REVIEW: The Parfit Knight (Rockliffe Book 1) by Stella Riley
Blinded by a childhood accident, Rosalind Vernon lives a sheltered existence with only servants and her parrot for company. The arrival of the Marquis of Amberley with his wounded coachman during a blizzard will change her life. But can Amberley overcome the dark secret that haunts him and how will Rosalind feel when it is revealed?
Dear Ms. Riley,
I have had this for years ever since I bought a used copy online for only a semi-exorbitant price. The decision to read it – in ebook form since I’d recently bought that along with your other books – was made when I realized that a new, third book in the series was being released this Spring.
It immediately brought to mind the books of one of my favorite English writers of historicals, Patricia Veryan, as well as (just a little bit) the Russian opera Iolante. We get strong men, brave women, honor abounding and one foul mouthed parrot. What more could I ask for?
After an opening that shows Rosalind’s accident, the story zips forward to set up our characters in the present day. Amberley is a man with a wicked sense of humor, loyal friends and a keen intellect. Rosalind is a woman who owns her space, delights in discovering books and can match Amberley’s joie de vivre before he even realizes her condition. But by that point, he’s already been struck by Cupid’s arrow though of course it takes him a while to admit that.
It resembles a little of “Iolante” in that Rosalind is sheltered in her world by loving and protective servants and a brother who thinks he knows best. In it, she is able to live more independently since it is a closed and known place. She is aware that to leave it would open her to a world in which she would – at first – be lost and possibly (in her opinion) a hindrance.
There are touches of Patricia Veryan’s world with fiercely loyal servants and an unforgettable pet – in this case a parrot with no sense of propriety. Indeed Broody positively rejoices in being bad. And since Amberley jokingly tells all that he was raised badly, the two get along like a house on fire as Amberley adds a new trick to Broody’s repertoire.
Amberley falls in love before he gets hit with the, as he terms it, cannon ball of realization of events in his and her past. He thought having her brother already take him into dislike was bad news but this is the worst. He’s taken great delight in prodding Rosalind out of her silken cocoon but knows that there are issues to face if he is to have any chance of winning her.
Amberley could have proposed to Rosalind soon after he met her but, along with his delightful mother, he realizes that she needs to get out into Society, meet people, have a chance to form an opinion about more suitors before making such a momentous decision. But of course before Amberley feels that the time is “now” and Rosalind has had time enough to be able to make up her own mind, Things Conspire Against Him and All Appears Lost.
Honestly I had put off reading this because I wasn’t sure how the heroine’s blindness was going to be handled. As a sighted person, I thought care was taken to be sure she’s as independent as she could possibly be in that age despite the swaddling wool all the servants at Oakleigh and her brother would love to swath her in to keep her safe. Rosalind is no fool and under Amberley’s gentle persistence, she begins to spread her wings and take the chances her loving guardians thought were too much. She does have a few flashbacks to her initial fears after she lost her sight. But she’s aware of the dangers in life and conquers them when she can as well as being fiercely ready to learn new environments. As she tells her brother, I want to try and I’ll never know what I can do if I don’t. She holds her head high and keeps her fears inside. I didn’t detect any “she’s such a brave woman” condescension and Amberley certainly doesn’t let her off the hook when he’s sure she can actually do something.
As for him, the only way Rosalind changes him is because he loves her. She isn’t used as a trigger or focal point to make him a better man because of the brave way she copes, etc, blah, blah, blah. It’s always been his nature to see the best in people and assume the best from them. Almost to the point of idiocy as we see as the story progresses. One character does suggest to Rosalind that Amberley might be proposing because of guilt or pity. The issue is dealt with and laid to rest to my satisfaction. In fact, Rosalind’s reaction to learning The Big Secret is one of the joys of the book. Romances are chock full of big misunderstandings and jumping to conclusions in order to extend the conflict. When I realized how she was going to act and react to the information, all I could say was brava Rosalind.
The book is crammed full of men who see honor as a way of life and would rather pour 15 gallons of lemon juice on a gaping, open wound than compromise on that. All except for one who is a total rotter and it delightful to see him get his just desserts from all parties before the tale was done. Full skirted laced men’s coats, small swords, tricorns, powdered wigs, heeled shoes and flourishing bows – Oh, I love this age. Or rather I love to read about it. The severity and hilarity of the duel is worth the price of admission all on its own.
Their ladies are more than a match for these gentlemen. One who I wasn’t sure about turned out to be one of my favorite characters. Isabel is sharp as a knife, intuitive and yet achingly vulnerable where her heart is concerned. She tries to do the right thing by all yet is ready to correct a faulty promise she made to someone she should have been able to trust, even at the possible expense of her own happiness. Her hero, Philip – Rosalind’s stubborn, quick to judge brother – comes up trumps for her and his sister in the end and devises a truly fitting way to deal with the main villain of the book. But I do hope this fool isn’t sent to the Americas. Perhaps he can see service in Germany?
I also adored Amberley’s French mama and can see why any invitations to her house are eagerly accepted by the fortunate few who receive them. Generally any hints of sequel bait annoy me but the characters here do their duty to this tale rather than hang around to be noticed for future books. Still, I am looking forward to seeing the Duke of Rockliffe getting shaken and stirred a bit in his own book.
I devoured The Parfit Knight. It’s one of those books that almost reads itself and which I was heartily sorry to see end. Perhaps in the next book we will find out who “won” the battle over Who Gets to Keep Broody? A-