The Knight's Bride by Lyn Stone
(Harl. Hist. #445, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29045-4
***
It is 1314, and the Scots under Robert the Bruce have just defeated King Edward's English forces at Bannockburn. Alan of Strode is bringing his grievously wounded friend Tavish Ellerby home, but realizes that he will not survive the night. Tavish writes orders for his wife, Honor, which Alan promises to see that she obeys even though he cannot read and does not know what they are.

Honor hopes that her husband soon will return to Byelough Keep. She altered her father's documents giving her in marriage to a cruel French count and, with the assistance of a priest, fled France for Scotland to the kind Tavish whose suit had been denied by her father. Two months after their wedding, he left to join the Scottish forces. She is afraid that because her father had already pledged her to another, the marriage may be ruled invalid. Although she does not love Tavish, she depends on him to protect her and the child she is carrying. She believes that with time she can come to love him.

Alan is known as Alan the True because of his practice of always telling the truth. The Bruce and a party of horsemen come on Alan and force him to turn over Tavish's letter. The Bruce is amused by the letter's contents. He knights Alan and tells him to inform the Lady Honor that he commands her to obey the instructions.

Alan arrives at Byelough Keep. He is immediately struck by the clean condition of the keep and is instantly smitten by the beautiful Honor. He informs her of her husband's death and gives her his letter. He then learns that Tavish has ordered Honor to marry Alan. Honor believes that Alan has written the document himself, but he denies it because he cannot read or write.

When Honor's father and his company of fighting men lay siege to the keep in order to force Honor to leave Byelough Keep and marry the French count, Alan and Honor will soon to discover the truth about each other and their origins.

The first half of this book is sweet and charming with occasional moments of humor. Alan is a rare hero honest, humble, and dependable. He may not be the most insightful of men, but his nobility of character compensates for any faults. Honor represents the life he's never had and always wanted. He's so dazzled by the perfection of home and family that he's blind to the real character of the woman he's wed and imbues her with motives she doesn't possess.

Honor may not equal him in honesty or nobility of character, but she is courageous to a fault. It's a rare woman of her time who would defy her father and seek a marriage of her own choosing. She is able to recognize the reality of hers and Alan's situation more clearly than he. A strong, loving marriage is within their grasp.

The second half of the book, however, doesn't match the quality of the first. Alan and Honor have resolved most of their conflict so the author has to create additional conflict to maintain the momentum of the story. Apparently the author felt that the warriors at the gate weren't enough of a problem, that Alan and Honor had to have their own personal battle in the midst of a larger fight.

The most disturbing aspect of this new direction is that Alan seems to have a change of character. His gentle, loving attitude towards Honor now becomes mean and spiteful only because he learns that she didn't marry for love. Just as anachronistic as the reference to potatoes ("tatties") and spun sugar is the concept that in the middle ages someone would believe that people only married for love. Honor feared for her life and fled to a man who represented safety. I didn't accept Alan's notion that this meant she had betrayed his friend.

I regret that the author didn't maintain the delightful tone of the first half of the book throughout, but there is enough in this story, particularly in the characterization of Alan, to please many readers.

--Lesley Dunlap


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