True and Perfect Knight
by Susan Charnley
(Leisure, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-8439-4945-7
***
In the Yorkshire spring of 1282, Sir Haven de Sessions, one of King Edwardís most trusted knights, has been charged with the unenviable task of accompanying the widow of convicted traitor Roger Dreyford to Chester, where the King will decide her fate.

But Haven has already reached his own conclusion in the matter of her innocence. A private conversation with Roger Dreyford shortly before his hanging revealed that Genvieve could not be trusted. Although Roger was a traitor, he was also a close friend to Haven and itís apparent (at least to Haven) that Genvieve led Roger to treason.

Genvieve is resigned to her role as prisoner but hopes that Sir Haven will do as he promised to Roger and protect her young son and her difficult sister-in-law, should Genvieve be found guilty and hanged. Although she knows trusting Haven will prove difficult, since it was Haven who betrayed Roger to the King.

As they travel together, Haven learns that Genvieve is not at all as he expected. He is horrified to discover she is covered in wounds from a stoning by the peasants at her late husbandís castle and she never once complains. Instead, she concerns herself more with her traveling partyís needs than her own.

Upon reaching the royal residence, both Haven and Genvieve are surprised by the unusual form of punishment King Edward devises for Genvieveís misdeeds. One that forces the couple to face their growing, but unwanted, attraction.

The entire premise of this book is built around the word of a convicted traitor. Before his hanging Roger tells Haven: "Gennie knows the man who convinced me that England is better off without Edward Plantagenet on the throne."

That cryptic sentence is all the proof Haven needs to try and convict Genvieve of treason. Havenís stubborn insistence that Genvieve is guilty makes him appear less than intelligent and pig-headed, as well.

In an effort to convince the reader of Genvieveís innocence, the author creates a character of greater purity than Pollyanna. Never once does Genvieve lose her aura of patience and serenity. I was dying for her to lose it over the childish behavior of her sister-in-law Rebecca. It would have made Genvieve seem real, instead of resembling a cardboard cut-out of the perfect romance heroine.

What jumps out at me the most is how all the conflicts in this book are never really resolved, they simply fade away. Also, the whole treason issue seemed muddy to me. It was never really clear what Roger did and why it was Haven who turned him in. After finishing the book, the plot and the characters slipped from my mind, having made no real impression on me in the first place.

That said, the authorís style is easy to read and the pacing kept me involved even when a massive headache made me feel as if my eyeballs were going to explode. While I canít recommend A True and Perfect Knight, Iím willing to give author Susan Charnley another try in the future.

--Karen Lynch


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