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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Knight of Pleasure: All the King’s Men by Margaret Mallory

Knight of Pleasure: All the King’s Men by Margaret Mallory
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (378 pages)
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Camellia

Lady Isobel Hume is an expert swordswoman who knows how to choose her battles. When the king asks her to wed a French nobleman to form a political alliance, she agrees. But that's before the devilishly charming Sir Stephen Carleton captures her heart-and tempts her to betray her betrothed, her king, and her country.

Sir Stephen Carleton enjoys his many female admirers-until he dedicates himself to winning the lovely Isobel. So when a threat against the king leads Isobel into mortal danger, Stephen has a chance to prove that he is more than a knight of pleasure...and that love can conquer all.

The remarkable, resilient Isobel Hume brings to light how women in the fifteenth century found ways to stay human in a time when they were often bartered or sold for alliances, wealth, or estates. She is a strong heroine that picks her battles and accepts the consequences.

Maybe if Isobel had not been pampered and loved all her life by a doting father, she would not have felt so betrayed when he bartered her off at age thirteen to stinky, old Lord Hume to regain the family lands and wealth. This betrayal set her life on a path that seems to go from bad to worse. At the death of Lord Hume after seven years of a private hell, Isobel is faced with three choices—all bad. She decides to promise King Henry that she will go to Normandy and wed a French nobleman, Phillipe de Roche, to strengthen an alliance. Once there, she meets Sir Stephen Carlton. Emotions she’s never experienced spring to life. Exhilaration, doubt, fear, and guilt play tag in her heart as her adventures in France take her to never-known experiences.

Political intrigues, treachery, illicit liaisons, brutality, and all the Cardinal Sins abound, making the chance for true love to survive seem slim indeed. Margaret Mallory’s ability to create such a profound love story among all the chaos of that time in history is captivating. Her vibrant characters weave their way into the plot that has many twists and turns, lots of foreshadowing, and even a few surprises.

The reader gets caught up in the action that races along at breakneck speed at times. Events of history and passion, both like high octane fuel, heat up the many happenings until there is a combustion that disrupts the king’s plans, setting Isobel’s life on a different path.

Sir Stephen Carlton, while considered a knight of pleasure, is invaluable to King Henry. Stephen’s handsomeness, his charm, deceptiveness, and ability to learn secrets while supposedly just seeking pleasure make him appear less than what he truly is His attraction to Isobel tests his mettle as he continues to do the king’s bidding while seeking Isobel’s favor, even though he knows she is betrothed to de Roche by the king’s decree. Things DO get complicated. The risks Stephen and Isobel take and their stolen moments of love are breathtaking.

The secondary characters play vital roles. Many of these characters were in KNIGHT OF DESIRE, the first of All the King’s Men series. New are Linnet and Francois, mysterious, intrepid children that had to grow up too fast. Their survival skills serve them and the people they love very well. They add a new and exciting element to the mix as the known characters finagle their way out of one scrap after another.

Margaret Mallory’s historical accuracy adds believability to this poignant story of an English girl told she must pay for her mother’s sin and that “…women are born to suffer”. She did suffer but she gained a love that makes her life shimmer and shine on even the dreariest day in Northumberland.

The energy, passion and sizzle of the complex characters in KNIGHT OF PLEASURE make this novel OH, SO GOOD!