Desert Isle Keeper
The Dark Knight
As a fan of medieval romances, I’m so, so excited to have discovered this buried treasure.
Venetian nobleman Dante Chiaveri’s parents were murdered by his grasping uncle, so Dante and his sister fled to England, where Dante grew up to fill the role of the King’s Assassin. Everything is in place for Dante to return to Venice and reclaim his position and estate, except for one last mission for the king.
Avalene de Fournay fosters with her aunt and uncle and their gaslighting steward and keeps a potent secret: she’s the last living descendant of the Welsh king, Llewellyn. Enough people know, however, that a Welsh lord with designs on rebellion has sought betrothal to Avalene, since making her his bride will rally Wales to his cause. Dante’s mission is to masquerade as Sir Percival, the knight arriving to escort Avalene to her new husband, and remove her physically from her home castle, and then as a political threat – and murder is an option.
So we have a road romance with a Big Secret, which means I immediately tried to predict the most obvious moments in the plot for the secret to be revealed. Usually, that’s two-thirds or four-fifths of the way through, so the heroine can huff off, put herself in jeopardy, and be rescued and reconciled. Thank goodness I was completely wrong. The author put the reveal relatively early and then spent word count on, wonder of wonders, the emotional journey of the heroine and hero towards finding trust in their new equilibrium. These were actually some of my favorite scenes, as the author finds Avalene’s voice and grows her from a fairly standard medieval lady heroine to someone delightfully pragmatic and rational. This is especially effective in a scene where Dante asks Avalene why she doesn’t fear and reject him as others do, and she gives a calm, logical answer that frees him of much of his guilt. How delightful for a heroine to save a hero with reason rather via her pure, virgin love (medieval hymens are so redemptive that Martin Luther probably meant to include them as his 96th thesis).
+5,000 bonus points for a battle scene in which Dante explains repeatedly to Avalene that she must hide, that she does not know how to fight, that he cannot concentrate if he has to save her, etc, and AVALENE STAYS PUT.
The Dark Knight is book four in a series, but it’s the first Elliott I’ve read and it completely stands alone. In fact, I thought it was the first book. There are minor (extremely minor) magical elements in one character, a tarot-reading magical advisor to the king and mentor/trainer to Dante. You can quite easily decide it’s superstition and luck as much as magic, as you prefer.
We fans of medievals haven’t had a lot of new releases to rave about lately, so it’s an absolute joy to discover that one of the books I keep hoping to find has been out there all along. I can’t wait to read more Elizabeth Elliott!