The Dark Duke

The Overlord's Bride

A Rogue's Embrace

A Scoundrel's Kiss

A Warrior's Bride

The Maiden and Her Knight
by Margaret Moore
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-380-81336-X
Sir Connor is an impoverished Welshman, banished from the Crusades after daring to question King Richard. He is at Lord Montclair's tournament for one reason, and one reason only, to win enough money to pay the debts on his family estate and to restore his family's honor. The night before the tournament, Connor, along with the other knights, attends a banquet and spots Lady Allis at the head table. Suddenly money is not the only prize on his mind.

Lady Allis Montclair has been holding her household together since the death of her mother, a loss that has sent her father into a deep depression. With two younger siblings to take care of, she is duty bound to marry a man of wealth and privilege. Although Baron Rennick is more than happy to fill that position, Allis can't get past her loathing of the man to make the final commitment. Rennick has insinuated himself into her family's life, always pretending to be a concerned friend, but she knows that a life with him would be unpleasant at best. It's no wonder that she is drawn to Connor, a man of honor and decency. Connor is a poor, disgraced knight though, certainly not an appropriate match.

One thing I could never quite figure out about this story was why Allis had to marry someone wealthy. Montclair seems to be thriving, and much mention is made of its productive and happy tenants. Sure, her father is ill and ineffective, but Allis had been managing just fine for years, so why couldn't she just marry someone she loves, or at least someone better than Rennick?

Also, Allis' honor and sacrifice gets a bit much at times. She gives and gives to her siblings and never seems to notice how ungrateful they are. Thankfully, just as Allis is reaching critical annoyance capacity, the author has her realize that she deserves some happiness in her own life too. Allis finally puts herself first and decides that she's going to follow her heart. Of course it can't last or the book would have been over halfway through, but it was a relief to have Allis snap out of her martyr mode.

Honor is prominent on Connor's mind as well. Although he is a likeable hero, his attitude sometimes feels more like 90's new age guy than medieval knight. Itís all well and good that he felt the Crusades were unjust, but I couldn't help but think it wasn't something a man of that time would have been willing to risk his life, reputation and family for. Still, he is open with his feelings towards Allis and he has to get credit for that.

Rennick's subplot of treason with the calculating Lord Oswald is kept enough in the background not to overshadow Allis and Connor's growing relationship. As the bad guys, the two are opposite ends of the spectrum. Rennick is a standard, one-dimensional meanie and the reader just knows he's going to eventually get what's coming to him. It's the fabulously two-faced Oswald who really shines as a villain. He is just as evil as Rennick, if not more so, but Oswald has an utter smoothness about him that makes him a convincing manipulator. It is not hard to believe that both Allis and Connor fall for his act.

Although the ending smacks a bit of King Richard ex machina, it provides a satisfying conclusion and leaves just enough loose ends for the possible reappearance of some characters in later books. All in all, The Maiden and Her Knight is an acceptable romance that fans of medievals should enjoy.

--Anne Bulin

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