Saturday, January 14, 2012

Margaret Mallory -- Knight of Desire

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ .   {4.65}
Action: ♠♠♠. / Emotion: ♣♣♣. / Romance: ♥♥♥. / Sensuous: ♦♦♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠.
Action: 3.5 / Emotion: 3.5 / Romance: 3.5 / Sensuous: 3 / Suspense: 3.5 / Medieval Flavor: 4.5 // Laugh: 2 / Tears: 1

  The Beacon -- 2010 -- Best Historical -- First Place {Tie}
  RomCon's Readers' Crown™ -- 2010 -- Best First Book -- Long Historical -- Finalist
  The Golden Quill-- 2010 -- Best First Book -- Finalist
  Barnes & Noble Heart to Heart Blog 2009 Fave Debut Romance
  Booklist Online: Included on list of "The New Stars of Historical Romance"

First time to read a book written by Margaret Mallory.   Read her debut novel, Knight of Desire, the first book in All The King's Men Trilogy.   Mallory did an amazing job of immediately inciting interest and revealing a deep sense of romance.

What a beautifully-written romantic Prologue.   Cannot remember when read such a sweet, touching opening.   It was really indicative of how talented Margaret Mallory's creative writing was going to be.   With just that quick, sweet story about two young people at the precipice of adulthood already suffering the agonies of defeat, could not help but want to read their story about how they eventually reached the pinnacle of success . . . because it is obvious (to any dedicated romance novel reader) that this couple was going to end up with their happily ever after.

Loved the poignant closing paragraphs of the prologue:

"For many years William dreamed of that night.   In his dreams, though, he held her in his arms by the river in the moonlight.   In his dreams, he kissed the worry and fear from her face.   In his dreams, he rescued her from her unhappy fate.

In his dreams, she was his."
Mallory opened the book by introducing the incredibly intelligent, strong-willed, beaten, but not defeated heroine, Mary Catherine Rayburn, as she anxiously waited behind the walls of Ross Castle to see if the note she sent to her childhood friend, Prince Harry, about her evil, mean-spirited, traitorous husband meeting with a band of Welsh rebels would result in her death or widowhood.   Catherine revealed her strength of spirit when she rose from her sick bed to greet the contingent of men flying the king's banner arriving at the castle gates.

Meanwhile, the knight leading that contingent of men, William Neville FitzAlan, was wondering what kind of woman would betray a man whose bed she slept in the last five years.   It became obvious that there were going to be major bumps on the happily-ever-after road as Mallory cleverly revealed that while William was definitely a ladies man, he held not one iota of respect for the fairer sex because of his parentage and his mother's lack of fidelity.   As expected, William was pleasantly shocked when he saw that not only was he awarded titles and lands from the king for his service, but his new wife-to-be was his dream girl.

Picked up a medieval romance, hoping that it would be filled with a hunky, gorgeous knight who would pepper the pages with action and adventure.   While William fit the bill as a strong, hunky, capable knight, Knight of Desire was more about the emotional roadblocks William faced than featuring William's talent as a strong leader and a talented sword wielder.   Found it unique that Mallory featured this ladies man, who did not have a clue when it came to dealing with his new wife.

Disappointed that such a strong, battle-weary warrior such as William was featured as a man consumed by lust for his wife, yet was unable to trust her.   Instead of being portrayed as the strong, competent warrior who rides to the rescue of his damsel in distress, William is portrayed as the one who needs saving.   Only once was the heroic warrior allowed to display his outstanding skills as a warrior, fully capable of taking care of his lady and his lands.   The rest of the time, he is portrayed as a man who is overshadowed by his intuitive, "able to handle any adversity" wife.

When it comes to action and adventure, Catherine is the star of this book.   Even though Mallory realistically reveals and portrays Catherine as a battered wife, with an uncontrollable fear of the bedchamber, she is the character who spies for Prince Harry, saves an untold number of men from death by stopping a ferocious battle, and intelligently and almost fearlessly overcomes the obstacles placed in her path.   With trust (or lack thereof) being the critical issue facing this couple, Catherine is even the first to trust William with her greatest secret.

