Hard Day's Knight
Katie MacAlister
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Hard Day's Knight
Katie MacAlister
368 pages
January 2005
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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Pepper Marsh, an out-of-work software engineer quickly running out of money, heads to Canada with her cousin, CJ, and her auntís cat, Behemoth, affectionately called Moth. Their destination? An enormous Renaissance Faire in Ontario. CJ has promised to find Pepper her dream man and has roped her into joining the International Wenches Guild, a group of women who apparently spend most of their time kissing strange men and conducting kilt checks. CJ is involved with a jouster from the British team Three Dog Knights and introduces her cousin to the whole group.

Walker MacPhail is the leader of the team and immediately attracts Pepperís amorous attentions. Heís moody, troubled, and widely regarded as the champion of the jousting circuit. The problem is that he hasnít jousted in years, all because of some strange accident that isnít fully explained until late in the book. Pepper of course feels obligated to fix him, and Walker is inexplicably attracted to Pepper. Sheís whiny, loud, obnoxious, tactless, described as being rather unattractive, and did I mention whiny?

While the main premise involves Walkerís tormented past and Pepperís goal to fix it, which usually centers around belittling him into doing what she wants, there are a lot of other things going on in the story. Readers are overwhelmed with why it is so important for the Three Dog Knights to win the tournament, someone who wants to keep them from that very thing, an attractive enemy who is played up to be the very devil himself but turns out to be rather harmless, Walkerís ex-wife, and Pepperís own fears over her lifeís calling as a veterinarian, which doesnít come into play until the plot should already have been established. Add into the mix a wealth of detail regarding jousting, Renaissance Faire-speak, and a little too much focus on being a wench, and there is a lot of information to sort through.

Complicated plots can be very stimulating and entertaining, and having a lot of details can greatly help an otherwise weak book. However, few of these plots are presented in a believable manner and, considering how important and daunting many of them were built up to be, all are resolved so quickly that they serve to annoy rather than satisfy the reader. If the identity of the saboteur were so complex, why did the unveiling feel so anticlimactic? If Walker is so dead-set against returning to the jousting arena and very out of practice to boot, why does he revert so quickly to his former self?

Katie MacAllister writes with a great deal of humor and keeps things quite light-hearted. However, in her attempt to make A Hard Dayís Knight witty, it starts to feel forced only one hundred pages in. Sexual euphemisms abound, something to be expected in a romance novel. However, I was quite unprepared for her sex scenes, which bounced back and forth between immature and nauseatingly sweet, and in one instance at least, incredibly awkward.

In what promised to be a unique and entertaining romance set in a modern-day Renaissance Faire, the most appealing character and the most likeable by far turned out to be a cat.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Kelley Sittner Hartshorn, 2005

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