Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 0-8217-6928-6
Historical Romance, 2002
Knight Triumphant is actually a very familiar, if heavy-duty, historical romance. Set against the ongoing Scottish rebellion against King Edward I by Robert Bruce, this is the story of Igrainia, an English noblewoman widowed and living in a holding in Scotland, and Eric Graham, an outlaw who supports Robert Bruce.
The story begins with Eric holding Igrainia against her will and making her take him and his men to her castle. Her late husband had held Eric’s wife and daughter prisoner in some political chess game, and as plague runs rampant all over Scotland, he just wants to see his wife and daughter and make sure that they are safe.
They aren’t. Soon both his wife and daughter croak, and Grainy and Graham find themselves wedded against their will. Can two people who love their now dead spouses fall in love again the second time? Well, of course, and unfortunately, they do it in the predictable “Hate! Love! Hate! Love!” way.
But what really turns me off is the dialogue. The purple prologue, which sees the author affecting the prose of a bard drunk on alcohol, is one thing. But everyone, from the highest king to the lowest maid, speaks in grandiose, purple, and epic speeches as if they are forerunners of purple prose. Consider this:
“Am I right? What does that matter, my lady, to you? You’ve embraced the enemy. You’ve welcomed the men who killed Afton. You have become like an eager bawd night after night for the man who usurped everything and you flout the memory of a good and decent man with wanton shame, in his own bed, where you slept with him, where he died!”
And this is a maid reprimanding the lady of the castle, mind you.
People don’t just say things once. They say it at least three times in one breath, each time in a different sentence or syntax, same meaning.
“You could hate him! At the very least, you could hate him!”
It is one thing to be boring. It is another thing to be a story where everybody sounds as if he or she is taking crack and smoking pot while imagining himself/herself to be some arty, high-faluting artist. If Shannon Drake wants to sound bardic and fey, she just comes off like Christopher Marlowe’s junkie mutant sister, I’m afraid.