While William spends the entire book lusting after his wife and noticing other men doing the same thing, Catherine is totally unaware of her affect on the male population.   How can a woman with such strength of character, such a strong will, such uncommon beauty that entire garrisons of men are lusting for her be so unaware of her sexual magnetism.   It made sense, then, that William's betrayer would resent him not only because he gained titles, wealth and lands, but the trigger that incited him to act dishonorably was that the hero got the beautiful heroine (and he didn't).

Isn't it amazing what the trigger is that sets a man on the road to dishonor.   This book is filled with the question of what is honorable -- not only from what is expected from a medieval knight, but also from that knight's bride.   It is obvious that Mallory did her research, because she throws in interesting historical tidbits by addressing the issues of honor as William and Catherine look at the actions of King Henry, Prince Harry, the Welsh rebel prince, Owain Glyndwr, as well as several other supporting characters.

Mallory was incredibly talented at writing supporting characters that were developed just enough to add depth and support to the story, yet left one wishing to know so much more about them.   For instance, the gorgeous, charming, mysterious troubadour Robert Fass.   Could not help but be fascinated, and yes, enchanted, by Robert.   After meeting Robert, couldn't help but want to know more about him.   How did he and Catherine develop such a deep and trusting friendship?   Why was the charismatic Robert roaming the countryside, entertaining and spying to benefit Prince Harry instead of ruling his own lands?   Wanted to read Robert's story.

Then there was the Abbess Talcott.   Even though she was not featured in great depth throughout the entire storyline, the few scenes that featured the Abbess were awesome.   Absolutely loved the Abbess's thought processes when she had to deal with William when he came to the abbey to fetch Catherine when she ran away from him.   It was also intriguing that the Abbess Talcott had a warm, casual relationship with Robert Fass.   Again, wanted to know so much more about these characters.

One thing that Mallory did not do (that have enjoyed while reading other books) was develop the personalities of the servants and villagers of Ross Castle.   For instance, Alys, the housekeeper, and Jacob, the old man Catherine relied on, stayed strictly in the background.   No cute, personality revealing scenes were featured between Catherine and Jacob.   Quite a few scenes featured Alys fluttering over Catherine and talking to William, but her character was foggy and indistinct.

The two characters who are going to be featured in their own books in this trilogy were introduced in Knight of Desire.   Catherine's son, Jamie, is introduced as a precocious, easy-to-love little boy who is used as one tool to show Catherine that William is a kind-hearted, caring man.   Jamie's story will take place in the third book of the trilogy, Knight of Passion.   The hero of the second book of the trilogy, Knight of Pleasure, is none other than William's twelve-year-old half-brother, Stephen Neville Carleton.   Although William wanted nothing to do with his manipulative mother, Catherine prompted him to let the brother sent to them by Eleanor FitzAlan Carleton to remain at Ross Castle.   It was so easy to be charmed by Stephen as he wormed his way into the hearts of William, Catherine, Jamie and, basically, anyone who crossed his adventurous path.

Okay, even though was deeply engrossed in the story, wondering how things were going to turn out for William and Catherine, for a while there Knight of Desire felt too long.   There was just a bit too much of the "big misunderstanding" incidents that caused William and Catherine to remain at odds because of William's inability to blindly trust Catherine.

These lack of trust incidents were fueled by none other than William's trusted second in command, Edmund.   Again, Mallory introduced no background information about Edmund and what prompted him to become a tool of dissension between the hero and heroine.   This lack of supporting character development is one of the reasons this book did not receive the highest review rating.

Did like the romantic nature of Knight of Desire.   There is no doubt that William desired Catherine and that he was eventually going to break through the barriers of her fear of bedchamber activities.   Mallory did a good job of including numerous love scenes in the book that were filled with a few hot, spicy moments, but mostly concentrated on the emotional turmoil going on in the minds of William and Catherine when they made love.   It was also cute that once William introduced Catherine to the pleasures of lovemaking, they couldn't get enough of one another.   Mallory used these scenes to reveal {1} to Catherine the depth of William's aloneness and {2} to William the depth of Catherine's withdrawal because of his lack of trust.

