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CLASSIC REVIEW: Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux

This classic review is by The Fallen Professor who is a former literature academic who now runs her own freelance business and indulges in whatever the hell she wants to read. She’s especially fond of historical and paranormal romances, though she won’t turn her nose up at a good contemporary. Visit The Fallen Professor at her blog.

Knight in Shining Armor Jude Deveraux


 1.  Since one of the unique aspects of this novel is its ending, this review contains some spoilers. And, even though it’s a classic romance that’s been around for a while, I believe that new readers should be able to experience the ending for themselves if they wish. If you are such a reader, you’ll be able to easily avoid the spoiler section, since I’ve placed it at the very end.

2.  For this re-read, I picked up the Kindle version of the updated (2001) edition. According to the author, this new edition doesn’t change any plot points or characters, but adds some 50 pages to the original. Since I don’t have my original paperback anymore, I can’t tell where they were added, but I certainly don’t feel any big changes. The 2001 edition also includes an author’s note where Deveraux explains how she came to write this novel, and what it’s really about. This last point is important because it changed the way I viewed a couple of the main characters; but since I didn’t read the author’s note until I had finished the novel, my original opinion of these two will stand as-is, and I’ll elaborate on it in the spoiler section.

Dear Ms. Deveraux,

When I decided to revisit A Knight in Shining Armor (which was the secondromance novel I ever read, after Savage Thunder), I confess that I was almost afraid to re-read it for a couple of reasons. First, I remembered crying buckets_ during certain scenes, and honestly that’s not the kind of story I tend to read these days. Second, I worried that if I didn’t cry buckets this time around, I’d come away with a less than flattering view of my past self. I know, I know.

The good news is that (1) I didn’t cry (or, as Nicholas would say, get “onion-eyed”), but (2) oddly enough, I was probably more moved than the first time around. As the novel shows, time and experience leave their mark on a person, and that certainly includes me as a reader.

Also, just as I remembered, Dougless did enough crying for the both of us. Poor Dougless Montgomery, with her overachieving family and her inability to find her dream man. She’s gone from one bad boy to the next, and at the start of the novel is saddled with Robert Whitley, a surgeon who treats her like crap and who has what to me seemed like a really creepy relationship with his daughter from a previous marriage. This is one aspect of the novel I really didn’t like: Robert and Gloria are sometimes implausibly mean to Dougless, so much so that she ends up stranded in the middle of nowhere in rural England during a “family” vacation. To make matters worse, Gloria snatches Dougless’ purse when she drives off with dear daddy, leaving our heroine destitute as well as heartbroken.

Gloria is in her early teens, and Dougless constantly describes her as “pudgy” as well as spoiled and mean. And this petty behaviour on Dougless’ part really bothered me as well. I understand that Dougless feels legitimately victimized by Gloria, who is herself an insecure girl feeling very threatened by the lovely young woman her father lives with (he shares custody with his ex). But here’s the thing. Gloria takes her anger out on Dougless by lying and pouting and generally behaving like an adolescent. And Dougless, who’s an elementary school teacher and thus well acquainted with unruly behaviour, finally snaps and… slaps Gloria? Really? This was still a shocking scene the second time around, and seemed just as uncharacteristic of Dougless as the first time I read it.

Anyway, once our villains are out of the way, Dougless is left to fend for herself, so she does something that isvery characteristic of her and breaks down in tears. And yes, I know I’m being mean here, because Dougless has every reason to have a nervous breakdown at this point: she’s finally found a man she thinks she can take home to her family, one who had made it seem as if the trip to England was going to involve a marriage proposal, and she finds out he’s an abusive jerk who just gave his daughter a $5,000 diamond bracelet. However, any reader familiar with this novel know just how many tears Dougless sheds throughout the story, even if those tears play an important role in connecting with Nicholas.

Nicholas is Nicholas Stafford, Earl of Thornwyck. It is his tomb that Dougless cries on after being abandoned, and his effigy she gazes at as she wishes for a “knight in shining armour.” And voila, he appears, albeit only in half-armour (details, details…). Nicholas is understandably confused, since he had been sitting in a cell writing a letter to his mother and trying to avoid being executed for treason when he was called forth in time by Dougless’ despair. Soon this confusion turns to anger, since he believes Dougless to be a witch, and this conflict marks the start of their relationship.

