Knight of Desire
Knight of Desire is a solid first book. The plot had great promise, which wasn’t quite executed to the most of its potential, mainly because of the annoying hero. The rest of the characters are all appealing and memorable, including Jamie, a (surprise, surprise!) three-year old boy.
On the eve before her wedding, a young woman is trying to savor her last moments of freedom. She is about to be trapped in a marriage that she knows will be a painful one; Rayburn is an unkind man much older than her, and she has the feeling that he cannot be trusted. During her respite, she runs into a young man sleeping in the stables. The connection is immediate and bittersweet. Catherine feels even more suffocated by the bonds that hold her to Rayburn, and the young man is left dreaming of a girl he knows he can never have.
Catherine Rayburn is a spy. Her husband is a Welsh sympathizer who is soon executed for treason based on information she conveyed, and she is horrified by the king’s reaction to her assistance: she will either marry William FitzAlan, an influential warrior, or she will be taken to the Tower of London for treason. She is furious at being immediately trapped into another political marriage. When she meets her new husband he is a stranger to her, but he definitely recognizes her: they shared an unforgettable night many years ago. Catherine has haunted his dreams since that night, and he is eager to begin a life with her.
I thought this premise was cute and I wanted to see how he’d win her over and eventually reveal who he was. He seemed sweet enough that one night, so I expected it to be satisfyingly cheesy. Unfortunately, while it is obvious at once that he is a good and decent man, he is a complete numbskull in every other respect. Little did I know his strategy would be to sex her into affection and submission.
Yes, the first half of the book is virtually plot-less and consists of William trying to win Catherine’s heart. He always nearly-succeeds, until he has to ruin it by becoming an idiot over some trivial matter. Repeat ad nauseam, and he quickly became my first official TSTL hero. He is constantly trying to use sex to solve his problems with her. New, hostile wife? He’ll get to know her through forced sex. Silly quarrel? He’ll break down her barriers with sex.
William’s lack of trust in Catherine is also too stupid to believe. He rages at her not because he believes she’s spying, but because he thinks she’s cheating on him. He can believe that she’s a dastardly spy, but he somehow can’t put two and two together and connect her spying with her male friends. They inevitably have a big confrontation, she becomes rightfully furious, and they freeze each other out for a while. She proves herself to be a good woman time and time again, but he insists on her infidelity. This happens so often that I became convinced that this was just filler acting as a lame attempt to generate conflict. To top this, he’s so stupid that his blindness puts her life in jeopardy twice.
At one point, Catherine is abducted by the Welsh. Funnily enough, this was my favorite part of the book. The Welsh characters were all interesting, and I felt a little attached to them by the end. Of course, when Catherine and William are finally reunited months later, he has to screw up their mending relationship (again) by first sleeping with her, then accusing her of engineering the whole abduction in an attempt to escape him.
The woman has been separated from her little boy for months. Not only is she exhausted, but she’s also pregnant. Now she has to deal with this again. Frankly, I wouldn’t blame her for trying to leave him.
The villain was blindingly obvious, but he managed to be pretty insidious and infuriating, so I think he was generally successful. The epilogue was also lacking for me, as there was repeated mention of the children they end up having, but we don’t know their gender or ages, so it’s all a very vague bit of happily ever after.
Half of Knight of Desire is good. I recommend that half. I might even pick up the author’s next books, as long as she improves on the heroes. She can definitely tell a story and create interesting characters. She even wrote in a child that I didn’t find irritating, which is nothing short of a miracle. Alas, William had the potential to be such a heartbreaker, and instead soured the story. Please, Ms. Mallory, fix your men!