|I always like it when an author goes for a bit of a difference in setting because it expands the romance genre from just Regency era or just westerns, etc. This time, Rock has tried for medieval times and centered it on Eleanor of Aquitaine in France when she was estranged from King Henry. Too bad that beyond historical references to the court, there is no feel for the time period. This was strike number one. Strike two and three were the heroine and the insipid plotline.
Ivy is the daughter of a merchant and a noblewoman. She is really not a “Lady” but because she has been invited to the Queen’s court, she is given that courtesy. What she really is there for is her aspirations to become a troubadour and poet. Eleanor is giving her that chance. Ivy’s father, however, expects her to return to London with a noble husband.
Now to say Ivy is naïve is like saying the sky is blue. She trumpets her theories on courtly love, and she has some convoluted notion that love is chivalrous and cannot be found with married couples. She has no sense of sensuality or passion and dismisses them because she is so naïve. The story opens with the ladies in the court, all rather matronly and cynical, laughing at her poetry because it is so green. Unfortunately for Ivy and readers, it doesn’t get much better for her than this.
Roger Stancliff comes to the court under the supposed notion that he needs help to become more chivalrous. He is actually a spy for Henry. Roger, you see, has a long history that is revealed as we go along in the story. His betrothed jumped to her death rather than marry him and he spent the last few years acting with debauchery and lust. He is close to being stripped of his lands by Henry. He must be successful in this spying mission or his enemy will certainly convince Henry to give him Roger’s estates.
The court is described as a group of women, who sit around lamenting the nature of men and discuss courtly love under the watchful eye of Eleanor and a variety of men, whose purpose is not really clear. There is a lot of trysting and bed sharing that is hinted at but hidden under the surface. That is why someone as innocent as Ivy doesn’t see it. For some unknown and never explained reason, Eleanor assigns Ivy to “tutor” Roger in courtly love. Both find the assignment distasteful, but she is the queen, after all. During their rather silly encounters where Roger speaks with innuendo and Ivy tries to seriously disabuse him of his licentiousness, they find they lust after each other.
The rest of the story involves trying to figure out their feelings – with Ivy wanting passion now that she has a taste of it and Roger holding her off now that he sees there can be nobility in chasteness – and dealing with the “intrigue” of Henry and Eleanor’s feud. I found myself rolling my eyes during their sexual/relationship parts and struggling to understand what was really happening with the intrigue. The primary difficulty is that they run away from the court and are off on their own. This gives a reason for highlighting their lust, but makes no sense if Roger is trying to influence Henry politically. After all, he has abandoned his post just when things are heating up.
Ivy alternates between being whiney, shy, insipid and shallow. And she is an awful poet. Roger talks about his prowess, but what we see is a rather confused man who seems lost as to who he really is and how he should act. I found it hard to believe he was a well respected knight because the reader does not really see that side of him, nor do we really see his more human side because he is always alluding to his past as a barrier to acting like he really wants to act. It was all rather confusing.
The Knight’s Courtship (which is subtitled The Education of Lady Ivy) is not really a good courtship nor is it a good education for Ivy. It left me unimpressed and glad when I was finally finished with it.