I like the way the novel is constructed, with the first half taking part in the twentieth century, and the second in the sixteenth. The very beginning, however, takes place in the past, and the very end in the present. This juxtaposition very much pleases my pattern-loving brain, and feels well thought-out. It also underscores the fact that bothDougless and Nicholas are on personal quests, and that they both need to make fundamental changes. Finally, I think this construction helps us understand, and perhaps, accept, the ending. But more on that later.

Another aspect of the plot that I like is the shared sense of uncertainty: neither we nor the characters know what the exact “magical” item/piece of information is that will send Nicholas hurtling back into the sixteenth century. Without giving too much away, Dougless believes she has the answer at one point, but Nicholas remains. Then something important happens between them, and he does go back to his own time; however, when Dougless checks her history sources, she discovers that the worst has happened to Nicholas.

It is at this point that Dougless is sent back in time, and then the story becomes really interesting, because she’s sent back to four years before Nicholas is accused of treason. Which means that she’s trapped in 16th-century England and Nicholas doesn’t recognize her. I like this detail because, not only does it make sense from the point of view of the story (Dougless needs to prevent a long chain of events that would otherwise lead to Nicholas’ imprisonment), but also because it adds risk and adventure, and becomes the catalyst for Dougless’ own transformation. Because, in reality, Dougless is there to save herself as much as she is to help Nicholas. Her experiences in the 16th century will be a test of those qualities that usually fail her: confidence, a strong sense of identity, and ultimately the ability to make good choices for herself.

Once she finds herself in Elizabethan England, Dougless wheedles her way into the Stafford household, much to a suspicious Nicholas’ chagrin, and begins to work her charms on his family. Eventually, Nicholas begins feeling an uncanny connection to Dougless, and following a series of dramatic incidents he believes her claims of having come from the future to help him. However, there is one thing she asks him to do that he feels he cannot, and this becomes a source of tension with his family as well. The end of her stay is highly dramatic, alternating between joy and despair, with a final sense of bittersweet accomplishment.

And it is here, dear readers, that I must talk about the ending and other details that will definitely spoil a first reading. This is a long spoiler section, and I don’t want to make you scroll all the way down for my final thoughts and grade, so I’ll put them here. Readers wanting a more complete opinion can keep reading below the spoiler line.

A Knight in Shining Armor has many of the hallmarks of its time: melodrama, bigger-than-life characters, and a redheaded heroine who fights for the love of her life. These, I think, make the novel feel a little dated. There are also some aspects of Dougless’ and other characters’ behaviour that I really didn’t like, and that spoiled some scenes for me. But buried deep beneath all the drama and passion is a lovely meditation on history, and memory, and the ways we can (and cannot) control how we are remembered. It is these insights, the realism with which life in a different time period is approached, and the courage of the ending that make this novel worth reading. Therefore, I give this book a B+.

Thank you for the memories, Ms. Deveraux.




The novel ends with Dougless being sent back to her own time, alone. She has managed to keep Nicholas from marrying Lettice, and both the date of death on his tomb and the history books attest to the fact that he lived a long, fulfilling life. No longer seen as a playboy who got himself beheaded for treason, the Nicholas ultimately remembered is a scholar and architect who never married but whose son from a pre-Dougless union goes on to make the Stafford line prosperous.

And here’s the problem for many readers: Dougless doesn’t get her HEA with Nicholas. Instead, on the flight back from England she meets a man who eerily resembles him, and the book ends with their sharing a meal on the plane. This is a bold move for a romance novel ending, but for me it works.

You see, I find most time travel romances highly problematic for me for a couple of reasons. First, because I feel that there’s often too much of a compromise that one of the characters needs to make in order to reach an HEA with their hero/heroine. Second, because the way this compromise is attained is usually to make the alternate time period completely comfortable and attractive to the person who will be displaced.

In my opinion, the best aspect of the time travel in A Knight in Shining Armor is the fact that it doesn’t pretend that one can move seamlessly from one time period to another; there are repercussions, and especially serious ones for Dougless. There’s also a theme of responsibility that’s crucial to this story; allowing either Dougless or Nicholas to remain in the other’s time period would mean that one of them would not be taking responsibility for their actions, and thus a much needed transformation would not occur. In the end, how could either Nicholas or Dougless love someone willing to abandon their family and duties?

