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Three Dog Knight by Tori Phillips
(Harlequin, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29038-1
If you can get past the too clever for its own good title, what you have is a perfectly respectable romance with all the requisite historical components royal intrigue, handsome hero, beautiful heroine, faithful companions, and vicious villain. Like I said, perfectly respectable. But Three Dog Knight fails to inspire anything more than a vague pleasantry. Like a half-smile, there's something sweet about it, but too little to say whether it's genuine.

Alicia Broom is the illegitimate daughter of Edward IV who was overthrown by Henry Tudor. Alicia was raised the daughter of a goldsmith, in order to protect her from those that would feel threatened by her Plantagenet blood. At eighteen she is suddenly deposited in the home of Thomas Cavendish, the silent, brooding young Earl of Thornbury whom Alicia has not seen since they were betrothed as children. Thomas never counted on being the Earl, but when his father and brothers suddenly die of a fever, he finds himself stuck indoors managing a household he would much rather ignore. Thomas is much more comfortable outdoors, racing through the woods with his three favorite dogs at his side. But when he sees the beautiful Alicia he vows to protect her.

That doesn't sit too well with his shrewish, widowed sister-in-law Isabel, who is determined never to return to a home crowded with unmarried sisters. Her hideous attempts to win Thomas' affections fool no one, least of all the man himself. Though all his life people have though Thomas "slow", he is actually a deep thinker who takes to writing out his feelings to Alicia in flowery love letters that she believes can't possibly have originated from her betrothed. Alicia knows that her secret parentage could bring danger to Thomas and she tells him the story of her real father. Isabel overhears and vows to use the knowledge against her beautiful rival.

So there you go. It's pretty run-of-the-mill stuff as historicals go. Both Thomas and Alicia are as vanilla as can be, almost perfect people with a few minor quirks, but hardly enough to give either a true personality. Alicia in particular comes across as a composite drawing of every "good and true" fairy tale heroine I've ever come across. That she loves Thomas instantly seems more a fact of her desperate straits and his good looks than from any interaction the two share. I thought two of the Earl's dogs, Georgie and Travestock had more personality.

Had author Tori Phillips concentrated more on the royal intrigue that surrounded the Plantagenet/Tudor feud it might have livened things up a bit. As is, what mention is made of the events of the time adds little to the proceedings.

--Ann McGuire

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