White Heather

White Magic

White Knight by Jaclyn Reding
(Signet, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-451-19852-2
White Knight contains several of the elements I least like to see in a romance: limited interaction between the protagonists, an often-used plot and the lengthy separation (approximately 50 pages) of the hero and heroine. Normally, what would have been weaknesses turn out to be strengths in this richly detailed book.

It is 1820's London, and the arranged marriage between Lady Grace Ledys and Christian Wycliffe, Marquess Knighton, is a miserable failure. From the start of their brief union, country mouse Grace has done all she can to transform herself into a Marchioness of which her sullen husband can be proud. Still, Christian does all that he can to avoid her company.

Grace believes fate has intervened in her unhappy situation when she inherits her grandmother's ancestral home, Skynegal, located in the north Scottish Highlands. It is because she has grown to love her husband that Grace decides to release him from his obligation, and travel in secret to a new life as the mistress of Skynegal. There, Grace grows from timid young girl who tried desperately to please, into a confident woman the people of her estate look to for guidance.

Back in London, Christian is frantic with worry when Grace is discovered missing. He has good reason to keep the wife he secretly loves at arm's length. When she is finally located, Christian immediately travels to Skynegal in an attempt to coax her home.

Clearly, this is the story of a woman's growth from sheltered wife to independent woman. The romantic elements are secondary. When Christian arrives at Skynegal and tries to take Grace back to London, I cheered her decision to remain in the one place where she feels she can truly make a difference.

Since the reader remains with Grace during most of the couple's separation, Christian's motivations are somewhat of a mystery. Although hints are dropped along the way, it is not until nearly the end of the book that the very legitimate reasons Christian kept his distance from Grace are fully revealed.

Author Jaclyn Reding's detailed research is evident on every page. It is obvious Reding is enamored with her subject. Her descriptions of the Scottish Highland Clearance's, when impoverished tenant farmers were burned out of their homes by their greedy landowners, are skillfully rendered in horrific detail.

In each sentence, I felt fully a part of this book. All of my senses were engaged. My only complaint is in the paucity of scenes between Christian and Grace. Although I understood the reasons for this, the sparks between the two caused their scenes together to jump off the page. I would have liked to see more.

White Knight is the third book in a quartet, but it is not necessary to read the two previous books, White Magic and White Heather, to fully enjoy this tale. The next offering, White Mist, will feature another Scottish adventure with Christian's younger sister, Lady Eleanor Wycliffe. I look forward to reading her story and to share another visit with Christian and Grace.

--Karen Lynch

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