Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: Knight of Pleasure by Margaret Mallory

Dear Ms. Mallory:

Knight-of-PleasureI remember a number of people raving about your debut in the If You Like Debut books thread. I bought the debut book, Knight of Desire, but by the time I got around to reading it your second book, Knight of Pleasure, was out. So I read that one first. While I felt that I would have appreciated some of the nuances in the character of Stephen, the hero, more had I read the first book in the series, I was not lost.

Lady Isobel Hume was married off the age of 14 to a neighboring lord with quite a bit of money and power. Her father promised her that when Hume died, she would have her independence. No one really thought Hume would live as long as he did. He eventually dies when Isobel is 22 and she finally thinks she is free. But somehow, because she and Hume did not have children, a bastard born to a woman of quality convinced Hume that he was Hume’s son. In Hume’s will, he leaves his entire estate to the purported son, Graham. Isobel is enraged and turns to her father for aid.

Her father turns to Bishop Beaufort, the uncle of King Henry, to have the property given back to Isobel. Bishop Beaufort gives her three choices: marry Graham, marry someone your father picked out (and didn’t he do a good job the first time), or go to Caen and marry someone politically advantageous to the Crown. Isobel chooses to go to the court of Henry and await a marriage to be arranged with a Norman lord.

Once at the court Isobel is reminded that she is to dutifully serve her King, particularly when her father did not. She is instructed to determine whether her new spouse will be loyal to the Crown or is fomenting some insurgency. Sir Stephen Carleton is appointed to be an assistant to the bailli of Caen. Stephen chafes at this because he is a knight.

When Isobel and Stephen first see each other, they are quite taken with one another, but they both know their duty. Further, when Isobel is introduced to her future mate, she is delighted. Philippe de Roche is wealthy, extremely handsome, attentive without being overbearing.

This is not a triangle though for Isobel’s heart is never engaged by Phillipe and he is often gone from Caen while Stephen is there. I liked that the story took place over a period of time. Isobel arrives in Caen in November 1417 and the story culminates in April 1418.

The best and worst part of the story was Stephen’s character arc. Stephen arrives in Caen believing he can never love a woman because the one woman he wants has already been taken. It’s his sister in law, apparently the heroine in the first book. Stephen was a young boy but he seems to believe that he won’t grow out of his “love” for Catherine. While I appreciated that he did, there wasn’t any internal recognition that his feelings for Catherine were simply infatuation. At one point, Isobel watches Stephen with Catherine and even Isobel sees his heart in his eyes, even after Stephen was supposedly in love with Isobel.   I really needed to see this issue dealt with but it never was. We are simply to assume that his feelings for Isobel overrode those longings for Catherine. "For the right woman," he said, meeting his nephew’s eyes, "I would give up all the others without regret."

As for Isobel, I felt like this was a case of making lemonade out of lemons.   A woman of that time period was chattel, to be used to gain money for the father or alliances with the king.   In trying to provide her a measure of independence, you gave her the ability to be a sword fighter and yes, this played a small role in the story, overall I found Isobel to be terribly bland.   The sword fighting thing felt so contrived and not well integrated into Isobel’s overall storyline.

The interaction between Stephen and his nephew were well done and the Isobel’s struggle as a woman, her futility for independence, was also well portrayed. There were definitely high points and I would read your work again. C

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. Ros
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 06:29:07

    Isobel arrives in Caen in November 1817 and the story culminates in April 1418.

    I’m assuming that’s November 1417? Otherwise this is quite a different sort of story from the one you describe!

  2. Jane
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 09:04:54

    @Ros Just checking to see if you read these reviews. There will be a test later requiring you to compile my errors! I made one a few days ago. Pretty soon I’ll be Harriet Klausner.

  3. Susan/DC
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 11:35:56

    Your comments about Stephen not realizing that the love he felt for his now sister-in-law represented a youthful infatuation could also be applied to a lot of heroines in romance novels. I’ve read far too many books where the heroine meets the hero when she’s 12 or 14 and decides he’s the love of her life. When they finally get together 4 or 6 or however many years later, she’s not opened her mind or heart even to the possibility that this may have been a childhood crush and that somewhere out there in the great big world there may be someone else for her. This is somehow supposed to be admirable, as opposed to blindly naive and adolescent. I don’t mind if they do get together, but I’d like her to live and grow and have a bit of experience — not necessarily sexual, just actual interactions with real people as opposed to this beau ideal she’s created in her imagination while she stands on the sidelines waiting for him.