Therefore, it’s important that both Nicholas and Dougless realize that they belong in their own time, even if it means being apart. Nicholas, interested though he may be in modern life, will always have a sixteenth-century mentality. He’s never going to be the man Dougless really wants, because his concepts of honour and love are very different from hers (the scene where they argue over the meaning of Romeo and Juliet is especially telling here). Also, because he is honour-bound to his family, he cannot possibly remain in Dougless’ time; doing so would truly make him the irresponsible man whose legacy they’ve been trying to alter.

Dougless, for her part, needs to face the challenges of her own time, and not escape into a fantasy world. In this sense, I think the novel does a great job of showing the gritty realities of life in the sixteenth century, and of showing that without the Staffords’ protection, a lone woman in Elizabethan England would not fare well. And here, there’s also the crucial element of perception: while to future eyes Nicholas might pass for an eccentric who believes himself to be from the past, a sixteenth-century view of Dougless is much more dangerous. With her odd speech, wondrous medicines, and offbeat knowledge, she might naturally be thought to be a witch, and her fate would not be as benign. In other words, there’s something to be said for the way society’s opinions of outsiders have generally evolved over time. Yes, we might still be suspicious of things we see as “too different,” but realistically Nicholas would fare much better in twentieth century England than Dougless would in his time.

Therefore, to me it makes sense that they cannot end up together. If they did, they’d have to make compromises that would go against some very valid beliefs; and, more importantly, they would not fulfill their personal quests because of these compromises.

So the novel uses the trope of a reincarnation of sorts. Reed Stanford is the architect Dougless meets on the plane. She’s distraught, and initially refuses his attempts at comforting her. But eventually, he shows her the miniature Nicholas had commissioned of her, with the words “My soul will find yours” on the back, and explains he’s had it since childhood. And at this point, Dougless understands that she will, in a sense, reunite with Nicholas through this man who so uncannily resembles him.

Reed’s appearance works for me in several ways. First, I like the fact that he’s not presented as a direct descendant of Nicholas. His last name -Stanford- and his nationality -American- do suggest that he might belong to a branch of the family that emigrated to the New World (Nicholas had shown interest in Dougless’ home country), but he’s not the duke mentioned as the current heir to the Stafford estate. That would have cheapened the ending for me. The fact that Reed is an architect was also a nice detail, since this had been Nicholas’ passion, but one he didn’t feel he could freely pursue due to his social class. Finally, though there’s a strong sense of recognition between them, Reed and Dougless are going to start any potential relationship from scratch. And hopefully, by this time Dougless has become more confident in herself (we see she’s off to a good start in the way she speaks to her sister and deals with Robert upon her return to the present) and doesn’t revert to the doormat she was in her part relationships.

And here I’ll add a final note about her past relationship with Robert, and the way it’s resolved. As I mentioned at the start, I had a difficult time with Robert and Gloria throughout the novel, because they seem like cartoon villains. However, the author’s notes explain that there’s a good reason for his behaviour: A Knight in Shining Armor is a novel about alcoholism. Not about the drinking per se, but about the “alcoholic personality” that drives people to try to destroy those they believe to be more fortunate.

As Robert explains in his final meeting with Dougless, and the afterword confirms, the root of Robert’s anger is his feeling that Dougless is just “playing” at working for a living, because her rich family can bail her out any time she needs; while he has always struggled financially, and even as a prosperous surgeon he obsesses about money. So he takes this out on Dougless by making her pay for expensive things with the argument that as a “liberated woman” she should be glad he’s treating her as an equal; and Dougless, who has spent years going from one co-dependent relationship to the next, can’t find any arguments against this. This is another reason why it’s important for Dougless to remain in, and confront, her present. If she stays in the past with Nicholas, she’ll be trapped in a similar relationship, as his mistress; in the present, she has the chance to achieve closure with Robert and rebuild her self-esteem with the hopes of a future happy relationship with someone who loves her without wanting something from her.


