I had never read Jackie Ivie’s work before reading Knight Everlasting, and I am afraid that I am unlikely to read anything again. There is just something missing from this story.
It starts out with the hero, Aiden, saving Juliana from an attack by English soldiers somewhere in the Highlands in the time of Edward II (think Braveheart). At first, the Aidan seems rather lovable. He is charming and funny, and believes that he has been cursed at birth by a witch to act rashly and recklessly. So rather than fight the curse, Aidan figures he will roll with it. He has made rash and reckless choices throughout his life. That was all fine and good until the day he decided to not only save Juliana, but to keep her, as well.
At first, Aidan and Juliana spend time traveling to his castle where he plans to keep her as his mistress. Well, he goes back and forth on that decision, but we know that is where he is heading. Once they arrive at his castle, though, Aidan’s uncle, who has been playing regent until Aidan was old enough to take over the clan, has decided he isn’t quite ready to give up his power. In threatening Aidan, he threatens Juliana – and suddenly Aidan’s protective instincts come to the fore. The idea of her as his mistress becomes intolerable and, before he even knows who she really is, he realizes that only through marriage can he really protect her.
Right from the start, we know Juliana has a Big Secret. Though the reader gets the details in dribs and drabs, it takes a while before we realize that the Big Secret is closely related to Aidan and his enemies. However, even once I figured out the Big Secret, I have to say, I am not so sure why it was a secret in the first place. Used in this way, The Big Secret is one of my least favorite plot devices. It was really the only way to keep tension and to put obstacles in the couple’s path. Once the secret is revealed, the book loses a lot of its flavor and interest. This becomes especially true when Aidan decides to marry her and Juliana decides to keep the Big Secret still a secret. In fact, Aidan doesn’t find it out until the last page of the book, long after the reader has stopped giving it much thought.
Aidan doesn’t stay very consistent. The lovable Aidan seems indecisive in liking and hating Juliana, and a lot of the charm and humor he has at the beginning of the book starts to fade. He alternates between wanting Juliana and not wanting her. He is afraid to hurt her, but then he doesn’t care. And the worst part was that you really didn’t blame him, since Juliana gave him very little to work with. By the time that he decides he likes her, she has already given up all her charms and it leads you to wonder if that was the driving force in his feelings. And all of that was before we met his harem of women.
As far as Juliana is concerned, it’s very hard to like her at any point in the book. By the time Aidan is in love with her, you really start to wonder what on earth it is that he finds appealing. She spends a great deal of time trying to escape him, then she falls in love with him (while still trying to escape from him), then has sex with him, then tries to escape, and on and on. But at no point in time do the hero or heroine seem to ever have a conversation. They argue, yes, but not the fun sexual tension arguing. More like the five and three year old sibling arguing – “I claim you.” “You can’t.” “Yes, I can.” “No you can’t.” “Yes I can.” It became pretty tedious. Especially since the next thing you know, Juliana is in love with him – something you don’t expect to develop from the infantile arguments.
Normally I don’t mind so much when the author gets historical facts or details wrong. If the story is good and the characters are engaging, I can forgive when they misname the parts of the castle or consider a “garderobe” a closet in the century it would be a toilet. When I notice that the author is having the hero use a sporran (a Scottish pocket, since kilts don’t have any) as a canteen, I know that I am not engaged in a story. That was the case here. When Aidan stopped and took a drink of whiskey from his sporran? I put the book down and I had to work to pick it back up again.
Overall, my biggest test of a good book is whether or not I can put it down. With a good book, even if it isn’t “stay up all night” good, I am excited to get back to it the next day. With this one, there was no pull. The characters weren’t engaging and the story wasn’t exciting. You knew that there would eventually be a Big Reveal, but the hints showed that the reveal would be underwhelming, so as a result it didn’t pull you in to find out the truth.
I was excited to read this book, but I am afraid that I was a more than a little disappointed. I know that this author has had some successful books in the past, but I think that the dependence on the Big Secret as a plot device and the arguing as the form of sexual tension fell flat in this offering.
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