Until the Knight Comes
Okay, I have to admit that I’m a sucker for historical romances. And, if you throw in a slight paranormal twist, you pretty much have me from the beginning. Even so, Sue-Ellen Welfonder’s Until the Knight Comes is a great read and truly lives up to the promise of her previous work. Although I liked Only for a Knight a great deal, this new book not only shows growth in her story-telling skills, but also an evolution of characters as well. Mariota Macnicol and Kenneth Mackenzie are compelling characters, full of depth and emotion. And, their story is romantic, mysterious, and full of humor – not to mention great sex.
Lady Mariota Macnicol disgraced herself after running off with Hugh Alesone without benefit of a ring, only to discover that he’s been cheating on her while stringing her along. His erstwhile honey is jealous of Mariota and arranges for the innocent young woman to interrupt them during sex. A bit of hocus pocus later, Hugh drops dead, a knife is thrown into his heart, the seductress disappears, and Mariota is assumed to have killed Hugh. She flees the castle two steps ahead of Hugh’s men at arms.
Mariota, being a sensible girl, runs for the hills with her best friend, the able-bodied Nessa. The two women decide to hide out in a longtime deserted castle, Cuidrach Keep. The only problem is that the castle’s new owner, Kenneth Mackenzie, is on his way to claim his rights. When Kenneth and his unwashed band of brothers show up, Nessa and Mariota, of course, lie and say that the lord of the castle is away and will be back (with lots and lots of knights) any minute. Kenneth finds this humorous and plays along for a while – charmed by both the ladies.
Eventually, Mariota admits that she’s in hiding, although she tells Kenneth that she’s widowed. Nessa has meanwhile latched on to one of Kenneth’s handsome retainers and the two begin an entertaining romance of their own. Mariota, ashamed of her previous infatuation with the retrobate Hugh Alesone, doesn’t want Kenneth to get too close to her. Kenneth, who is a bastard (literally) and has already lost in love once, doesn’t want to get entangled with Mariota. But, as they say, the heart wants what the heart wants, and soon enough Mariota and Kenneth are in each other’s arms (and beds.)
While a sweet love story unfolds at Cuidrach Keep, Hugh Alesone’s loathsome lieutenant and his minions are scouring the countryside for Nessa and Mariotta. They eventually end up at Cuidrach Keep, provoking an old-fashioned showdown. Seemingly, it is right versus might – Kenneth and his men are greatly outnumbered and Cuidrach is frankly a heap, but Kenneth and his men are fighting for love and ladies fair. However, Kenneth and his folk aren’t really alone in this battle. They have a bit of unexpected paranormal help.
I loved the unexpected yet very well foreshadowed ending; it dovetailed nicely into the next book’s beginning. Until the Knight Comes offered the right mix of history, fantasy, love, and lust. It fits wonderfully with long autumn days and nights with just a bit of chill in the air. I’m really looking forward to the next installment. Mariota and Kenneth (not to mention Nessa and her knight) are hardly out of hot water at story’s end. Good work, Ms. Welfonder! This one will be hard to top.