In conclusion, Knight of Desire is a different medieval romance that is a joy to read.   It features {1} an incredibly beautiful, strong willed, adversity-overcoming heroine who intelligently struggles to overcome obstacles in her path; {2} a hunky, driven, angst-filled hero, who wants nothing more than to belong; {3} a story that features the strengths of the heroine more than those of the hero; {4} a bit of action and adventure to keep the story interesting; {5} a strong thread of romance interwoven through the plot as the hero and heroine must learn to trust one another; {6} a tad bit of suspense -- as in, how will William and Catherine ever overcome all the difficulties (emotional and physical) thrown into their path of happiness; {7} a touch of spice and heat during numerous bouts of lovemaking; {8} although not as deep as would desire, there was an emotional connection to the protagonists during their struggles; and, finally, {9} several engaging, entertaining and interesting supporting characters (although several were under-developed).

Would surely recommend this book to readers who enjoy a good medieval romance.   Am anxious to read the next two books of the trilogy.
--Vonda M. Reid (Tuesday, January 10, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.)

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All The King's Men Trilogy
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.07-2009Knight of DesireWilliam Neville FitzAlan, knightLady Mary Catherine Rayburn, Ross Castle
02.12-2009Knight of PleasureSir Stephen Neville Carleton, knightLady Isobel Hume, expert swordsman
03.06-2010Knight of PassionSir James "Jamie" Rayburn, knightLady Linnet

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Knight of Desire Quotations:
39. . . "it was disturbing that what he looked forward to with such lust, she so obviously dreaded."
39"It was not good for a man to want his wife this much."
95"I cannot abide deceit."
124. . . "you let me have your body, but your mind and spirit are elsewhere."   . . .   "I want you with me.   All of you"
142"Trust came hard to a man who grew up having uncertain ties and no true place in the world."
169"I make friends with the servants, fetch drinks for the guards."   . . .   "And I listen."
~ (Stephen explained why he "knew" so much)
176. . . "he felt such an aching, overpowering sense of desolation.   For the second time in his life, his world crashed down around him."
284"The problem was not that Catherine did not recognize and appreciate her husband's many good qualities -- but that he did not recognize hers."

