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Knight of Desire by Margaret Mallory

Monday, June 04, 2012

Knight of Desire
All the Kings Men #1

Margaret Mallory
Medieval Romance
Published in 2009

H/h - Sir William FitzAlan/Lady Catherine Rayburn
Setting: England, 1405.

Read in June, 2012.
My rating:

                                                     [spoiler alert]

For a debut novel, Margaret Mallory’s Knight of Desire was very good. I personally didn’t get the ‘debut novel vibe’ I did in some author’s book before. I also totally liked the historical notes/facts of the book and the real life characters MM used to make the storyline compact. Yes, the storyline was good and so were the characters. I’m glad to have given this series a try.

Catherine was forced in a marriage at a young age by King Henry IV, a match to a cowardly brute of a man of his own choosing. Catherine didn’t have anyone else to turn to and since you don’t say ‘no’ to the King, she had to marry. But she sensed her husband would prove to be a disaster just by seeing the man. The night before her marriage, she wanted one last time of freedom and so, she sneaked into the stables but was cornered by a big man with beard. This man, she never saw his face in the dark, was very kind to her. He helped her get away, escorted Catherine out for a ride, knowing that if a word of this is out, he would be in grave trouble. The man of course, saw a bit of Catherine, hazy but he did and he was instantly in love with this beautiful young girl. He also loved her strong personality and loyalty. Catherine doesn’t know why but she confides her fears in this stranger, who, when they return, tells her wistfully that he wished he could save her. It was painful for Catherine, since she also wished something like that happened. But of course nothing happened and she’s married the man of King’s choice, Rayburn, the next day and with it, starts the hell that she called ‘life’ until now.

The man was William, who was working as the King’s knight-errant. He was a product of an affair between his mother and a very powerful man, who never married her. His mother sent him to train under this man, Northumberland, when he was very young. William always resented his parents; his mother, for being so frivolous and unaffectionate and don’t think I have to explain about his father, who already had much older sons from his deceased first wife and then married another wealthy widow, leaving his mother pregnant. And then, Northumberland and his eldest son, Hotspur Percy, rebelled against the King. Hotspur was killed but Northumberland fled. The man never really acknowledged William as his son but from William’s looks and all, there was no denying the Percy blood in him. It was an open secret. William’s mother’s 2nd husband gave him his name and he loved his younger half-brother, who died young. So, William had no close family ties to speak of. He has certainly proven to be a great asset to the King’s army and he needed to be there to prove his loyalty to the King, which he did. William was also very popular with the court ladies. That night, he was in fact trying to avoid a widow he knew and slept in the stables. But, meeting Catherine left a hole in his heart. Maybe if he had enough lands and power, he could persuade the King but there was nothing he could do about the situation.

5 years later, Catherine has a son aged 4, Jamie. And she has found out, through her spies (an abbess of a monastery she knew from childhood and a very handsome itinerant troubadour, Robert Fass) that her husband is a traitor. Prince Harry, who became King Henry V later, was Catherine’s childhood friend. They had always shared a strong bond. Though the young prince had some not-so-brotherly feeling about her, Catherine never saw him anything but a younger brother. And Harry abide by her wishes. I liked the character of this young Prince much; he was very honest and quite brilliant in the military tactics. Anyway, Catherine’s husband not only beat her, but also forced himself on her to get her with child, a process she abhorred. It stopped for a few years after Jamie’s birth. But recently, he has been badgering for a spare. But the man was never good to begin with! Catherine won’t have sex with him, as simple as that and got beaten mercilessly again by Rayburn. So, then news of her husband’s death came to a blessing to her. Catherine doesn’t know that the King had other plans for her. Since her husband was a traitor, her lands and her father’s castle, Ross Castle, would be forfeited. It has already been given to a favored knight of his. The king gave the knight the choice of marrying the lady or leave her to rot in the Tower. Prince Harry, so far, could do nothing about it, even though he tried his best. Catherine was already quite sick from Rayburn’s beating but still, she comes outside to meet the King’s army and finds out the truth. She won’t marry and live the nightmare again but when the priest mentions of her son, Catherine sees no other option. Without her, he has no one. Then, one look at the bloody (who obviously came from the battlefield where her husband just died) knight, her future husband, she faints.

