Thomas Cavendish is a shy knight who has always preferred the company of his three dogs over that of most humans. Growing up, though, his father thought him mentally slow because of his seeming inability to say more than a word or two at a time, while his two older brothers teased him mercilessly. He never imagined that he would inherit the title of Earl of Thornbury, but when his father and both brothers died unexpectedly from a fever, he had no choice but to step into his new role. While still reeling from the loss, a young woman and her parents show up on his doorstep, saying that she is his betrothed. Thomas does recall his father entering into a marriage contract on his behalf when he was only fourteen, but he has little experience with women. Upon seeing his beautiful betrothed he's instantly smitten, but also tongue-tied. Can Thomas get past his shyness in order properly court, wed, and bed his new bride?
Alicia Broom is the illegitimate daughter of King Edward IV and one of the few Plantagenets still alive. As a result, the Tudor king is now out to find and kill them all in order to ensure his reign, so Alicia's foster parents betrothed her to a Cavendish when she was only seven, because the family had been loyal to Edward. When she comes to marry Thomas ten years later, she's taken with his sweetness and good looks, but befuddled by his odd behavior. Eventually she's able to see through his idiosyncrasies to realize that he's merely quiet and not mentally challenged. But while she and Thomas try to find a way to communicate their feelings, Thomas's greedy, widowed sister-in-law is scheming behind their backs. She plans to oust Alicia so that she can have Thomas for herself and remain mistress of Wolf Hall, and she'll stop at nothing to get what she wants.
Three Dog Knight is the third book in Tori Phillips's Cavendish Chronicles. This one takes us back in time to show the meeting and marriage of Thomas and Alicia Cavendish, the parents of Guy and Brandon, the heroes of the first two books. Thomas and Alicia's fathers betrothed them when she was only seven and he was fourteen. It was a match intended to keep Alicia, an illegitimate offspring of the Plantagenet line, safe from the new Tudor king. They met once at the betrothal and rather hit it off, but didn't see each other again until ten years later, when Alicia's foster parents bring her to Thomas's doorstep as they're fleeing the country. Thomas had just unexpectedly become the new Earl of Thornbury and is still adjusting to his new role. He does vaguely recall the betrothal and agrees to honor it in spite of all the changes that have occurred since, but he underestimates his conniving newly widowed sister-in-law, Isabel, who is unwilling to give up her place at Wolf Hall. Between his own shyness and awkwardness and the machinations of outside forces, Thomas has his work cut out for him wooing the beautiful Alicia and convincing her of his love.
Thomas is the youngest of three brothers and the second-youngest Cavendish overall. He lost his mother at a very young age and his father was an exacting man who always thought Thomas was likely mentally challenged because his quietness. It also didn't help that he was teased and tormented mercilessly by his two older brothers. He never expected to become the master of Wolf Hall, but that's exactly what happened when his father and brothers all tragically died of gaol fever. Thomas led a rather lonely existence while growing up, with only his dogs as his most faithful companions. Even now the three hounds follow him everywhere and are his closest confidantes, his only true human friend being his squire, Andrew. Thomas is extremely introverted and barely strings two words together unless he's in high dudgeon over some injustice, and he becomes completely tongue-tied when in the presence of a beautiful woman. When the grown Alicia shows up at his door, he's completely smitten, but actually flees the room on more than one occasion, unable to verbalize what he truly wants to say to her. While he may be too shy to speak, he's a poet at heart, penning some beautifully romantic love notes to her, and he also hides a deeply passionate side that he unleashes only for her. He's also one of those seemingly rare virgin heroes who's so nervous about bedding Alicia that he drinks himself into a stupor on their wedding night, which I thought was quite funny. In spite of his shyness, though, Thomas is a skilled and honorable knight. He's a master huntsman, accomplished with the sword, doesn't hesitate to protect his own, and runs his castle with fairness and efficiency, while also being unerringly kind and compassionate toward others. Thomas is utterly adorkable, and I couldn't help falling for this sweet knight. As someone who's deeply introverted myself and who communicates far better in the written word than verbally, I totally related to him.
Alicia is the illegitimate daughter of King Edward IV and one of the last surviving members of the Plantagenet line. This puts her in danger from King Henry VII, the Tudor usurper who is out to kill anyone who might have a claim to the throne. She was raised by foster parents who betrothed her to Thomas to keep her safe. Because the Cavendish family were loyalists, their castle seemed one of the best places she could hide. Although Thomas doesn't know the whole story at the time she shows up on his doorstep as a grown woman, he proves to be quite understanding and protective when she finally tells him all, calling her his princess. But before they get to that point or manage to get married, there are many internal conflicts as Thomas's bashfulness leads Alicia to think that he doesn't like her much and him not signing his love notes leaves her believing someone else wrote them. However, her doubts don't stop her from falling for him anyway. She proves to be very accepting of Thomas's quirks when others aren't. Even when he messes up, like on their wedding night, she can't stay mad at him for long. Alicia matches Thomas's sweetness and kindness, but she also proves to have a backbone, never letting Isabel get the best of her. Even when the other woman is being a total shrew, Alicia manages to be the better person while also standing up for herself and Thomas.
Three Dog Knight has a number of memorable supporting characters. Isabel makes a cunning and manipulative villain who will literally do anything to maintain her place at Wolf Hall, but who gets a satisfying comeuppance by the end. Thomas's twelve-year-old sister, Mary, is delightfully mischievous and wise beyond her years. His three dogs, Georgie the Mastiff, Vixen the Greyhound, and Taverstock the terrier are extremely well-drawn animal characters, each with their own little personalities that stand out. We get to see the birth of Thomas and Alicia's oldest son, Brandon, who becomes the hero of Midsummer's Knight. And last but not least, is Thomas's squire, Andrew, an honorable and romantic young man who becomes the hero of the next book, Lady of the Knight.
Overall, Three Dog Knight was an absolute pleasure to read. Thomas captured my heart, while Alicia was sweet and relatable. Together, they make a great couple who are very well-matched. The supporting characters keep things lively and interesting. The story is a perfect mixture of drama and comedy. Isabel presents a very real threat to Thomas and Alicia's relationship and even to Alicia's life at one point. But at the same time, there is plenty of humor to keep things on the lighter side. Everything came together to make this a delightful book that's a great addition to the Cavendish Chronicles. I can't wait to read Andrew's story, hopefully soon.
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