Review of ONCE UPON A KNIGHT by Jackie Ivie (see her website)
Zebra, October 2009
It should be the easiest job in the world. Highlander Vincent Danzel had never had problems with women...he loves them and leaves them. His assignment, make Sybil Eschoncan fall in love with him and leave her. The trick, he's not allowed to make love with her--he's got to do the job with his voice, his music, and his sexual appeal. Still, Vincent doesn't think anything can go wrong. Not until he catches Sybil doing something strange with frogs. He thinks he knows women, but he's not so sure about witches.
Sybil knows her place. She's the bastard daughter of a dead lord, which means she manages the meals, makes sure the castle is managed, and keeps her head down. Super-sexy Viking-bred clans lairds are for her step-mother, not for women like her. Except Vincent seems interested in her. When a strange dwarf arrives and decides he wants to marry Sybil, she figures she can put Vincent to a practical use. The dwarf is unlikely to be interested in a woman who isn't a virgin. But making love with Vincent changes everything. At least it does for Sybil.
Vincent is used to being in control, of himself and certainly of the women around him. but Sybil seems to have cast a spell on him. Now he can't even look at another woman. When his old clan tracks him down and he learns that his family properties have been restored, all of his fears and guilt threaten to overwhelm him. What he doesn't know is whether Sybil can help him withstand the flood, or will be the deadly hand pulling him under. What he does know is that he can't stand to be away from her but can't manage to be with her, either.
Author Jackie Ivie (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of romance by Ivie) writes a sexy and fun story. Vincent makes for an excellent conflicted and damaged hero. His guilt for the part he played in his family's destruction is understandable and sympathetic, while driving his unwillingness to form new bonds, new dependencies. Sybil is a bit modern for the fifteenth century, but this makes her a woman readers will identify with as she deals with her own issues (feelings of unworthiness based on her bastard birth) and tries to understand why Vincent flip-flops from sensual lover to a man running away. Ultimately, though, she's got to trust him even though her instincts rebel at the idea.
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