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Guest Reviewer


  1. Beth
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 12:59:42

    This is maybe my favorite romance novel of all time. Like you, I am okay with how the ending is resolved–for the arguments you make even though I’ve never thought about them in exactly that way before. Dougless, after having finally achieved independence and self worth, doesn’t need to back slide into a lesser relationship which I do believe would have happened if she’d stayed with Nicholas.

    Plus I believe the idea of reincarnation (which Devereaux explores in a few other novels but not not nearly as successfully as she does in this one) is insanely romantic. This is probably just me being a total sap but the idea that their souls found each other over time is just heart wrenchingly amazing.

    There are so many amazing parts of this book–the humor in the first section as Nicholas explores and devours modern culture and when Dougless tries to seduce him. And the development and nitty gritty details in the latter half. An amazing accomplishment of a novel and one I think every newbie romance novel reader should experience at least once.

    Now I need to go re read!

  2. HelenMac
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 13:19:03

    I haven’t reread this in forever, but I think I’m going to have to pull it off the shelf and add it to the tbr pile in the bedroom. And also ‘Remembrance’, which similar to ‘A Knight in Shining Armour’, doesn’t have a standard HEA, but has that ‘souls finding each other’-reincarnation flavoured ending, which, like Beth above, I find insanely romantic. There’s just something about the main chars being *meant to be*… but yes, I totally agree with your point here re Nicholas and Dougless – there is no way that they could actually be together and have it work / have their journeys be complete. An ending where one of them stayed in the other’s time would not, could not, be an HEA, whereas this hopeful peek at a possible HEA is more satisfying.

    Woah, I’ve just realised that these two Jude Deverauxs were prob the first HFN romances I read. But they felt more complete, happier, had a stronger possibility of ‘forever’ than I tend to think of HFNs? Even though, often HFNs are for the chars we have been following throughout the book, and in these cases, we only meet the male half of the pairing in literally the last few pages of the book…? I need to think about this some more.

    Interesting re the explanation of Robert’s behaviour – I don’t know how that makes me feel. Suppose will have to reread to find out.

  3. Evaine
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 13:19:28

    Jude Deveraux is still my favourite classic romance writer and her Highland Velvet is my most favourite romance ever, but A Knight in Shining Armor is the book that caused her books to gradually drop out of favour with me. Her following books didn`t hold the same charm for me. I know that it`s a meaningful favourite for many people, but all it does is make me sad and wistful. I still love all the books before this one though, so there`s that. :)

  4. Holly
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 13:34:00

    I can’t remember if it is this book or another one – is it mentioned elsewhere about Dougless and Reed having a baby but something in the implication made it sound like it was Nicholas’ child?

  5. Fallen Professor
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 13:45:42

    @Holly: Oh, interesting! Not in this book. Nicholas has a son from a previous affair, as I mentioned in the review, and he becomes the heir. Dougless does meet him when she goes back in time; he’s being ignored by Nicholas (to put it lightly), and she makes him look after the boy and has him promise to continue doing so when she leaves.

    But I’d love to read the continuation of Dougless/Reed, if Deveraux wrote more on them.

  6. Holly
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 14:17:27

    Spoilers galore!!

    @Fallen Professor
    I found it in SB Sarah’s tweet stream from the RT conference last year, having trouble with link but anyways Deveraux said Douglass was pregnant at end of book and her son will be hero in upcoming novel.
    Here is more info:
    You may have to expand Storify to see all tweets.

  7. Fallen Professor
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 14:49:43

    @Holly: Neat! I see also that there are other Montgomery-Taggert books (I think the Taggerts were Dougless’ relatives in Colorado, right?). I have to admit that this is the only Deveraux book I’ve read. I obviously need to remedy this!

  8. cleo
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 15:07:36

    I was hoping someone would review KiSA – thanks fallen professor. Excellent review.

    I have so many feelings about this book. I read it in early 90s, standing in the aisle of my college’s bookstore – I was cheap and secretive about my romance back then. This wasn’t even close to my first romance, but it is the first romance I remember discussing with a friend, and Jude Devereaux was the first romance author I followed – before her I just read random romances by random authors. So she was a gateway author for me.

    I haven’t read this in 20+ years – I hardly remember anything that you describe. I remember that the ending worked for me. And your explanation makes sense. I can see how it would not work for some readers.