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Characters Found In "Knight of Desire"
Character / Location Description / Relationships
William Neville FitzAlan
Ross Castle,
England, near the Welsh border
[Hero] knight serving Earl of Northumberland (2) strong features; serious countenance; intimidated men (5) 6 years older (3) Neville (16) instinctively masked feelings (32) short bronze hair; handsome man; strong face; broad cheekbones; wide mouth; hard amber eyes; tall; well built; commanding presence (34) sense of humor (49) long lines of lean, muscled body; large, capable hands; hair on chest and head glinted gold and red (121) talented commander; skilled fighter; man who kept his word; men respected him (132)
Lady Mary Catherine Rayburn
Ross Castle,
England, near the Welsh border
[Heroine] only heir to ailing father (11) Mary (21) bold, exceedingly pretty; lithe, shapely form (24) vivid blue eyes (30) determined; clever (34) long blond hair (118)
Ross Castle, England
[Secondary Character] made regular appearances to fret over Catherine; warmed up to William // housekeeper (15) round pink face; plump (26)
Thomas Beaufort
Monmouth Castle, England
[One Appearance] when William dismissed Edmund from his service, he found a position for him with Beaufort // king's brother (301)
Henry Bolingbroke[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] king (51)
Prince Harry
(Henry Bolingbroke)
Ross and Monmouth Castles
[Actual Historical Character / Major Secondary Character] childhood friend of Catherine's; visited Ross Castle // in command of English forces fighting Welsh since sixteen (two years now) ( 67) innate sense of honor (69) young; earnest; power in him; natural leader (72)
Lady Eleanor FitzAlan Carleton
Ross Castle, England
[Very Brief Appearance] William's mother: bold brown eyes (144) ambitious; relentless (145) Margaret's niece (152) deceitful; manipulative (152) breathtakingly beautiful (339) rich brown eyes; auburn hair; creamy skin; delicate, feminine features; curves that turned heads (340)
Stephen Neville Carleton
Ross Castle, England
[Major Secondary Character] [Hero of "Book Two"] William's mother sent Stephen (William's half-brother) to Ross Castle so William could find him an heiress to betroth; Quote that best described Stephen: "I make friends with the servants, fetch drinks for the guards." "And I listen." (169) // twelve; good looking boy; auburn hair; warm brown eyes; smattering of freckles across his cheeks and bridge of his nose (137) appealing, almost pretty face; large dark eyes; straight nose; full rosy lips (138) 12-y-o (144) charming; talent for getting into trouble; kind; good heart (154) good humored (160)
Robert Fass
Ross Castle, England
Abbey / Wales
[Major Secondary Character] member of band of troubadours; visited at Ross Castle; used his travels with the troupe to spy and to find Catherine for William after she was abducted // rakish grin; handsome as ever; sea-green eyes; unfashionably long blond hair; joined troupe 3-y-a (169) unknown origins; mimic any accent; spoke French, English, Welsh; voice that made angels cry (170)
Edmund Forrester
Ross Castle, England
[Major Secondary Character] sly, jealous weasel; whispered innuendos into both William and Catherine's ears // William's second in command; trusted (18)
Rhys Gethin
[Actual Historical Character / Major Secondary Character] leader of team that abducted Catherine and Stephen; served Prince Glyndwr; wanted to wed Catherine // led Welsh forces against bloody victory at Bryn Glas (204) "The Fierce One" (237) neither fine looks nor courtly manners; everything about man was rough; long hair fell to shoulders in matted knots; muscled thighs; built like ox, broad chest, thick next; eyes black as his soul (237)
Gruffydd Glyndwr[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] Owain's son; held by Henry; tortured; eyes put out (212)
Owain Glyndwr
Aberystwyth Castle, Wales
Harlech Castle, Wales
[Actual Historical Character / Major Secondary Character] held Catherine for ransom; would exchange her for his captured son // Welsh rebel leader (69) late 40s; sternly handsome face lined; shoulder length dark hair streaked with iron gray; long limbs; powerful body (211) magnetism about him (219)
Lord Grey
[No Appearance] Ross Castle 'neighbor'; anxious to confiscate lands // owned land north of Ross Castle (135)
Ross Castle, England
[Rare Appearances] old man (14)
Ross Castle, England
[One Appearance] Ross Castle tenant; sent on long-distance deliveries; liked to poach other men's wives; green eyes (49)
John[No Appearance] William's brother; died four years ago (18)
Sister Katrina
Abbey, English-Welsh border
[No Appearance] cute very minor scenes regarding her bad cooking // Abbey num (90)
Ross Castle, England
[Rare Appearances] Catherine's maid (34)
Sister Matilde
Abbey, English-Welsh border
[One Appearance] Abbey nun (89)
"Hotspur" Percy[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] William's half-brother // Northumberland's son; brave; reckless; rash; hot-headed (50) killed at battle of Shrewsbury (52)
Jamie Rayburn
Ross Castle, England
[Frequent Appearances] [Hero of "Book Three"] precocious; loveable // Catherine's son (11) dark hair; three year old (26)
Ross Castle, England
[One Appearance] Ross Castle tenant; call on for extra work; liked to be away from home, had shrew for wife (48)
Hugh Stratton
Ross Castle, England
[One Appearance] told William (upon return from battle at Worcester) of attack; Edmund injured, no sign of Catherine or Stephen // William's man (222)
Abbess Talcott
English-Welsh lands
[Several Important Appearances] Catherine ran away to abbey; Abbess counseled both Catherine and William; friends with Robert Lass; helped Catherine with her spying // friend of Catherine's mother; widowed without children; gift of lands to church lead to becoming head of abbey straddling English-Welsh lands (85)
Ross Castle, England
[Occasional Appearance] William's manservant; served William since he was 12 (56) spoke his mind (57)
Maddog ap Tudor
English-Wales border
[Actual Historical Character / One Appearance] part of team that abducted Catherine and Stephen; served Prince Glyndwr // Maredudd's brother (203)
Maredudd ap Tudor
Plas Penmynydd, Wales
[Actual Historical Character / Major Secondary Character] part of team that abducted Catherine and Stephen; served Prince Glyndwr; very protective of Catherine; helped William // charming; devilishly handsome (205) sharp hazel eyes (268)
Marged ap Tudor
Plas Penmynydd, Wales
[Actual Historical Character / Minor Secondary Character] befriended hostage Catherine when she was staying at her home // Maredudd's wife (205) gray eyes; dark hair; plump; few years older than Catherine (249)
Owain Tudor
Plas Penmynydd, Wales
[Actual Historical Character / Minor Secondary Character] Maredudd and Marged's son; beautiful child (249)
Owen ap Tudor
English-Wales border
[Actual Historical Character / One Appearance] part of team that abducted Catherine and Stephen; served Prince Glyndwr // Maredudd's brother (203)
Ross Castle, England
[One Appearance] Ross Castle tenant; dishonest nature (49)
Father Whitefield
Ross Castle, England
[One Appearance] at Ross Castle gate, told Catherine her choice between "The Tower" or marriage // bishop; Catherine's father's old friend; quick rise in church since Henry took throne (20)

