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A Faerie Tale

 
Addie's Knight by Ginny Reyes
(Jove Time Passages, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-12506-7
**
When I finished this book, I had a lot of disconnected feelings about it and reactions to it, but I think all my problems with it boil down to the fact that I just didn't like the heroine. That I liked the hero only exacerbated the situation, because I kept thinking that he deserved better.

Adelaide Shaw is a schoolteacher in York, Pennsylvania, in the year 1885. At least, that description fits for about two and half pages, until she leans against a large oak tree and suddenly finds herself transported to Yorkshire, England in the year 1485. Upon opening her eyes, one of her first sights is a gruesome vision of a man in armor slaughtering another man.

Okay, all that is enough to make anyone upset, so I was forgiving of Addie's ensuing hysterics and histrionics as this "murdering brute" approaches her, even though his only goal is to lend assistance to a strange woman obviously lost in the woods. I waited patiently while she railed at him and demanded that he leave her alone. After all, the man in armor, one Sir Robert Swynton, doesn't have the words "I'm a noble man who would never do you harm" tattooed across his forehead, and the caption "Yorkshire, England Spring 1485" doesn't appear before Addie's eyes as it did mine. She's confused, she's scared, and she's a bit nauseated by all the unexpected gore.

And to give her fair credit, Addie is also spunky, independent, and capable. Given a chance, she could have developed into a reasonably likeable heroine. Unfortunately, this story doesn't give her that chance. Against her will, Addie is finally taken to Sir Robert's manor, where she eventually discovers the shocking truth about her situation she has definitely traveled four hundred years into the past. Since the last thing she remembers before her appearance in 1485 is leaning against the oak tree, she determines that the tree must be responsible. Right, okay, so the first order of business is to get back to that tree. After all, Addie has a younger sister back home in 1885 who can't take care of herself. As she repeats several times throughout the novel, it is absolutely imperative that she get back to poor Emmie as soon as possible.

But on her first attempt to flee the manor house and head for the forest, Addie is sidetracked by the sound of human suffering. Having unofficially studied under a physician back home, she has medical skills, and she has never been able to witness human (or even animal) suffering without doing something to help. Right, okay, so help those poor wounded men, then get back to business and find that tree.

But she doesn't. For pages and pages, no further mention is made of any attempt to return to her own time, and by page 70, Addie has inexplicably "accepted the routine of life in 1485."

Meanwhile, the beleaguered hero has his own problems. Not all of them are caused by Addie, but she certainly adds to his worries. For one thing, there is her mysterious appearance in the forest during the battle. Could she be a spy planted there by his sworn enemies, the Morlands? And what of her strange behavior and even stranger insistence that she's traveled through time? (Addie is not one of those heroines who determine that such insistence might sound like mad raving that could get her carted off to a medieval-style asylum. Instead, she blithely explains her situation to anyone who cares to ask). Finally, Robert is gravely disturbed by some information of the future that Addie imparts involving the outcome of the current struggle between his king, Richard Plantagenet, and Henry Tudor. Is she a spy? A lunatic? A heretic? A witch? In any case, Robert considers her probably mad, and possibly dangerous.

Nevertheless, he is drawn to her, and while Addie makes herself comfortable in the 15th century, Robert begins to see past his doubts and worries to appreciate her admirable qualities particularly her tenderness towards any vulnerable thing. He's also drawn to her on a more primal level, and the feeling is definitely mutual.

In fact, the sexual tension between Robert and Addie is one of the best-executed aspects of their relationship. After his disastrous first marriage to one of the cursed Morlands, Robert half-expects every woman to coldly reject any physical advance on his part. That his desire for Addie grows strong enough to overcome his doubt demonstrates how powerful the attraction is between them. Unfortunately, when this build-up reaches its eventual culmination, the reader is short-changed by a brief and understated love scene.

I can't really give away any further plot details, but I will say that my dislike for Addie only grew as the story progressed. In the final and largest conflict between these two lovers, Addie becomes unreasonable, self-righteous, and just plain mean, while refusing to admit that she has done anything to wrong Robert (which she has). I found the ending very unsatisfying, particularly since Addie gets everything her own way, while Robert just has to make the best of a not-so-terrific situation for him.

The author created a winning hero in this book. Robert Swynton is a strong, honorable, and gentle man who takes his responsibilities seriously, even when those responsibilities include looking after an irritating woman from the 1880s. He deserved a better mate and a better fate than Addie Shaw, and readers deserve better, too.

-- Ellen Hestand


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