Once a Knight (Knight Series #1)

Once a Knight (Knight Series #1)

by Christina Dodd

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A Lady's Choice

Only desperation can make strong-willed Lady Alisoun hire Sir David of Radcliffe to protect her castle. He had once been a hero renowned for his brave daring and knightly skills. But few know what he has been doing these past years.

A Hero Again

At George's Cross estate, Sir David does indeed discover danger afoot. But the danger that surprises him most is how quickly his own well-protected heart is falling to a fiery damsel who brings him to his knees. When put to the test, he must make a sacrifice. But will he lose his heart...or his life?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061760983
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/17/2009
Series: Knight Series , #1
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 112,026
File size: 825 KB

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author CHRISTINA DODD builds worlds filled with suspense, romance, and adventure, and creates the most distinctive characters in fiction today. Her fifty novels have been translated into twenty-five languages, featured by Doubleday Book Club, recorded on Books on Tape for the Blind, won Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart and RITA Awards, and been called the year's best by Library Journal. Dodd herself has been a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Medieval England

Northumbria, 1252

I saw the whole thing from beginning to end, and I pray you note that there aren't many alive today who can say that. Most people, when they hear about it, say it's a legend, a romance, one of those foolish stories women make up to entertain themselves. I give you my vow, I saw it all, and whatever you have heard, it's the truth.

Better than that, whatever you've heard isn't half the truth.

The first of it I remember was the picnic. Oh, there were other incidents, but I was just a lad, a page in Lady Alisoun's household. I slept with the other pages, trained with the other pages, prayed with the other pages, and painfully penned a letter to my grandparents once every moon which Lady Alisoun read. She read it, she said, to see if I was improving in my lessons with the priest. I believed her then, but now I suspect a different truth-that she read to see if I was happy in her care.

I was, although my contact with her was limited to that once-a-month discussion of my progress toward squirehood. I knew I could become a squire. Lots of men and youths were squires. But I aspired to greater things. I aspired to the holy knighthood. It was the greatest honor I could ever achieve. It was my dearest dream, my greatest challenge, and I concentrated my whole attention on my studies, for I was determined someday to be a knight.

So it took that dreadful picnic to alert me that trouble brewed in Lady Alisoun's household.

The first shout came after lunch, when the young men and women of the village and the castle had scattered into the forest that surrounded theopen meadow. I would have been with them, but pages were subservient to everyone, and I had been commandeered to help the serving women repack the baskets while the men lounged in the lazy aftermath of a huge meal. Anyway, someone, I don't know who, yelled, "Lady Edlyn's been taken!"

That caught my attention at once, for at fifteen (four years older than me), Lady Edlyn was kind, beautiful — and unaware of my existence.

I adored her.

The shout caught Lady Alisoun's attention, too. She stood up quickly. Quickly!

No one who lived outside of George's Cross could understand the significance of that, but it brought silence to the meadow. Every eye clung to Lady Alisoun's tall figure, alarmed by her haste.

Lady Alisoun never did anything quickly. She did everything deliberately, calmly. Every day, she rose at dawn, attended Mass, broke her fast, and proceeded to the duty of the day. Every year, she celebrated Twelfth Night, fasted at Easter, supervised the lambing in the spring, and went to Lancaster in the autumn. She was the lady, our lady, the one we timed our lives by.

I'm making her sound old — to me, she was old — although looking back, I know she couldn't have been more than twenty-four or twenty-five. Yet Lady Alisoun didn't look old. She just looked perfect, and that was why that one hurried, unwary motion told us so much.

Three serving girls burst from the woods and ran toward Lady Alisoun as if drawn to a lodestone. "A man...a man! He grabbed her!"

One silly village woman screamed, and Lady Alisoun spun and bent a stare on her. Silence descended at once; Lady Alisoun expected proper behavior from all on her estate, and for the most part, she got it.

Then she asked the girls, "Who grabbed her?"

"A man...a man," one girl gasped.

But Heath, my lady's chief maid, pushed forward and punched the girl in the arm. "Speak. What man?"

"A stranger."

I heard Alisoun's personal maid, a woman with a babe at her breast, mutter a raw prayer.

Sir Walter called, "A strange man took Lady Edlyn?"

He didn't rise from his seat to ask the question, or act in any way concerned, and I again realized how much I disliked him. For all his superior airs, he was nothing but a knight, elevated by Lady Alisoun to the role of her steward. He was supposed to secure her estates, but today he could scarcely unwrap himself from his woman long enough to show respect.

Looking around, I saw the same dislike mirrored on everyone's face.

We held our breaths, waiting for Lady Alisoun's reprimand. She might be the epitome of a lady, but she could reduce a grown man to tears with a few wellchosen words.

She didn't do it this time. She just looked at Sir Walter through those funny-colored eyes, judging him in her mind. I suppose you could wonder how I knew that, but I did, and so did Sir Walter, because that stocky lowland knave scrambled to his feet so fast his woman fell backward and hit her head against a rock.

Served her right, the slut.

Once Sir Walter stood on his feet, a mad rush ensued. He organized search parties, sending the villeins to different parts of the forest to look for the Lady Edlyn. I wanted to go, too. I hopped up and down on one foot, waggled my hand, finally spoke up, but he denied me the honor of joining the search. I should stay with the women, he said, sneering in his offensive manner.

He didn't like me because he didn't think I knew my place. Actually, I did know it. I didn't keep to it, but I knew it.