  9. Sarah Porter
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 17:48:08

    @Holly: In Sweet Liar, the heroine has a long conversation with Douglass and yes if I remember correctly she is pregnant or recently pregnant with Reed’s child.

  10. Tess MacKall
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 18:09:21

    I cried a river when I read this book oh so long ago. I think of it every once in a while when I’m looking for a good read. This book will stay with me forever. Maybe because I was so young when I read it.

  11. cleo
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 18:36:50

    I’ve been thinking about this more, specifically about why the ending worked for me personally. I think that I read / related to this more as Douglass’ story than as a traditional romance. Not saying that it’s not a romance but (iirc) twenty something me didn’t find it that romantic. I was way more invested in Douglass than in Nicholas or in Douglass-and-Nicholas. I tend to be more heroine centric anyways. So the ending worked for me, because Douglass got a worthy partner.

    Someone in Jane’s tweet stream (sorry, don’t remember who) said they didn’t like that Nicholas didn’t get a life partner. Doh! That never occurred to me, but I can see why hero centric or Nicholas centric readers would be pissed off on his behalf.

  12. Elinor Aspen
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 19:51:23

    In many ways, this book is more women’s fiction than romance. We think of it as romance because Jude Deveraux is a romance author, but if it was a debut novel by another author, would we still consider it to be a romance?

    My feelings about this book are nearly the same as Evaine’s. An additional source of disappointment for me was that I just didn’t find Nicholas that attractive. As a history nerd who played in the SCA, I really wanted to like this book, but it just didn’t satisfy me.

  13. Janine
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 22:15:07

    What a great review. I agree with your thoughts on the ending, though I don’t think I could have articulated my feelings as well as you did yours in this review.

    I haven’t reread this book in a long time but I loved it when I first read it. For me it is one of Deveraux’s best. I read it when it first came out (1989 or so) and though I cried a lot at the end, I also loved it. I find it interesting that so many readers today dislike the ending. My impression is that this was not as much the case in the 1990s. When I first joined the online romance community about a decade after it was published, there was a lot more love for it in the community.

    I think what’s changed in the interim is the genre itself, and with it, readers’ expectations. At the time this book was published, historical romances didn’t feel as safe as they do today. Although there generally was a HEA, bad things could happen to the characters along the way. A Knight in Shining Armor was a risk-taking book even for its time, but whereas back then it stretched the boundaries of many readers’ expectations, I think today it breaks those boundaries for more readers.

  14. HJ
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 02:51:07

    I have a terrible memory for the details of books and tend to remember instead how they made me feel. I liked this book, and wanted to read more by JD as a result but never found another by her which felt as good. A point which occurred to me on reading the last comment — is an ending good enough if someone has to explain why it works? I think the answer is yes, because you may feel that the ending works without actually going further and thinking about it to understand why you know it works.

    I’d forgotten that JD wrote it as a novel about alcoholism. Like everyone else, I’m going to have to find it and re-read it!

  15. Jean
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 03:13:14

    I seem to be the odd woman out here. I’ve always hated this book. It was the first and only book by Jude Deveraux I had ever read and it forever turned me off this author. Anytime I see her name on a book I have no interest in even looking at it. I immediately move on to something else.

    I had similar issues with a couple books by Constance O’Day Flannery but with her I had already read a few others that didn’t do this so I was fine with her as an author. (I’m trying to discuss this and still be spoiler free and it’s very difficult!).

  16. Azure
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 06:58:31

    Much as I loved A Knight in Shining Armor, I have to confess that I’m a little disappointed to hear that Dougless came back pregnant from the 16th century. I have always loved the ending, with the knowledge that while it wasn’t possible for Dougless and Nicholas to be together, his soul did indeed find hers in her time. The brief glimpse we got of Dougless and Reed in Sweet Liar, where Dougless is very pregnant, only cemented that ending in my mind. Now I have to wonder just how happy Dougless’s HEA was. Her relationship with Reed starts out with her being pregnant with another man’s child–not to mention, how do you explain that your child’s father will never turn up because he’s living four hundred years in the past?