But TBH, William, at first, had no idea who this lady was, let alone that it’s the girl of his long faded dreams. He has heard of this lady’s treachery and been disgusted as to how a woman who shared a man’s bed and bore him a child can betray him. William wasn’t really interested in marriage, until he really sees her and his heart thuds away… He just can’t believe his eyes! And so, whatever he has heard of Catherine doesn’t matter anymore, he would marry her. When Catherine faints, he catches and takes her to her chamber, where Catherine’s old maid Alys takes care of her. William, albeit a bit unconventionally, meets Jamie too, who was beating at his back to let go of his mother. Anyway, as Catherine comes around, she’s bloody scared of this match and the big man she has to marry. The nightmares living with Rayburn is still fresh on her mind. William doesn’t break the truth to her about their previous long ago meeting. As per the King’s decree, they marry the same day. William, now refreshed from a bath (which gives Catherine a good view of how utterly handsome her future husband is) makes her understand that the with the protection of his name, she can save herself from the other Marcher lords who are bend of grabbing her. Now, when the marriage is done, William is crazy about getting Catherine to his bed but she, on the other hand, looks like someone has just decreed her death warrant. This disturbs William but he gives her time. But either way, the poor guy longs away for his wife (which I found too adorable), always having a hard on only for her (he would not take a mistress or sleep anywhere else, even though it’s totally ok if he does) and always in a damned foul mood. His most trusted main man, Edmund and others would poke fun. But, Edmund, who fought with him for over 10 yrs and proven to be very trustworthy, would also try to speak very negatively of Catherine. It was very apparent that he was trying to embed the seed of distrust into William, though the poor guy didn’t realize it. And I don’t really blame him. His mind would play with him where Catherine was concerned and it happened more than once that he’d go and ask her some stupid question and got something thrown at him for his trouble! But I knew William genuinely cared for Catherine but he had his childhood vulnerabilities to begin with. Also, his experiences with the ladies of the court doesn’t leave much to be said about these matters.

William, even though frustrated, gives Catherine some time to ‘adjust’. Hearing about Rayburn’s treatment of her made him wanna kill the guy once more. Then Prince Harry soon visits them and Catherine is so open with him, William is totally jealous. Edmund, again, plays his trick and William thinks that Catherine is Harry’s mistress. After the Prince leaves, William gets drunk from hurt and frustration and tries to make love to Catherine in that state. She is so scared, when William passes out without doing the deed, she grabs Jamie and runs to the monastery, where that Abbess lived. I was totally pissed at Catherine for ignoring William like this; all the while whatever he did was anything that’s best for her and Jamie. He even adored Jamie FGS! Finally, there was the voice of reason, from the Abbess herself who was married once but has been widowed. She makes Catherine see her faults and asks her to be grateful for a husband like William.

Next morning, William is horrified by the memory of the other night. Upon hearing, he runs to the monastery to beg Catherine’s forgiveness. Trust me, the man was as love sick as they came, there was NO denying that! I totally loved this about him. After meeting with the Abbess (who, upon talking to William realizes he really is a good man), William returns with Catherine. Afterwards, they have little spat over William’s question on she being Harry’s mistress. But, later, Catherine makes up her mind to ‘do her duty’ and have more kids, as William asked him before they married. He said it out loud that he’d only have kids with his wife and no one else. Later, they make love. Catherine was very scared but William takes care of her. Even then, she wasn’t totally into the love making process. She lay stiff, doing her ‘duty’, even though she definitely liked some of the things William did to her. It made William more frustrated and miserable than before, if that was possible. Edmund makes slurs at Catherine once for making William’s life miserable. He made it no secret that he resents her and Catherine also really disliked this man but didn’t know why he’s so hostile. And, she’s very unhappy, knowing she can’t make her husband happy. Later, as they spoke up, William finally reveals that he was that man in the stables. Catherine is very surprised but pleased as well. Afterwards, William, while making love to her, tells her ‘not to leave him’. Catherine finally understood how lonely he was and how much he needed her.

Later parts were pretty good; they were totally absorbed into one another. We also meet the intriguing character, Robert Fass, who is so unbelievably handsome, with his white blonde hair and sea green eyes. It’s very apparent that he’s also an incorrigible ladies man (his process of getting information being whispers lol). But Catherine has never harbored any such thought about him and Robert knew that she’s not that type. His affection for Catherine was very genuine, which, again, makes William jealous and see red. Before, one day, Catherine, feeling comfortable in her relationship with William (who opened up about things of his own life) tells him a secret almost no one knows; a secret that questions Jamie’s parentage. Rayburn isn’t Jamie’s real dad. It totally took me by surprise, as it did William, who was really hurt and full of distrust of Catherine. I mean, I was pissed knowing that she has been with another man (even though it was one time thingy, just to conceive and put her out of Rayburn’s beating; a plan about which this young knight knew of), and not only Rayburn but the way she treated William like he’s some kind of a monster. How did she sleep with that man without being scared if she was so scarred from Rayburn’s treatment? It didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t blame her entirely either and forgave her soon after. But not William... and with Edmund’s badgering, he keeps thinking about it. So, when he finds her with Robert in a corner (as they were talking about the latest news about the French), William goes mad. This causes a rift between them.