Sir Walter himself insisted on going with the trackers to the place where Lady Edlyn had been taken. They would seek her and had the best chance of locating her. Sir Walter wanted to be in on the find to impress Lady Alisoun.

When the searchers had dispersed and their loud calls to each other faded, Lady Alisoun sent the women who carried babes or tended toddlers to the protection of the castle. She sent the contingent of remaining men-at-arms to protect them, too, and big, dull Ivo tried to argue with her about that. He didn't want to leave her, but years of obedience had left their mark, and before long, I found myself alone with Lady Alisoun.

She sat alone on a rug in the middle of the open...

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Once a Knight (Knight Series #1) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of Christina Dodd's. Every book that I have read has kept me intrigued and unable to lay it down! This one did not disappoint. From start to finish, I was in love with this story! Definitely recommend to anyone that wants to flee the real world and fall in love again!
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Sparky_Patches More than 1 year ago
Overall Rating:  4.40 Action: 3.5 / Emotion: 5.0 / Romance: 4.5 / Sensuous: 1.0 / Suspense: 3.5 // Historical Flavor: 4.7 // Laughter: 12 / Giggle: 2 // Tears: 3 / Teary: 0 Once A Knight: 4.40: Medieval Romances are a favorite.  This book turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining book that takes readers back in time.  It took a bit of time to get deeply immersed into this story because Dodd took readers on a slow, but steady path towards plotting developments and character introductions.  Walking that path with Dodd was well worth the journey.  Dodd wrote about complex people whose layers were peeled away so they could worm their way into the cockles of your heart. Hero: 4.50: Sir David of Radcliffe:  a wonderfully original hero, in that he was not portrayed as the ultra handsome, incredibly roguish, suave and debonair, ultimate fighting machine that authors usually draw from the standard pool of heros.  David was past his prime, had gray at his temples and on the morning that Alisoun found him he was laying hungover in an alehouse after drinking away his sorrows at losing his title as the King's Champion.  The one thing that stood out the most about David, as Dodd pealed back the layers to reveal his willingness to acknowledge who he was, to accept that he had faults as well as strengths, was his ability to look at the bright side of life in spite of all the hard knocks dealt out to him.   Heroine: 3.50: Lady Alisoun, countess of George's Cross: Dodd did such a fantastic job of developing the layers of Lady Alisoun's personality that if you looked closer, just as David did, Lady Alisoun was consumed with emotions . . . but she had so successfully learned how to suppress those emotions that nobody could even tell she had them.  Alisoun fought back against the men ruling her world in the only way she knew how -- with a superior intellect, a sharp tongue (even though every word that issued from her mouth came out in the most even of tones), and a judicious use of her wealth. Story Line: 4.00: A unique twist on the Brave Knight saving the Damsel In Distress.  This damsel was so accomplished that she was, basically, the CEO of her demesne.  A master at suppressing her feelings, Lady Alisoun managed her estates and people with a firm hand, keeping things on an even keel, and performing her responsibilities without fail.  Because she had a heightened sense of right and wrong, she agreed to protect her best friend and was, therefore, suffering the consequences.  Enter the aged, but legendary knight.  Who, rather than saving her people from the villain, decided to save them from the lack on joy permeating their lives. Action: 3.50: The story was slowly paced because daily medieval activities were featured instead of exciting actions scenes.  Dodd included enough action to keep the characters enlivened. Emotion: 5.00: Dodd successfully developed an emotional connection between the reader and these complex protagonists and their supporting cast members to bring forth lots of laughter and moments of tears. Romance: 4.50: There was plenty of romance featured in the book, but it was incredibly subtle.  Dodd forced the reader to look beneath Alisoun's cold, emotionless mask to find the woman that was yearning for love -- just as was her young charge, Lady Edlyn.  David looked hard and found that love. Suspense: 3.50: Dodd left bold blatant hints about why Lady Alisoun and her villagers were endangered so that isn't want generated an aura of suspense in this story.  Rather one kept reading to see if Alisoun was ever going to trust David with her secrets and her heart and how the entire scenario was going to play out.  Because, naturally, eventually David and Alisoun were going to have to prove themselves strong and capable to defeat the bad guy. Sensuous: 1.00: An older romance (published in 1996).  Thus, the sensuality and heat was minimal during the rare scenes when David and Alisoun made love. Historical Flavor: 4.70: Dodd did a great job taking the reader back in time.  She included plenty of historical details about the villagers and their lifestyles and painted a realistic picture of how the men and women of 1252 England comported themselves.  No glaring errors of modernistic language or actions invaded the story. Secondary Characters: 3.50: Although the secondary characters were vital to the telling of this story, they were not as richly developed as one could have hoped.  The secondary characters that were the most entertaining and memorable were: {1} Eudo, the eleven year old page assigned to be David's squire while at George's Cross; {2} Bertrade "Bert" of Radcliffe, David's beloved daughter; and {3} King Louis, David's incredibly astute and strong-willed warhorse.  Additional secondary characters included: {1} Sir Walter, the steward of George's Cross; {2} Lady Edlyn, the young lady Alisoun was fostering; {3} Philippa, Alisoun's ladies maid; {4} Hugh de Florisoun, a squire training for knighthood; {5} Ivo, Alisoun's man-at-arms; {6} Gunnewatte, Alisoun's man-at-arms; {7} Sir Guy of Archers, David's comrade; and {8j} Osbern, duke of Framlingford, the king's cousin. A more in-depth, detailed, spoiler-ridden review of *Once A Knight* appears at Wolf Bear Does Books.
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