the time travel plot or the Christmas setting, you will really be shortchanged. There are some funny fish-out-of-water time travel moments, but not enough to really satisfy. And it takes Hope far too long to believe Ronan is from the past. Until a time-travel couple gets over the believeablity hurdle, their relationship goes nowhere. Christmas fans will be equally disappointed. Since it’s part of the title, you would expect Christmas to play some part in the book, but it’s barely even mentioned. I suspect the title was chosen at random from the many themes floating around in this book.
There was one character I did like: Adrian, the Draycott Abbey ghost. He was the only one who had a personality. Unfortunately, he was dead, and the book wasn’t really about him. If you are a real Draycott Abbey fan, you may find this book worthwhile because of Adrian’s appearance. If not, read at your own risk. Christmas Knight tries to please everyone, with predictable consequences.
I've been at AAR since dinosaurs roamed the Internet. I've been a Reviewer, Reviews Editor, Managing Editor, Publisher, and Blogger. Oh, and Advertising Corodinator. Right now I'm taking a step back to concentrate on kids, new husband, and new job in law...but I'll still keep my toe in the romance waters.