When William went away for some business, he would leave Edmund in charge; something Catherine wholly disapproved of. Edmund would take every chance of making slurring comments. Catherine felt that he lusts after her and it might be a reason behind his resentment. But she also knew that William would not believe in her when she made accusation about Edmund, so she just told William she didn’t like him. William, well... he had no idea of the depth of hostility between these two, so when the time came for war with the French-Welsh army, he again puts Edmund on charge of Ross Castle. Catherine was pissed but she didn’t want him went off to war like this. She also thought that revealing her pregnancy would distract William from his duty, so she kept it a secret. Their relationship was at a standstill too, until he returns. One day, Catherine rode out with Edmund and Stephen, William’s younger half-brother who came to live with them sometimes ago and was totally besotted with Catherine, they are attacked by the Welsh rebels. Catherine is kidnapped by them but not treated badly. One of them, Maredudd (Meredith) Tudor, a very handsome and charming man, keeps her company throughout and proved to be a good friend later on. Maredudd is married and devoted to his wife. I totally liked his infectious charm, always smiling and taking things in stride. Catherine learns that the Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr, wants her. As she’s taken to him, Glyndwr tells her that his son, Gruffydd is imprisoned by Henry IV. Glyndwr thinks that Catherine is Harry’s mistress and maybe, in exchange of her, he can get Gruffydd back. Glyndwr will keep Catherine if necessary and marry her off to Rhys Gethin, who has an eye on her already.

The rebels set Stephen free, who rides back to give William the news. William doesn’t know what to do. Edmund is very badly injured but blames the Welsh for this. William starts to search for Catherine but no help. No clue as to where she is and no ransom notes. Glyndwr sends Harry his demands because he didn’t believe Catherine’s words when she denied being Harry’s mistress. A dejected William, meanwhile, rides to the abbey, where he finds Robert with the Abbess. Robert gives him some positive news and a bit of Catherine’s trail. She’s been taken to Aberystwyth castle, where Glyndwr lives. Robert promises to get more news soon and he gains so by entering the castle with his troubadour group. Catherine is more than happy to see him but before she can have a word with him, Maredudd finds out and whisks Catherine away deeper into the wilds of the Welsh, to his own place where his wife Marged lives with their son, called Penmynydd. Here Catherine finds some good time. Though initially suspicious, Marged soon proves to be a very good friend too. And it’s apparent that she and Maredudd know of Catherine’s pregnancy. A few months pass by here and before Robert finds her here too, William has no news of her. After Robert meets up with Catherine, she’s forced to tell Marged that she’s not having an affair with Robert but that he’s here to help her. They make a plan. Robert goes back to tell William that Maredudd is open to bargain and that Catherine wants no harm coming to her friends. William waits close by, in the Beaumaris Castle. But in the morning, when he goes to meet Maredudd, he only finds Marged, who informs him that Glyndwr has ordered to take Catherine to an almost unbreakable fortress, Harlech. He rides away to the sea shore and saves her like the great knight he is. It was a good scene, loved it!

After he brings Catherine to Beaumaris, the moron thinks the baby is someone else’s. Ugh, I did wanna thump his head for this, don’t blame Catherine at all for being pissed. There was also his stupid suspicion which struck him the first time, mostly because of that vile Edmund, that she may have ran from him again. *sigh* Don’t ask but the way William kept asking her always ‘did you love him?’ just showed the depth of his helplessness, that Catherine might leave him and not love him back. This is what kept me from thumping him on the head. Anyway, 2 days afterwards proved to be heaven for them as they hold nothing back from each-other and spend the time making love. But back in Ross Castle, the old troubles come back to haunt them, which include Edmund. After his ‘injury’, William was more susceptible to Edmund’s lies though he has, more than once, threatened Edmund to keep his vile thoughts to himself and respect his wife. William also made it clear that when it comes down to choosing, he’d choose Catherine without a doubt. Later, William also gives into Catherine’s demands and sends Edmund away. But Edmund doesn’t go away that easily and awaits the time to strike back at William...

Now, I understood Edmund’s resentment and jealousy about William’s luck and land, along with the beautiful woman as his wife but I found it really odd that a man, after serving William for such a long time with such honesty, would turn so vehemently... and just like this. It wasn’t gradual, as Edmund started his treachery right from the beginning. I also thought that William’s preference of Catherine (and denying Edmund’s counsel suddenly) was another reason behind Edmund’s rage. By the end, there was no denying that he in fact genuinely wanted Catherine, though his way was the most dishonest and misguided. This whole thing kinda bugged me till the end. TBH, I thought, after all the drama of Catherine being kidnapped and so on, this last part of the book was totally unnecessary. Maybe I didn’t want to see Edmund the way it came to an end. I also wanted to know more about Robert. There’s so much more to him than just sinful good looks and womanizing! Was he a real life character? I would’ve definitely loved to read his book but sadly, this trilogy doesn’t have that. Bummer!

Next book is Stephen’s. I found him a good boy and hoping that he’d grow up to be a gentleman, much like William and find his true match, though his infatuation with the ever ‘perfect’ Catherine is a bit crazy. The boy wants someone like Catherine... er, well... Anyway, 4.25 stars. Overall, very enjoyable.

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Punya
I'm a simple girl. I love to read in my spare time and do reviews the books I read. I also write, mostly songs/poems, though I'm not published. I love music and traveling. Sometimes, I wish I could live inside a book, having my own HEA. :)
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