I have often wondered why the 16th century is so largely ignored by
authors of historical romance. Here you have a society far removed from
the mannered 18th century or Regency or the repressed Victorian years.
This was a lusty era with larger than life events and personalities. It
would seem a perfect setting for a romance. Tori Phillips clearly
perceives the romantic possibilities of the Tudor era and in Lady of
the Knight does a remarkably good job of bringing it to life.
The setting for this story is the storied “Field of the Cloth of Gold,”
what Phillips describes -- accurately -- as “the party of the
second millennium.” Here, in a valley in northern France, Henry VIII of
England and Francis I of France and their entire courts met for two
weeks of jousting, drinking, partying, and debauchery, all in the cause
of international peace.
Two entire cities of luxurious tents were set up, with canvass
banqueting halls, cook tents, stables, and all the comforts of home. Of
course, purveyors of all imaginable goods and services flocked to Val
D’Or to supply the partygoers with everything they could possibly
As the renowned knight Sir Andrew Ford and his friends make their way
through the crowd, they espy one of the “merchants” hard at work. The
whoremaster Quince has a lovely morsel for sale. He is auctioning off
the virginity of Rosie, a young English girl whom he purchased from her
foster father for five shillings.
Sir Andrew makes a daring wager with his young friends. He insists that
in ten days he can transform this dirty and unkempt creature into a lady
who can pass the muster at Henry’s court. And so Sir Andrew “buys”
Rosie’s virginity, greatly angering a competing bidder, the nasty Sir
Thus we have an interesting twist on the ever popular Pygmalion
Rosie cleans up remarkably well. Indeed, beneath all the grime is a
lovely woman who certainly looks the part of a lady when properly
gowned. She also proves to be astute and intelligent, although the task
of improving her manners and her speech is somewhat daunting.
While Andrew has no intention of sleeping with his purchase, he is
nonetheless increasingly drawn to his protégé whose lovely person, sharp
wits and underlying innocence are very different from the court ladies
who pursue the handsome knight. A 38-year-old widower, Andrew feels far
too old for the 19-year-old woman whom he has taken under his wing. Yet
Rosie has a wisdom beyond her years, and she forces Andrew to look at
the world in new and different ways.
Phillips has a real feel for early 16th century society. Her portrayal
of the characters’ behavior may seem over-the-top, but in fact she has
caught the flavor of an era when a pleasure-seeking monarch with lusty
appetites set the tone for court life and when excess in all things
I gather that Lady for a Knight is part of a series. I must
admit that I had a slight sense of being out of the loop in the case of
some of the minor characters, but this did not detract from my enjoyment
of the story. Indeed, so much of the book deals with the relationship
between the hero and the heroine and both characters are so well drawn
and so unusual that they overshadow almost everything else.
There may be readers who will balk at Phillips’ use of archaic language
or who may find the characters and their behavior and dress (a scarlet
codpiece with little gold bells?) too outlandish. But I found that
Phillips’ undoubtedly extensive knowledge about the times added to my
enjoyment of the story. I felt for a few hours as if I too were a
spectator at the second millennium’s greatest party while at the same
time watching a charming romance unwind before me. Can’t ask for much