Midsummer’s Knight by Tori Phillips (1998)

Book review: Cavendish Chronicles #2: Midsummer’s Knight [Lustfyllda lekar, translated by Charlotta Theorin] by Tori Phillips (Förlaget Harlequin, 2009 [1998])

The lover or the fool…

Playing at disguises with her betrothed, Lady Katherine Fitzhugh knew not which role she had embraced, for pretending to be her cousin in order to discover the true nature of the stranger she was bound to by royal decree was proving to be much more complicated than she had planned!

Only a fool entered marriage blindly, and Sir Brandon Cavendish was no one’s fool. Yet disguised as his own best friend, he was now faced with a ticklish dilemma. For it was fast becoming clear that the woman he truly desired was not his simpering intended, but her strong-willed and passionate cousin!

I was given this book by a friend, who also likes Mills & Boon Historicals. I read the Swedish translation re-print, which has a different cover to the one above, and strangely, is touted as the first book in the Cavendish Chronicles … despite it actually being the second – the first concerns Brandon’s brother, who is already married in this novel.

Decreed to marry by King Henry VIII, widow Lady Katherine and Sir Brandon aren’t necessarily in the mood for wedlock. Kat’s father married her off to some old geezer, who died and left her with a fortune, and she was then married off to a cruel man who hurt her and everyone else around them. When he died, she was relieved. Never again! Brandon, on the other hand, is quite happy being a bachelor.

Because neither of them want to go blindly into the forced union, they both decide to swap places with their best friends, so that Brandon can see from afar what his bride is like as a person. Of course, Kat does the exact same thing, and things become complicated when they start having feelings for one another, as to the stand-ins. Oh if only they knew they were falling in love with the right person all along!

As the plot is a classic farce of swapped identities, Midsummer’s Knight gets confusing at times. Kat is Miranda is Kat, Brandon is John is Brandon, Miranda is Kat is Miranda and John is Brandon is John. Then there’s the “do they know that we know that they know that we know?” etc. If you can keep up, it’s a Tudor era romance at an English country house, with a subplot of Kat’s squandering nephew wanting to commit murder in order to not lose his allowance.

Brandon is of course a noble nobleman, and Kat is a typical feisty heroine. No news there. The story was enjoyable, like they normally are, even if I at times wondered about the historical accuracy. It felt a little too modern at times.

There were also plenty of references to which herb does what, which I think was over-done. Fair enough if you specify something once or twice, as in “make him a tea of nettles to settle his stomach” (or whatever, not sure nettles actually settle stomachs), but when it keeps being mentioned to make X out of herb Y to cure Z, I wonder if I’m reading a historical romance or just a story by someone who desperately wants to show off their herbology skills.

My only other gripe with it was that I read it in Swedish, and I initially had issues getting into it because of it, the translation felt clunky, and certain phrases might have seemed okay in English but in translation were extremely corny. The other thing I really do not like with some Swedish novels is the use of “talstreck”. That is, indicating speech by using a dash instead of quotation marks. This is something that should be eradicated because it’s very fuzzy and mixes speech with actions to become a jumbled mess. Compare:

– Yes, she said, wondering what to do. Perhaps you would like a cup of tea? Or perhaps not, maybe it’s a stupid suggestion.

with

“Yes,” she said, wondering what to do. “Perhaps you would like a cup of tea?” Or perhaps not, maybe it’s a stupid suggestion.

One is perfectly clear about what’s being said and what isn’t, the other … it’s anyone’s guess. I’ve used quotation marks since I found out it was an option, because it makes things so much clearer for everyone. (Brits tend to use a single ‘ to indicate speech, but I’m not that anglicised yet, so I still use a ” until I manage to remember to do it the other way instead.) Talstreck are a nuisance and should be exterminated!

Anyway. Fairly standard historical romance with a bit of murder intrigue to liven things up a bit, but yes, it’s confusing about who’s who, but if that wasn’t there, there wouldn’t really be much of a plot at all.

3 out of 5 smelly moats.

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