    I stopped reading Deveraux quite a while back, though I still consider this book one of my favorites. If she does eventually write a book about Dougless and Nicholas’s son, I may have to pick it up–just to find out what happened to Dougless and Reed.

  17. Holly
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 21:54:04

    @Azure I want to see that in the sequel as well. Sweet Liar is my favorite Deveraux book, but I don’t remember Dougless and Reed in it at all. I’m afraid to re-read it in case it doesn’t stand the test of time for me.

  18. Azure
    Jun 19, 2014 @ 05:21:52

    @Holly: It’s a very brief mention during the chapter when Mike takes Samantha to meet his entire family. Samantha notes that she met Dougless, who was married to Reed and was very pregnant.

  19. Ann T
    Jun 19, 2014 @ 08:49:40

    This is the book that got me hooked on paranormal romance–reading and writing. I haven’t read this book in years but I remember it completely. This was also the first, and really only, book I’ve ever cried in reading–cried tears of happiness. I felt that strongly about the book and I don’t think I read it for years after because of that. The second time, not as strong but the book still touched my heart. Dougless needed a HEA so bad, it hurt. While I accepted the ending, I DID want Nicholas and Dougless to have a happy ending but I was okay with the way it turned out. And I did NOT know she and Reed were in another book but now that I do, I don’t think I’ll pick it (them?) up based on the information in the comments I scanned. I don’t want anything to mar my enjoying of the first. So, I’m going to stay happy in my rose colored world not knowing that she came back pregnant.

    Thanks for the lovely walk down a very sweet memory lane.

  20. Fallen Professor
    Jun 19, 2014 @ 12:19:41

    Thank you everyone for the comments!

    Like some of you mentioned, I think many of these older romances did take more risks with the endings. Now, it seems like the main couple has to be together no matter what. I remember reading one of Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander time-travel novels a few years ago, Dark Highlander, where at one point the heroine meets the heroine of the previous novel (which I haven’t read) when she goes back in time. This other woman (from the previous book) was described as having been a scientist (I think an astrophysicist) in the present, but now happy to have given all that up and being all content and heavily pregnant… and this irritated me for some reason. I mean, I’m sure she was happy living in the past with her husband, but the fact that she was described as having given absolutely everything up as if her former identity didn’t matter really irked me. Again, I haven’t read her book, just the one right after, but that image has stayed with and bothered me since then. And, when I re-read KISA for this review, I realized that it bothered me because time-travel novels usually call for such unyielding compromises. And the fact that Deveraux refused to let either Dougless or Nicholas off the hook, not letting them get away from their responsibilities by escaping to another time period, made me like this novel all the more.

    And apparently there are many books of hers with Montgomerys, both in past and present time periods. I was browsing through my Scribd subscription, to see how many were available there, and it looks like I have enough to keep me reading for a while. So thanks to everyone who pointed this out.

  21. cleo
    Jun 19, 2014 @ 18:39:54

    @Fallen Professor: Not only did she write a lot of books with Montgomerys, she wrote a lot of books with Montgomery TWINS. I believe she invented the “I know you’re my true love because you’re the only one (including my mother) who can distinguish me from my identical twin” trope.

    SBTB did a Which One First? edition for Jude Deveraux, to help you sort through her crazy back list and find a few that appeal to you (and avoid some clunkers).

    final recommendations –

    initial thread with a bazillion recs –

  22. Janine
    Jun 19, 2014 @ 19:19:21

    @cleo: I remember really liking Twin of Ice but equally disliking Twin of Fire.

  23. cleo
    Jun 19, 2014 @ 20:39:27

    @Janine: I don’t think I read either of those. I don’t remember any details of the Montgomery twin books that I read (like idk, titles or plots), but I know I read more than one, because that trope got really old, really fast for me. I have the same problem with it that I have with fated mates – I like reading about people falling in love and that tends to fast forward through the falling in love.

  24. Janine
    Jun 20, 2014 @ 13:06:55

    @cleo: I think Twin of Ice was her first twin book and Twin of Fire was the sequel. Twin of Ice also introduced the Taggerts (one of the twins married Kane Taggert, after a near-switcheroo at the wedding) and Deveraux later united the Taggert family with the Montgomery family, which explains how all those twins ended up in the Montgomery bloodline.

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