The second of Becnel's "Rosecliffe" trilogy is a medieval romance that could have been turned out by a computer program it is so standard -- hero and heroine are enemies, she becomes his captive, they have really great sex, neither thinks the other loves them, someone almost dies, two hearts beat as one, yada, yada, yada.
The Knight of Rosecliffe offers little or nothing new to challenge the reader: the plot is thoroughly predictable; the interplay between the hero and heroine is relatively bland; the setting is nondescript; many of the scenes are contrived. And though hardly worse than some of what passes for romance these days, I simply expected more from an author who has won awards for her medievals.
As a child, Welsh beauty Rhonwen ap Tomas saved the life of English "intruder" Jasper FitzHugh. Though Jasper's brother Rand (the hero of Bride of Rosecliffe) now peacefully governs one corner of the Welsh countryside with his Welsh wife, Josselyn, at his side, many of the native born resist the English. Loyal to the Welsh cause, Rhonwen mechanically sends an arrow hurtling in Jasper's direction when she sees him across a river. They are both grown now, and when the uninjured Jasper catches up with Rhonwen, he is immediately taken with her. Likewise with Rhonwen and quicker than you can say, "A pox upon your house" the two are locking lips.
Rhonwen's attraction to Jasper is further complicated by her friendship with Rhys ap Owain, a Welsh rebel consumed with anger towards the English and Jasper in particular (he killed Rhys's father in the previous book). Rhys considers Rhonwen his "woman," and although she disputes that fact, she does agree to use her connections to get inside Rosecliffe and kidnap one of Jasper's nieces.
It turns out to be unnecessary when young Isolde follows Rhonwen into the woods. Isolde is a child who fancies herself in love with her uncle Jasper and who is extraordinarily jealous of his obvious attraction to Rhonwen. I mean, this kid is just too into him for a nine-year old. Yet after the plot is foiled and Rhonwen is held within Rosecliffe as Jasper's captive, Isolde almost magically changes her tune and transfers her vehemence to Rhys. It's just too convenient a change of heart, and it was at that moment that I realized that the third book of the trilogy would focus on Isolde and Rhys.
My vote for one of the most contrived scenes ever put down was that in which Rhonwen is forced to bathe Jasper in order to learn how to serve in a well-born household. As the lady of the manor, Jasper's sister-in-law Josselyn is well aware of the attraction between her husband's bother and her one-time friend. She does all that she can to encourage it, even going to this extreme length. I found it a particularly uncomfortable scene, as both the hero and heroine are forced to act completely out of character. If the author had allowed them to be true to themselves, neither Jasper nor Rhonwen would have endured the embarrassment. They would have gutted each other first.
When plot takes precedence over characterization, itís usually to the detriment of the story, and The Knight of Rosecliffe is no exception. The romance between Jasper and Rhonwen is just not as strong as all the moving and shaking going on behind the scenes. Indeed, the two somehow come out looking rather bland in comparison to the feisty Isolde and the raging Rhys. The continual waffling between these two -- the dreaded "I love you/I hate you" syndrome -- gets old real fast.