A Knight of Honor
by Laurel O'Donnell
(Zebra Splendor, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8217-6317-2
*
A Knight of Honor bears about as much resemblance to an authentic medieval tale as the Pink Panther does to an actual cat. There's a vague outline that's recognizable, but on closer inspection, it's pretty unrealistic. In fact, it's downright cartoonish.

The setting is England, 1340. Our heroine bears the improbable name of Taylor Sullivan, and she's the daughter of Lord Sullivan, ruler of Sullivan Castle. Taylor witnesses her mother's death by burning, a death her father does not try to prevent, so at the tender age of thirteen (or twelve, depending on whether you believe the cover blurb or the text) she gathers up a bundle of clothes and her mother's ring and runs away. One of Lord Sullivan's men, Jared, sees her and takes her with him, since he's leaving anyway.

We next meet Taylor and Jared in a tavern, where she's dressed in some sort of leather armor (form-fitting, to show off her curves, of course) and they are keeping the locals entertained. Turns out that Jared has trained Taylor to be a mercenary soldier of sorts -- and not a very good one, though from her preening and blustering you'd never know it. When Taylor is bested and her mother's ring is stolen, she vows to get it back.

Enter Slane Donovan, another Englishman, who wants the ring that Taylor possesses. Seems that Taylor's father has promised her to Slane's brother as a bride, and he's set out to find her. Since she's been missing for eight years, the ring will be a clue to her identity. Slane and Taylor end up on the run together, fleeing a band of attackers.

It's hard, darn hard, to explain what felt wrong about this book without stepping over the line into ridicule. Forgive me if I don't quite succeed. A Knight of Honor represents everything that is trite and hackneyed in romance, a tangible definition of the word "cheesy". Absolutely nothing about this book rang true. First there were the names. Taylor Sullivan? Slane Donovan? Mixing trendy 1990's names with Irish surnames and plunking them down in medieval England is guaranteed to make a reader groan. This one sure did.

Then there was the dialogue. For a medieval romance, it sounds like it was lifted off a present-day TV show. A few examples:

Innkeeper to brawling patrons: "Take it outside!"
Taylor to Slane: "Hey, Slane!"
Taylor to villain: "Not a chance, Irwin. If you want the bag, you're going to have to take it." and "Nice doing business with you, Irwin."
Thug who wants sex from Taylor in exchange for information: "That's all you'll get from me unless I see some action."

Action? I'm no fan of 'tis and 'twas, but even that would be preferable to this sort of nonsense.

Add to this a hyperabundance of exclamation points, ("Her ring! It was gone! Her mother's ring! They had pried it from her fingers!") and an implausible plot (a woman mercenary in some sort of medieval catsuit, hanging out in taverns, and nobody gives her a second look?) and you have a novel that fails to satisfy on any level whatsoever. This reader was so distracted by the inanities of the writing that the romance barely registered. Slane and Taylor do end up together, not that I cared.

My recommendation for A Knight of Honor is to recommend that readers spend their money elsewhere.

--Cathy Sova


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