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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Knights Errant by Barbara Miller

Knights Errant by Barbara Miller
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (70 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 books
Reviewed by Freesia

Guy Blackwater has never forgotten his first wife, even though the marriage was annulled very quickly. His second wife, now deceased, gave him one child, Alison—who causes him endless problems by imagining herself in love with a different man each week.

When his daughter encourages a man to “rescue” her from imagined persecution, the plot goes awry and Guy finds himself face-to-face with his beloved first wife. Much has happened over the intervening years, in both their lives, but perhaps no hurdles are too much to overcome when love is in the offing.

The knights are truly front and center in Barbara Miller’s sweet historical romance, Knights Errant. So much so that I began to wonder where the heroine was? She is there, but you have to wait for her. Not always an easy or desirable thing for the reader to do.

The two “knights errant,” Guy Blackwater, an older nobleman with a difficult daughter, and Barton Strong, the young man whose misguided attempt to rescue Alison (the difficult daughter) draws them all into the tangled web, are both well developed, extremely likeable characters. We sympathize with Guy for having a shrewish daughter, who seems to have taken lessons from Shakespeare’s Kate. We also must applaud Barton’s instinct to protect a “damsel in distress,” though she turns out to be a conniving, self-centered girl who dupes him. We also come to understand why these men might be considered erring knights in need of atonement and how history has a regrettable way of repeating itself.

The plot moved well, I certainly didn’t lack impetus to turn the page, but I found myself more interested in the interaction between the two knights—the old hero and the young hero, rather than between the hero and heroine.
It is unfortunate that Ms. Miller’s female characters are not as sympathetically drawn in this book as are the male characters. Alison, as mentioned above, is shrewish and certainly hard to like throughout most of the book. But she represents a large portion of the conflict and her character arc eventually resolves itself agreeably.

But the book’s heroine, Diana Strong does not appear until almost halfway through the book (she is mentioned by Guy and we learn some information about their past, but she is not present in the story per se, until Chapter 3). This device creates the problem of distancing the heroine from the reader and may intensify the reader’s reaction to a character who is less clearly drawn than either Guy or Barton. Diana is not as likeable as either Guy or Barton and the motivation for her actions at the end of the story is unclear. She does not seem to care as much for Guy as he does for her, so that the end is very abrupt. I believe that Diana could have become a better rounded character had she been allowed to develop via scenes throughout the book, to both introduce her earlier and to keep her in the forefront of the reader’s mind.

The sweet romance of chivalry is well portrayed in Knights Errant, though it cautions that chivalry can sometimes cause as many problems as it solves. Happily, Ms. Miller’s characters reach the realization that doing the right thing may result in unexpected consequences, but in the end, love will find a way to make even errant knights into a damsel’s true hero.