Tender is the Knight
Having loved Jackie Ivie’s debut Lady of the Knight, I felt excitement and trepidation as I read the first few pages of this novel. Would it be as good? Had I only loved that first one because I’m a sucker for chicks-in-pants? Well, I can safely say this is one author whose sophomore effort has more than lived up to her first. That’s not to say everyone is going to love it. If enough people read it, this romance will send the message board into a frenzy of polarized discussion. I can’t wait.
At the heart of the discussion will be several romance tropes. First up is the Big Secret, with its inevitable result the Big Misunderstanding – and the progeny of both, the Grovel. Many a reader has thrown a book across the room because a few lines of dialogue could have cleared up a misunderstanding. Why doesn’t she just tell him? We cry. Why doesn’t he reveal his tortured past? Why don’t they just talk to each other? Count me in as one of those people who gets frustrated. After reading Lady of the Knight, a new light has dawned. When done right these story staples make all the sense in the world. How else do you develop such exquisite emotional drama? Think of those television shows with romance pairings who are always getting thisclose to consummation. We keep watching because of the tension. And that’s what Ms. Ivie’s newest has in spades.
Like the heroine of Ms. Ivie’s first book, Elise, Dowager Duchess of Wynd, goes through life disguised. No she doesn’t dress as a boy. Instead she hides behind a heartless façade. All of society thinks of her as shockingly wild and ruthlessly cold; a view she encourages. Elise is determined to protect her hard-won independence and the secret she holds close. Her façade starts to crumble when she meets Colin MacGowan, the new Duke of Gowan, a dangerous and imperious Scottish lord recently returned to England to take up his newly inherited responsibilities. For Elise has a secret that concerns Clan MacGowan and its new laird.
Colin initially dismisses Elise. He has need of a wife and Elise doesn’t fit the bill. It’s only when his name is connected to hers in the scandal sheets that he starts to pay her more notice. Once Elise becomes the focus of Colin’s gaze, there’s no turning back – for either of them. If that sounds a little dramatic, believe me, it’s written that way. Colin is autocratic and powerful; a man used to getting what he wants. Elise equally used to doing as she pleases, and she frustrates and fascinates him.
Tension and drama are the watchwords here. Elise and Colin have chemistry in spades but they’re often working at cross-purposes. And then there’s that secret. The first line is: “there really was such a thing as one secret too many.” It can’t be any clearer than that. Elise has something she needs to tell Colin, and yet…time and time again she puts it off. Which ratchets up the pressure. The longer she waits the worse it will be. She knows it and the reader knows it. But oh how human it is to hope that somehow it will all go away. And how human for me to enjoy the fallout when it doesn’t.
High emotion is not new in a romance. What is new here and deliberately so, is how Ms. Ivie handles the inevitable behavior of her protagonists. To say much more would take me and you into deep spoiler territory, but I will say I was surprised. And initially at least, a little dismayed. It didn’t come out the way I expected and it threw me for a moment. Then I started to think about all the he did/she did behaviors and it made perfect sense.
Though I was enthralled and kept reading this one until well past the time I should have been asleep, the novel is not without flaws. The pacing is uneven at times and several plot threads were dropped almost completely. Additionally, the book is told entirely from Elise’s point of view. This works from an emotional standpoint. I liked that we got to know Colin through Elise’s experiences with him. But it also leaves us hanging a little when it comes to Colin’s feelings and reactions and that lessens the impact of the love story a smidge.
That said, it’s still a fine read. Love it or hate it, I look forward to having others read it too. I for one, loved it. And I’m dying to talk about it.