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Friday, October 26, 2012

Cherish the Knight by Diane O’Key

Cherish the Knight by Diane O’Key
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (328 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Ambushed as he approaches an English estate, Lord Cort Dornogard trusts no one...least of all spirited Gaelic healer Alexis Fallon, who fascinates even as she defies him.

The magnificent Norse warrior is a threat to both Alexis’ heart and her cherished autonomy, for she harbors a secret about the ambush she cannot reveal. Honesty will cost her her freedom. But silence may cost her far more.

Cort harbors a damning secret of his own—one guaranteed to foment rebellion among his new subjects. The escalating attacks and accidents confirm that fear. His foes, both English and Norman, will exploit what he hides to destroy him, his dreams, and the woman he’s grown to love.

Snared in a web of castle intrigue, passion, and betrayal, Cort and Lexi are each far more than either suspects. Will they discover too late that truth is a two-edged sword?

Secrets tiptoe around while stifling good intentions strut around creating obstacles for love. But love, with its own unique tenacity, finds ways to bring joy and hope as it weaves its golden web around two strong personalities.

Alexis Fallon (Lexi), a creature of nature, a healer, and so much more, has an innate elegance that covers a lively spirit sparkling with mischief. She brings a unique type of buoyancy to Cherish the Knight with her joy and respect for life. But without freedom and time for solitude she becomes restive. She is not the usual heroine that one often sees is a historical set in eleventh century England. She is captivating with a sense of self-worth and a sense of humor that augment the many facets of her personality. She is not intimidated by the Normans that arrive with the bigger-than-life Cort Dornogard, the new owner of Avonly.

A tall beauty, with midnight hair, topaz eyes, and an unearthly air about her, Lexi tends the wounded Normans; befriends Dane, the simple-minded, fierce warrior friend of Cort’s. She seems to share a special connection with Dane and teaches him much about tending the wounded. He tends with a gentleness that belies his ferocity in battle. She gains the Normans’ respect and friendship and sets Cort’s libido on high alert.

Lexi comes to see Cort as one akin to Balder the Beautiful—god of spring, sunlight, and joy in Norse mythology. More than that she admires his sense of fairness, his loyalty, his work ethic, his talent and desire to build rather than destroy, his intuitiveness, and his sense of humor.

Athene, Lexi’s pet ferret and Fen, Cort’s wolfhound add a delightful touch and also give insight into Lexi and Cort’s journey toward trusting each other. Athene does stir up trouble that puts Lexi in a precarious spot in a towering rage.

Lord Graham, Lexi’s uncle and the former Earl of Avonly and his daughter Melissande are in an awkward position when Cort and his entourage arrive. How they deal with their loss of property and place of power creates two very different undercurrents that ripple along in all the chaos of building a great stone castle and setting the estate on track for even greater prosperity. How they help or hinder the melding together of Norman and English people to work together for the estate and all to prosper is never far from the surface.

Guy, Cort’s second-in-command and longtime friend, knows what Cort is thinking most of the time and is usually thinking the same way about strategies and temperaments of the people. They’ve survived many lethal situations with their almost telepathic connection with each other. Dane, a might warrior in battle, is a simple-minded, gentle soul by nature and comes to be very protective of his special friend Lexi.

Cherish the Knight has a multitude of intriguing characters that create sub-plots and side stories that enthrall. The antagonist is strong but a coward in a pinch, he is cunning, cruel, and intelligent enough to test the mettle of Cort and his men. He and his co-conspirator wreck havoc at Amiton (Avonly’s new name). While there are injuries and material damage in their doings, the greatest damage is the wedge of mistrust driven between Cort and Lexi, a mistrust that brings about earth-shattering results.

Diane O’key’s characters are brimming over with humanness; flaws, fears, hopes, goals, and life stories create a rich vicarious experience for the reader. The qualities of the heroine are not the usual for an eleventh-century woman. Her strength of character, sense of humor, sense of self-worth, and her ability to function with aplomb in a male-dominated society make her awesome and a worthy match for the “comely” hero with talents and accomplishments galore (can’t tell what they all are, it would give away a super good part of the story). Ms. O’Key tells a tantalizing story with descriptions that reveal time, place, emotions, and actions in such compelling style that the reader’s senses and emotions are swept into it all with pulse-pounding battles, despicable intrigues, secret fears and hopes, and, best of all, delightful foreplay and magical love scenes.

Cherish the Knight throbs with life. It captivates.