A Girl’s Guide to Vampires

Improper English

Noble Intentions

Hard Day's Knight
by Katie MacAlister
(Signet Eclipse, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-451-21386-6
“Quirky” seems to be a good description of Katie MacAlister's books. Entertaining at times, Hard Day's Knight is a difficult book to rate. This book is at times funny, at times predictable, and much of the time good romance. Yet, as I read the story, I was at times engaged, at times smiling, at times bored and at times just reading to get done.

Pepper Marsh is an unemployed software professional who really wanted to be a veterinarian. Telling herself she didn't like animals, but actually intimidated by the long history of successful vets in her family, Pepper is at a crossroads in her life. She agrees to come to a Renaissance Faire with her cousin CJ, who considers herself a matchmaker. CJ is in love with a man who jousts for a living and is called Butcher. He is a member of a delightful troupe of characters that include a set of twins (male-Vandal and female – Bliss), a young newcomer named Bos and an eight-time champion named Walker.

The troupe, called Three Dog Knight, is Walker's troupe. He is a retired champion, having given up jousting after paralyzing a man in his last bout. Walker is handsome and slightly depressed, but giving off an aura of mystery and depth. Pepper is immediately attracted to him and determined to help him find himself.

This story is really about these fairs, with a good amount of detail regarding how things happen, why they happen and explaining the variety of events. This is somewhat interesting, but also makes one wonder why these people don't get a real life. Walker, an Englishman, is now a farrier and trainer of horses. He is divorced and his ex is Veronica, now the owner of another troupe; the first all female group to compete. She plays a role in the story.

Another rival is Farrell Kirkham, owner of Team Joust, a troupe that is sponsored by corporations and thus envied by all for their big budgets and big egos. He plays a role in the tale because he is attracted to Pepper and jealous of Walker.

The plot revolves around a three week fair in Ontario, Canada. CJ has invited Pepper to be a member of the League of Wenches, a little group of women who follow the circuit, dress in period costumes and provide entertainment. There is the competition to keep everyone busy. Somehow, Pepper gets challenged to try jousting and ends up spending the time getting trained. Walker must decide if he is going to get back in the saddle when Bos gets hurt, something Pepper is bound and determined to convince him to do – for his own sake and the sake of their romance. And there is a mystery surrounding someone apparently sabotaging the troupe's equipment.

Pepper and Walker's romance is based on lust and hot sex interspersed with conversations full of sexual innuendos, or hot-tempered arguments that lead to hot sex. One scene reminded me of the TV show Cheers when Sam and Diane finally got together. Pepper and Walker are yelling and getting closer until finally they embrace and one asks if the other is aroused and off they go into lusty sex. While this is fun for a while, it gets old. It is difficult to imagine that true love will last when their relationship is based on lust, hot sex, fighting and manipulation.

Throughout the story, Pepper is the babysitter of her aunt's cat, Moth. She claims to hate him, but has to take him everywhere. And she talks to him incessantly, like a confidant. I was just glad he did not talk back. This is one of those quirky twists that wears on the reader after about half the book.

Hard Day's Knight was a challenge to review. While I liked Walker and I enjoyed Pepper's sauciness, I wasn't thrilled with their constant love-arguing relationship. Though the setting of a Renaissance Faire was unique, I learned more than I really wanted to know about the variances in the jousting world. And while the story was somewhat humorous and fun, there wasn't much to it when all was said and done.

--Shirley Lyons

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