Consider the following sequence of events:
1.) A pretty young woman finds herself in peril. In the case of Glynnis Campbell's My Champion, the pretty young woman is Linet de Montfort, a cloth merchant who has just become a sole femme member of her Guild.
2.) A handsome young nobleman, disguised as a gypsy, rescues her. The handsome young nobleman is Duncan de Ware, oldest son of Lord James de Ware, and a believer in both the chivalrous ideal and - somewhat anachronistically considering that the year is 1332 - the equality of man, no matter what his station in life.
3.) Duncan manages to rescue Linet despite her objections and even interference. Linet's father, Lord Aucassin, came from a noble family but married beneath him and was rejected by his family. On his deathbed, he extracted a promise from Linet that she would keep her distance from the lower ranks of society. If Duncan is a gypsy, he is definitely of a very low rank.
4.) Following the rescue and despite Linet's rejection, Duncan manages to engage her in sensual play. Linet responds enthusiastically, only to reject Duncan harshly as soon as they break apart. In two instances she leaves him tied up and helpless despite their mutual danger.
5.) Some new disaster threatens the pair.
6.) Go back to 1.) and repeat. In fact, repeat about seven or eight times before Linet and Duncan manage to consummate their love. Then repeat the sequence another couple of times before Duncan's ultimate unmasking as Lord de Ware's heir.
Campbell's Linet de Montfort had potential. She is a sharp little businesswoman who appraises every situation as though it were a variation on her business of weaving, dying, and selling cloth. The result is delightful - quick snippets of humor that made me smile. As a businesswoman myself, I sympathized with her when Duncan, in the course of his first rescue, ruins the stock she has brought to sell at the Dorwich fair. However, her subsequent refusals to cooperate with his rescue attempts struck me as both reckless and foolish…not at all the way I imagine Campbell wants us to perceive her heroine.
When Linet is kidnapped and taken aboard ship to be sold into prostitution on the Continent, Duncan follows her and persists in saving her from one peril after another because he has sworn a chivalric oath to do so. He is also attracted by Linet's blonde hair, her angelic face, and her small but curvaceous figure. His attraction is probably fostered by the difficulty she has keeping her clothes on. She loses her wimple a number of times, her shoes more than once, and - when upset - is likely to dash out the door with only a cloak thrown over her shift.
Throughout all their adventures, Linet thinks of Duncan as "my gypsy." I found it difficult to believe that Linet could spend as much time with Duncan as she did and not guess that he was of noble birth even when she repeatedly ascribed virtues to him that she herself identified with the nobility.
However, not only does she fail to guess his place in life but - for 276 pages of a 330-page book - she doesn't know his name. She thinks of Duncan as "my gypsy" and avoids calling him by any name in conversation. Not until they have made love twice and declared their mutual love does she even ask him what it is. They are interrupted (naturally) before he can tell her, and she doesn't ask again for another 50 pages. This behavior strikes me as extremely unlikely.
Duncan is the oldest of the three de Ware brothers; Campbell has promised us each brother shall have his book. Even though I found My Champion lacking, I may yet sample Campbell's next books. She writes a competent prose, with tantalizing glints of humor. If she can build on her strengths while improving her plots and characterization, the result should be worth checking out.
--Nancy J. Silberstein