A Knight Like No Other
by Jocelyn Kelley
(Signet Eclipse, $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-451-21438-2
***
The heroine of Jocelyn Kelley’s A Knight Like No Other is one of the types of heroines I really enjoy. She’s strong, vibrant, clever, and resourceful. Unfortunately, while the hero has good qualities, he simply isn’t her match.

Lady Avisa de Vere is a warrior. Until now, she has been an untested warrior, living at St. Jude’s Abbey all her life and devoting herself to physical training. Now she teaches other women what she has learned. Then a visit from Queen Eleanor changes Avisa’s life. Eleanor sends Avisa on a mission to protect her godson, Christian Lovell.

The task is seemingly simple — Avisa has only to ensure that Christian remain far from Canterbury where the conflict between King Henry II and Thomas Becket is becoming dangerous. But Christian has other ideas. Since his father was branded a coward after fleeing from battle, Christian has vowed to redeem the family honor. He would welcome an opportunity to fight for the king in Canterbury or anywhere else.

In fact, Christian is on his way to Canterbury when he discovers Avisa being attacked by several men. He comes to her aid, and Avisa keeps him with her by enlisting his help in freeing her kidnapped sister.

A Knight Like No Other is evidently the first book in a series. Queen Eleanor established St. Jude’s Abbey to have “young women trained to serve me in times of trouble.” It looks like many of the other women will have books of their own. As for this one, it starts strongly. Kelley skillfully introduces Avisa, her skill in combat, and her mission. Avisa is a heroine who is easy to cheer for.

Christian, on the other hand, is another matter. His desire to prove himself is understandable, even admirable. Kelley establishes the fact that Christian is a noble man, and at times he is quite charming. But his repeated dismissals of Avisa’s skill, even after he has seen her in battle, make him less appealing. This behavior may be historically accurate, but the repetition makes it frustrating for the reader.

In addition, the romance is less than satisfying. It’s clear that Avisa and Christian are attracted to each other, but for much of the book that seems to be based on appearance more than anything else. They suffer from the I-want-him/her-to-touch-me phenomenon that makes them credible lovers but not believable soul mates.

The result is a book with a strong set up and conclusion with both adventure and frustration in between. While I enjoyed several scenes in A Knight Like No Other, I hope the couple in the next book of the series is a more even match.

--Alyssa Hurzeler


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