Widowed Lady Nell Simmons has been nursing her ailing daughter who has suffered from mysterious periodic fevers almost since birth. As she was unable to produce an heir for her late husband, his cousin inherited the estate upon his death. The irritating man has been demanding that Nell vacate the country manor house that is the only home her daughter has ever known. Nell's life for the last several years has been consumed with caring for the little girl and even though she seems to be doing better in recent months, Nell is still reluctant to bring any stress into her life. Now her husband's cousin has sent a missive saying that his brother will be coming shortly to forcibly evict her.
Sir Charles Blake may be a knight, but his armor is a bit tarnished. He is the second son of a nobleman, but due to him being lame in one leg since childhood, his father refused to buy him a commission in the army. With nothing to fill his time, he has taken to living the life of a bored aristocrat, gambling and drinking to wile away the hours. He is deeply in debt, but the only way his brother will make good on his obligations is if Charles goes on a mission to evict his late cousin's wife from the country estate that now belongs to Charles' brother. Reluctantly, Charles agrees, but the lady he finds is not the cold woman he remembers from his one visit years ago. When a snowstorm strands them in the house together for more than a week and Nell's daughter comes down with yet another fever, Charles finds himself sympathetic to her situation and wanting to protect both mother and daughter. But what will he do about his creditors if he doesn't do as his brother asked, not to mention, what will Nell think of him, if she discovers the real reason he came?
The Gilded Knight is a sweet Regency romance that was an easy read, perhaps a little too easy. The hero and heroine were pretty likable and relatable characters, but both they and their story seemed so ordinary as to be rather lackluster. They were just two average people for their time, facing rather average problems. The conflict is pretty minimal, fueled mainly by the fact that Charles is on a mission for his brother to essentially evict Nell from her home of many years, but unexpectedly finds himself sympathetic to her daughter's frail health. Even the story of Charles' knighting, which the reader has to wait nearly the entire book to discover, was quite unextraordinary. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the plot or characters except that they simply didn't make for a terribly compelling read. I think I just prefer a little more complexity in my romances, but for anyone looking for a simple, uncomplicated read, it was quite pleasant.
Charles is a second son who was born with a disfigured foot that left him lame. His childhood is very sympathetic. As a young boy he was mercilessly bullied and tormented by his older brother and cousins, and also lived in abject terror of his grandfather who was the previous owner of Nell's home, so his only real memories of the house are unpleasant ones. When he was old enough, he asked his father to buy him a commission in the military, but his father refused on the grounds that his lameness would make him unsuitable. As a result of that, Charles became a bored aristocrat who spent his days gambling and drinking and basically doing nothing with his life. I never at any point disliked Charles, but because of his dissolute lifestyle, he wasn't exactly a stand-out hero for me either. I prefer when a hero is a hard worker or a self-made man, because it makes him seem more capable of taking care of the heroine and being a stable husband and father. However, I suppose the point of the plot is that falling in love with Nell and her little daughter drives Charles to want to be a better man. As I already mentioned, Charles goes to Nell with the intent of evicting her, so that his brother will pay off his debts and he can get back to the business of being a rake. In spite of the reason for his visit, I admired that Charles had a conscience and truly cared about the little girl's illness. He was great with Delphine, visiting her daily to tell her stories and play quiet games as she recovered. He also ends up being very kind and generous with Nell, trying his best to take care of her when she won't take care of herself. Being snowed in, Charles has plenty of time for introspection and soon discovers that while his life hasn't been great, it could have been far worse. In the end, I guess I was convinced that he was ready to turn over a new leaf, and he finally got an opportunity to show himself a truly gallant knight in shining armor.
Nell is a woman whose life for the past nine years has pretty much been consumed with tending to her ailing daughter. When the doctor gave her no hope, she still persisted, sometimes going against the accepted advice of the time, to do unconventional things in an attempt to restore Delphine's health. Her efforts seem to be working until the little girl comes down with another fever. Nell knows that the manor house technically no longer belongs to her since her husband's death, but Delphine's health and other fears have kept her from moving sooner. Even when her husband was alive, she was basically on her own. He never treated her with much kindness and only seemed interested in whether she could produce an heir for his estate. When Nell gave birth to a daughter, and an unhealthy one at that, he didn't seem to care much. She is however, extremely well-respected by all her servants who would literally move heaven and earth to do anything for her. Nell has lived a rather dull, boring life, spending all her time caring for others and never thinking of herself. While on the surface, that is quite admirable, I think deep down, it had become almost an unhealthy obsession for her. When Charles comes along and starts trying to be nice to her and take care of her, it is a very foreign feeling to Nell.
There are certain elements that I've come to expect from Traditional Regency romances, one of which is a sweet, low-key relationship with little or no sensuality. That was definitely the case here, as it takes more than half the book before Charles and Nell even share a kiss. Nell was understandably preoccupied with her sick daughter, so there weren't many opportunities for her and Charles to spend time alone together. However, the stolen moments they share were, for the most part, more like two friends getting to know one another rather than the build-up of a grand romance. I have no problem with the hero and heroine finding friendship first, but I still like to feel an emotional connection between them. With Charles and Nell, I just didn't sense their emotions and the gradual falling in love as palpably as I would have liked. At least the book wrapped up on a romantic note though.
Another thing I expect from a Traditional Regency is great dialog. While nice, the dialog here just wasn't as sharp and witty as I usually expect it to be, but I suppose that might be due to the more dreary subject matter. Because of this, the pace could sometimes be a little slow, with not a lot happening. The writing itself was a bit too passive for my taste as well, with a little too much telling and not enough showing. The Gilded Knight may have been somewhat unremarkable, but overall, it was still an agreeable read. It was my first book by Donna Simpson, and I liked it well enough that I might be open to trying something else by her in the future.
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