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Margaret Mallory

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Knight of Desire Reviews:
RatedPostedSiteNotes, Comments, Etc.
A (overall)07-06-2009A Journey of Booksalso on: Library Thing
3.5006-....-2009A Romance Review 
5.0007-08-2009All About {n}also on: Amazon, Good Reads, Library Thing
C+ / Hot06-15-2009All About Romance 
--07-08-2009Alpha Heroes{positive inflection}
4.30 average{20 reviews}Amazonas of: January 12, 2012
4.50 average{10 reviews}Barnes & Nobleas of: January 11, 2012
4.5004-20-2010Book Bingealso on: Good Reads
4.00--Books On Boardas of: January 12, 2012
4.0005-07-2009Books Reviews By Crystal 
4.0007-03-2009Chick With Booksalso on: Good Reads, Library Thing
5.00--Coffee Time Romance 
5.0003-02-2010Demon Lovers Books and Morealso on: Good Reads
4.0007-02-2009Foreign Circus Library 
----Fresh Fiction{positive inflection}
4.14 average{81 reviews}Good Readsas of: January 13, 2012
4.28 average{33 reviews}Google Booksas of: January 11, 2012
4.0009-21-2010Examiner . com 
4.07 average{14 reviews}Library Thingas of: January 11, 2012
----Michigan State Univ Alumni Assocprofile article
3.0007-04-2009Morbid Romanticalso on: Amazon, GR, Library Thing, Paperback Swap
--06-29-2009Must Read Faster{positive inflection}
--....-....-2009My Shelf{positive inflection}
--07-25-2010Not Another Romance Blog{positive inflection}
4.0001-15-2010Outlandish Dreamingshorter post on Good Reads, Library Thing
5.00 average{1 review}Overstock . comas of: January 11, 2012
3.50 average{5 reviews}Paperback Swapas of: January 12, 2012
3.5001-03-2010Ramblings On Romancesee the second entry
4.40 average{5 reviews}Reader Storeas of: January 11, 2012
5.00--Readers Favoritealso on: B&N, Library Thing
--06-19-2009Romance By The Blog{positive inflection}
4.0007-27-2009Romance Junkiesalso on: Good Reads
4.2507-29-2009Romance Novel TV 
{a keeper}07-02-2009Romance Reader At Heart 
4.00 / Hot--RT (Romantic Times) Book Reviews 
3.75 (overall)07-07-2009Seductive Musingsalso on: B&N
4.38 average{13 reviews}Shelfarias of: January 14, 2012
4.5012-04-2009The Book Queen's Palacealso on: Amazon B&N, GR, Library Thing, Shelfari
--01-02-2010The Printed Pagemore notes than a review
4.50--The Romance Readers Connection 
--08-02-2009Unusual Historicalsinterview, not a review
--09-27-2009Wendi's Book Corner{positive inflection}
4.00{8 readers}We Readas of: January 14, 2012
4.6501-14-2012Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Good Reads, Shelfari

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♥  Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥  Very Subjective Rating
♥  Willing to share Cheat Sheet
    ♦  in whole or in part
    ♦  WordPerfect or PDF
♣  Will add your Knight of Desire review link to table, just ask