This book is a lot of things: it’s a romance, it has fantastical elements, it has relatively believable and likable characters – but it is, to put it nicely, a hot mess.
A Knight to Remember, by Bridget Essex, is a book that is at least up front about how ridiculous it is. Simply read the back of it:
A librarian, a warrior woman, and a love story that’s out of this world…
Holly tells herself that the reason she hasn’t asked her girlfriend to move in (after four years of dating) is that she’s too busy–but it isn’t true. A very book-obsessed librarian, Holly has buried herself in so many romantic and magical stories, that at night, she dreams of a woman who will sweep her off her feet–something her indifferent girlfriend has never done. But one night, during an unusually vicious storm, magic and romance appear in Holly’s backyard in the form of a mysterious, gorgeous woman…wielding a sword.
The dashing stranger’s name is Virago. She claims that she’s a warrior on the hunt for a great and terrible beast; that she, and the beast, slipped through a portal from their world into ours. Holly isn’t sure what to believe, but she is now responsible for a (possibly crazy) swordswoman who is bewildered by modern-day conveniences like escalators, but not by the chivalry of sweeping a woman off her feet.
Can Holly help Virago find her own world again, or will that falling-in-love thing get in the way? And, of course, there’s the tiny problem of the beast Virago wounded that is now seeking revenge…
A KNIGHT TO REMEMBER is a light-hearted, fantastical romance that will take you on a journey you’ll never forget.
A journey you’ll never forget is for sure but not because it is a stellar work of fiction. I haven’t read too many romance stories myself and it may just be a genre that I don’t like, so I’d like to just put that out there right now. If you’re into romance books and stories, this may be the book for you! Reviewing this story as a work of fiction, however, it has a lot of issues regardless of what genre it is.
Let’s start with what’s good about the story, shall we? Essex writes very believable, genuine, and relatable characters. Each character is unique in how they speak and their mannerisms. It is especially noticeable with how she writes the friendship between Holly, our protagonist, and her best friend Carly. The book starts with an honest conversation between the two that demonstrates that they have a positive, genuine friendship that allows for criticism of each other because it comes from a place of love and understanding.
I also enjoyed that there are plenty of queer characters in this book and that the characters being queer wasn’t a focal point. It’s one facet of the characters but it doesn’t define any them. Sure, Holly has issues with her girlfriend and she spends a substantial amount of time analyzing and trying to deny her feelings towards this mysterious knight who teleported into her backyard, Virago. The narrative doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Holly is a lesbian or that being a lesbian is a difficult life to lead, however. I liked that it wasn’t a coming out story and that the reader gets to experience the romance without any tension surrounding their sexual orientation.
Where A Knight to Remember begins to fall apart is in its editing, tension, and general pacing. The book could have used another draft or two and definitely another line-edit from an editor. There were formatting issues where paragraphs weren’t indented, line spacing that should have been better condensed, and other formatting errors that made the book feel very amateurish, despite Essex having published several books prior to A Knight to Remember (and her being the Founder and Production Consultant of Rose & Star Press, which published the book). The book felt like reading the unedited thoughts of a love crazed individual or someone’s early attempts at writing fanfiction and not a well-crafted book. There were numerous grammatical errors in the book and Essex seemed to be very fond of italicizing words for emphasis but wasn’t consistent with it. In some sentences she’d italicize and in others she’d use quotation marks, and in other sentences, she’d use both. Occasionally italicizing something is fine but it was definitely over done in this book and it was not used very thoughtfully. In some sentences the italicized word didn’t make any sense or change the tone of the sentence by being emphasized. With the grammar errors and abundance of italicization and formatting issues, I constantly found myself being taken out of the story.
If the editing and grammar issues weren’t enough to prevent me from being submerged in the book, the lack of varied tension definitely did. The book is written from Holly’s perspective. First-person is a great tool for creating emotional tension for the reader to experience alongside the protagonist when utilized correctly. Essex attempted to use Holly’s feelings towards Virago to create tension throughout the story. Sexual tension can be a great source of tension so long as it is sparse, intentional, and well placed. Not every other page or in some places, every other paragraph as Essex did in this book. There were several times while reading this book that caused me to yell “we LITERALLY just went over how gorgeous she is! Can we PLEASE move on!?” All of the attempted tension comes from Holly obsessing over how attractive Virago is, how she needs to make her relationship with Nicole work, but damn is Virago attractive and what would it feel like if – you get the idea. For me, I wanted the tension to come from the invisible mythical beast wandering the city that needed to be stopped. There seemed to be absolutely zero urgency to get that squared away. The actual plot of the book – fantastical person and monster fall through a portal in the sky and said fantastical person needing to stop the monster before it destroys the realm – is shelved for most of the book so that Holly can obsess over this mysterious beautiful woman.
Because the book spends so much time on how Holly’s feelings about Virago and Nicole, the pacing of the book takes a huge hit and is ultimately where the book falls flat. So much of the narrative is spent on Holly’s constant musings about Virago and her failing relationship with Nicole, that the actual plot of the book wasn’t given the proper time to flourish and develop. After Virago and Holly finally get together, the book has twenty pages left. Fifteen pages to find the monster and slay it, and then five pages to wrap up the story. The ending was rushed and the fight with the monster made absolutely no sense and left a lot to be desired from an action scene.
I wanted less Holly and Virago and more of the actual plot from this book. I wanted more of Virago being bewildered by this realm and the modern conveniences. I wanted more fantastical elements. And most importantly, I wanted Holly to have more agency in her story arc and not just be some lamenting love-sick person who has things happen to her. The book definitely had great moments, some funny scenes, and was an easy weekend read. But overall, I think it needed a little more work before hitting the shelves.
Recommended Reader: People who aren’t bothered by grammar, who really enjoy love stories, and/or who are looking for a quick and easy read.
You can find more from Bridgett Essex here.