Monday, November 28, 2011

Review of Sharon Cullen's Her Dark Knight

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! The holidays are always stressful for me, because we’re nearly to the end of the semester, which means lots-o-grading. I have several pending reviews, but I have to warn you that my posts might be a little less frequent, since final grades will be due in a few weeks, and I have to work to support my Kindle addiction.

Title: Her Dark Knight
Author: Sharon Cullen
Publisher: Carina Press
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: November 28, 2011
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I must have been really tired when I read this book, because for some reason I kept hearing Monty Python in my head whenever I saw the title to this novel (think “kuh-ni-get” instead of knight). But despite my sophomoric humor, Her Dark Knight had a lot of promise, and I very much enjoyed the book. Unfortunately, it fell just a bit short on the romance. Even so, there are a few hints about another book set in the same world towards the end of the novel, and since I liked Her Dark Knight, I’ll probably check it out.
Madelaine (Lainie) Alexander’s boss sends her to a nightclub to get an important signature on documents from the club’s owner, Christien Chevalier, but when Lainie arrives, Christien declares the papers to be fakes and refuses to sign them. Lainie needs to keep her job so she can pay off her student loans (I feel your pain, sister!) and keep her father in an expensive nursing home, and that requires her convincing him to sign those papers. But she can’t explain why she feels so drawn to Christien or why he’s starring in her all-too-realistic nightmares.
Christien Chevalier is a Knight of the Templar and has lived hundreds of years. When a woman resembling his long-deceased love walks into his nightclub with papers sent by his enemy, he suspects a trap, but the more time he spends with Lainie, the more he believes that she’s the reincarnation of his love from the 14th Century. However, the timing of Lainie’s appearance is suspicious since Christien’s sworn to protect a mysterious artifact, and her boss has been fighting Christien for the artifact for centuries. Is Lainie as innocent as she appears or is she on the wrong side of this fight between good and evil?
I really liked the premise of this book - that an immortal knight would be reunited with his long-lost love. There are numerous flashbacks to 1307, when Christien and Madelaine met, and I found this part of the story engrossing. At that time, Madelaine was a married countess, and Christien a mere knight, so you know that’s not going to have a happy ending. I’m not a big fan of romances with one of the protagonists married to someone else, but Ms. Cullen handles it well. Madelaine’s husband is abusive, and hers is an arranged marriage, so no problems there. The romance is developed through the flashbacks, and Madelaine’s fear is tangible, with her love for Christien providing a welcome relief to her frightened existence.
While the romance is well developed in the flashbacks, I wasn’t convinced about the present-day romance. We’re told that Christien and Madelaine spend time together, but we don’t see them develop any relationship other than a sexual one. At one point Lainie asks Christien outright if he loves her or if his feelings are for the Madelaine of the past, and he tells her that he loves the present-day Lainie, not the woman he knew in the 14th Century. I just didn’t buy it. He had the 21st Century Lainie investigated, but he didn’t spend much time getting to know her, so I was a bit surprised that he would say he loved her at that point in the book.
The conflict in the book centers mainly on preventing the apocalypse, and this part of the storyline is very well done. I felt that the villains were a bit over the top but believable enough, given the paranormal elements, and the pace of the action will keep you turning the pages. My biggest concern was the deux ex machina nature of the ending, which felt a little contrived. In fact, I felt the ending was too rushed, because Christien and Lainie’s HEA is implied but not described.
The novel is approximately 84,000 words, and I think that it needed to be closer to 100,000. Ms. Cullen’s writing is excellent, and the transitions between the flashbacks and present day are smoothly executed, but the present day romance and the ending need development. However, I plan on reading Ms. Cullen’s next novel, because the writing in Her Dark Knight was so strong and the premise intriguing.

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