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One Perfect Knight
by Judith O'Brien
(Pocket, $6.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-671-00040-3
***
Julie Gaffney is a successful Madison Avenue advertising executive. She hasn't been as successful in her personal life. The last guy she dated is a first-class creep, and there's a mysterious "help me" message on her answering machine.

Julie agrees to accompany a friend who's taking a bunch of ten-year-olds to a birthday celebration at a medieval theme restaurant. She admires a suit of armor believing it to be a replica. When she hears the same voice on her answering machine coming from it, she faints away and awakens in Camelot. The knight in the suit of armor is none other than Sir Lancelot. He's a larger-than-life hunk of virility.

Life in Camelot is truly fantastic. Necessary items such as food are free, and the horses don't go poo-poo in the streets. But not all is right in Camelot. The evil Malvern is sowing doubts about the faithfulness of Queen Guinevere in King Arthur's mind. When Lancelot tries to correct the king's misconceptions and Julie brings Excalibur, the king's legendary sword, between Lancelot and Malvern, Julie and Lancelot are suddenly transported back to the present.

Lancelot is forced to confront the differences between Camelot and modern-day New York. A bigger concern, however, is the discovery that Julie's and Lancelot's actions have changed the Arthurian legend so that Lancelot is now the villain who destroys Camelot and that the diabolical Malvern is in New York, too.

I was afraid that I might not be the best person to review this book. Fantasies don't ordinarily hold much appeal for me. One Perfect Knight, however, was so obviously written with a rules-are-meant-to-be-broken attitude that I accepted all the blatant and deliberate anachronisms (and there are a lot of them) and enjoyed it for the romp it's intended to be. The story's such an enthusiastic blend of Arthurian legend and contemporary romance that it's impossible to take it seriously even when catastrophe threatens.

The story is plot-driven with little attention to character development. Julie is portrayed as the stereotypical modern career woman who is hoping against hope to find a man she can love and respect. Her heart's in the right place, but all the men she meets are shallow jerks.

Lancelot is literally a fantasy come true. He's gorgeous, heroic, honorable. His innate goodness is so strong it even survives the jump to the twentieth century. He's not only the perfect match for Julie he'd be perfect for any woman!

Malvern is evil through and through. He's greedy and self-serving. No vile trick is too low for such a villain.

That's the pattern for practically all the characters: they're single-dimensional without any qualifying traits. The author has taken few liberties with the personalities of the Arthurian legends they're intended to personify virtues or vices. On the other hand, she's taken loads of liberties with the plot. As the story shifts from present to past and back again, the Arthurian legend undergoes several changes. That's the fun of the book. Can Julie and Lancelot get everything back to how it should be?

This story is like a taste of cotton candy light and sweet but without much substance. It's a quick, enjoyable book, but I found it didn't linger long in my memory. For those readers who have quite enough stress handing holiday preparations and aren't looking for an emotion-packed book, this light-hearted romp might be just the right choice.

--Lesley Dunlap


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