Lady of the KnightLady of the Knight by Jackie Ivie is exactly the type of book I love to read. The heroine is not a feeble, hide-in-the-corner mouse. Instead, she is strong, honorable, and loyal. Her family has been brutally killed. As the only person left of a Scottish clan, she disguises herself as a boy and focuses her efforts on learning bow, knife, and axe in order to eventually take revenge.
Fate has her found by the youngest - and strongest - of the six brothers who control the enemy clan. At first she hates him, but over time she is won over by him. The question then is if her loyalty to her dead family will outweigh the passion she feels for this one member of the clan. A typical Romeo and Juliet storyline, but in this case Romeo thinks Juliet is a boy, and also doesn't know that Juliet is a member of the enemy.
There's a lot of positive to say about this book. I enjoyed the characters, with their nuanced personalities. I enjoyed the scenery, learning more about Scotland in medieval times. The author puts effort into describing the clothing to help readers get a sense of what this way of life was all about. I stayed interested in the story through to the end.
There were also issues I had with the book. There are several times the author introduces a foreign word without any description at all, so the reader has no idea what is being described. Similarly, a line of dialogue will just appear in a nebulous situation, so you don't know who is saying it - or how it is being said - until later in the paragraph. So then you read it once mis-assigning who is speaking and then have to read it again later once you know what the actual situation is. There is what I believe is an attempt at "cuteness" by having the heroine and the horse have the same name, but any cute factor wears off quickly and just means the phrasing is awkward through the rest of the story as the author tries to make clear if it's the horse or the heroine she is referring to.
There are minor issues with typos and missing punctuation - I normally give those a pass in self published books and point that out in books with "real" publishers who should have caught those issues. So Kensington's team gets the fault there for not polishing those out.
Then there are factual issues. I believe in this time period that couples did NOT marry inside the chapel and then just walk out afterwards. Rather, marriages were solemn, religious ceremonies and the couples didn't enter the chapel / cathedral / etc. until they WERE married. So they would marry on the steps with all in attendance. Then the entire group would enter - with the man and wife now sealed - and would have a long, formal mass at that point. Also, I don't believe a woman can be jarred by powerful signs of a baby moving within her at barely 4 months pregnant.
For me, though, the larger issues are with the main characters. There were several things the hero says right from the beginning that seem to indicate he knows that the heroine is a she. I kept expecting the storyline to - early on - show that he knew and had been playing her. So to find that he didn't know early on was almost a let-down given the things he was saying.
He was so hostile towards her that I really didn't have much desire for them to hook up. I admired her - but I didn't admire him much. In fact, when his brother Plato showed up, I was much more drawn to Plato as a hero and almost hoped he was intended to be the real match for her.
I felt a sense of disbelief that she was SO perfect with every single weapon that she outshone every other man in the entire land mass of Scotland, even seasoned warriors, at her young age, and her with no real training at all. I want to again caveat here that I adore "women using weapons" stories. Those are specifically the stories I adore. So it's not that she could use a weapon that bothers me. It's not even that she was great with a weapon that bothers me. It is that she was so superlatively fantastic with every single weapon she touched that she could outshine even people who had been training far longer than her with specialized trainers. It's one thing to have a "gift from God" in one specific area, let's say knife throwing. Maybe her anatomy is just perfect for throwing knives and her eyes are perfectly attuned and so on. I could see that. But in a wide range of weapons, again such a large field of trained specialists, it just exceeded my ability to accept.
This final issue is one that I know is a personal one, and I know that other readers will disagree with me on. And that's fine. We all come from different areas of the world, with different beliefs, and that is natural. So, just from my own personal point of view, I found a core part of the gays-are-pure-evil storyline one that I did not thrill at reading about. Yes, I understand that in medieval times many people disliked gays. However, I also understand that in medieval times some men loved to rape women too. It still does not mean I would actively want to read a book about a male who loved raping women. This is my relaxing, leisure reading time period that this book falls into. Even if we posit that most husbands beat and raped wives, those would not be the stories I wanted to read about when relaxing after a long day. So in the same way, even though provenly there were people in medieval days who were virulently anti-gay, it is just not a topic I would want to read pages about as my relax-and-escape-modern-stress activity. I'm sure some people might find those same scenes to be the highlights of the story.
So, to summarize. I loved that Morgan, the heroine, was strong, loyal to her clan, and brave. I love that she was skilled with a weapon and willing to stand up for what she believed in. I'm very happy that she found a man who appreciated her skills. I enjoyed the work the author put into describing the outfits and kilts and so on. On the down side, I resisted the heroine's God-like abilities, I didn't find the hero to be one I connected well with. The storyline of the hero thinking he was lusting after a teen boy and the discussion around it was not pleasant for me to read. So for me this would not be a book I would read a second time - but I'd be interested in reading other books by this author which might feature similar heroines with heroes more like Plato.
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