  4. TKF
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 13:49:36

    But somehow, because she and Hume did not have children, a bastard born to a woman of quality convinced Hume that he was Hume's son. In Hume's will, he leaves his entire estate to the purported son, Graham. Isobel is enraged and turns to her father for aid.

    Her father turns to Bishop Beaufort, the uncle of King Henry, to have the property given back to Isobel. Bishop Beaufort gives her three choices: marry Graham, marry someone your father picked out (and didn't he do a good job the first time), or go to Caen and marry someone politically advantageous to the Crown.

    A Catholic Bishop tells a woman that she can marry her husband’s son? Am I reading this wrong? Consanguinity was taken pretty seriously at this point in history, so this seems highly unlikely to have been proposed as a solution by anyone, let alone a member of the clergy.

  5. Anthea Lawson
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 14:02:20

    I enjoyed this book very much. Margaret Mallory has a wonderful voice, and Stephen is a hero to fall for!

    @TKF It’s pretty clear in the story that nobody except the dead lord thinks that Graham was his bastard son– and he was never recognized officially as such, only given the lands over Isobel. So as a story convention, it works. :)

  6. Margaret Mallory
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 14:18:09

    For TKF-The guy was not really her husband’s son-the old man just wanted to believe it. No one else believed it, the guy’s mother never named him as the father, and the transfer of land made no mention of a relationship between the two men.

    Bishop Beaufort was the classic medieval bishop: wily, rich, political, and not very religious. He was a huge supporter of his nephew, King Henry, and sometimes ran the country while his nephew was off fighting in Normandy. He is clever about getting Isobel to do what furthers his nephew’s interests-which is to go to Normandy to marry the French nobleman.

    Jane, I wish you’d liked it better, of course, but I’m glad to hear you’ll read my work again. :) Stephen is very attached to his sister-in-law. I guess I didn’t make it as clear as I thought I did that once Stephen is truly in love he realizes that what he feels for his sister-in-law is a different kind of love. Goodness, he hadn’t imagined taking her to bed for years!

  7. TKF
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 16:12:46

    The guy was not really her husband's son-the old man just wanted to believe it. No one else believed it, the guy's mother never named him as the father, and the transfer of land made no mention of a relationship between the two men.

    *phew*

  8. Scorpio M.
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 17:19:27

    This book has been on my radar and I still plan to read it because the premise caught my eye and I know that I have on many occasions not agreed with certain graded reviews. DA tends to grade pretty harsh, imo – not that there is anything wrong with that, reviews are personal & subjective, I know. Many books I have on my keeper shelf that I would deem B or better have been reviewed as C or worse here and vice versa.

    Personally, if I graded a book a “C” I would definitely not be seeking out more books by the same author.

  9. Deb Kinnard
    Dec 11, 2009 @ 10:44:31

    I’m wondering–Isobel would not have been portionless. Why didn’t she have her dower properties? There’s no way any marriage contract wouldn’t have been written to exclude Graham from inheriting those…just the properties belonging to his putative father.

    And bear in mind that there was no way in those days to prove paternity. The idea that Hume acknowledged Graham (via the inheritance) as his son went a long way to establishing his paternity in the eyes of the law.

    Bishop Henry Beaufort would’ve realized this. I doubt he would’ve sanctioned any marriage that was even potentially consanguinous in any case. He was a very intelligent guy, born a bastard and legitimated by act of Parliament after his father (John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster) and his mother (Lady Katherine Swinford) married. So he wasn’t likely to be ignorant of how a father might provide for an illegitimate heir.

    I’m gonna buy the book anyway and look for its prequel. There are too few medieval romances out there IMO.

  10. MARGARET MALLORY
    Dec 11, 2009 @ 11:36:15

    Deb, I’m glad you are going to buy the book and read it, because it’s a little complicated to explain here! I’m a lawyer–not that it helps me too much with medieval law–but I do try to get this sort of thing right. I love that you know about Bishop Beaufort. He’s such a great historical character that I put him in my next book too.

    And I agree, there are too few medieval romances out there. Give me dark drama, royal intrigue & men in armor, & I’m happy. :)

  11. RITA Open Thread | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 14:52:01

    [...] but Jayne did.  I liked Margaret Mallory’s voice and would definitely read her again, but Knight of Pleasure wasn’t one of my favorite historicals.  I haven’t been able to finish a Willingham [...]

%d bloggers like this: