The King’s Champion
by Catherine March
(Harlequin, $5.99, PG-13)  ISBN 0-373-29506-5
**
Sometimes a medieval book has all the ingredients (jousts, swords, maidens in distress, etc.) but it seems like nothing connects and the characters act too modern.  When that happens, the book feels off, the characters are off and the story doesn’t work. That describes The King’s Champion.

Point one – it is true that in the medieval times, marriages were often arranged with knights and very young girls. In this case, the knight is 15 years her senior. Eleanor Raven first meets Troye deValois when she is TEN and she falls in love with the heroism of his demeanor. She chases after him and they marry when she is twenty.Yet she acts much younger, and the reason given for her not to be wed prior to this doesn’t ring true.

Point two – while political machinations are rampant, it was rare that a knight was allowed to marry without the permission of his liege lord.  In this case, Troye is one of the King’s Guards. He is well respected and he has served his King well. He announces to the Court that he has married a Jewess (at a time when Jews were banished). The King is angry, but ultimately lets him go to his wife and they live happily until her sudden death while Troye is away from home. He swears he will love and cherish her forever.  He has one child, Joan, whom he loves very much. The fact that the King forgives him for his marriage when he is sending others to the Tower for much lesser offenses seemed forced. In addition, Troye’s parents are merchants and his mother inherits the business from his father. She runs the wool business while Troye is off with the King. Again, this didn’t ring true to the times.

Point three – it is true maidens were often ignorant of the marriage bed. Ellie is innocent, but she makes excuses when Troye doesn’t satisfy her on their wedding night – a night he doesn’t want. She also makes excuses for quite some time. Why would she even know there are excuses to be made? This seemed way over the top for the times. In addition, Ellie puts herself in several situations that show her as silly and immature. I found myself castigating her for her actions and her temper tantrums. It is hard to like a story when one dislikes the heroine so much.

Point four – Troye is often callous. He is rude and sullen, often almost whiny in his response as to why he can’t love Ellie. It is hard to see what Ellie finds in him to love.  Because they are apart, it is hard to be engaged in a romance that never really takes off.

Point five – there is really no story here. The two keep running into each other until Ellie does something which forces the King to declare that they must wed. And throughout this time Ellie claims that her heart is waiting for Troye, a man she really doesn’t know.   Once married, they often live apart while Troye goes back to war, and due to several less than interesting circumstances, Ellie finds herself running his estates and fighting poverty. There is a villain alluded to, a knight that wanted to marry Ellie himself, but he never really poses a threat. The primary story involves the question as to whether Troye can get over his love for his first wife to see his way to loving Ellie.

At times, the book was boring. I found myself struggling to pick it up to finish it. The most likable character was Ellie’s brother Rupert, and he was just a minor character.  There is a subplot introduced that suggested Ellie’s father was not really her father, but it never went anywhere. It seemed pointless. 

Pointless sums up the story, despite the fact that I could come up with five points for this review. Skip The King’s Champion and find another way to lessen a craving you might have for a medieval story.   

--Shirley Lyons


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