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Knight's Tale #1

A Knight's Tale: Kenilworth

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Warwickshire, England, 1260. Will Talbot is leaving home at fourteen to spend the next few years in training at nearby Kenilworth Castle as a squire. Kenilworth is the home of the ambitious Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who is married to Eleanor, the youngest sister of King Henry III. Will's adjustment to life at the castle is made easier by his growing love for Stephen, the young chaplain's clerk he shares a spartan chamber with.

But in the years after Will and Stephen are unexpectedly separated, Will's life becomes more complicated. Despite his vow to reunite with Stephen once knighted, he allows himself to grow closer to Simon, the Earl's charming and charismatic second son, whom he serves as a squire. As Simon's intentions toward him become clearer and impossible to resist, and the political stakes around the Montforts grow ever higher, Will is faced with a painful choice.

Set against the tense backdrop of the Second Barons' War of 1264-67, and the battles of Lewes and Evesham, Will must navigate a world that he wasn't prepared to enter and decide for himself what, and who, is really worth fighting for.

328 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 19, 2017

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About the author

Gabriella West

20 books42 followers
Born in California, grew up in Ireland, moved to the Bay Area in 1988.

I'm the author of 9 LGBT-themed novels, including "Time of Grace" and "Elsie Street." Two recent books are set in England in the 13th century. "A Knight's Tale: Kenilworth" explores the events of the Second Barons' War through the eyes of a squire, Will, living in Simon de Montfort's household. Book 2 was published in March 2018. My most recent book is "Once You Are Mine," an M/M love story set in Northern California during the first year of the pandemic.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: My latest release in the Knight's Tale trilogy, THE KNIGHT'S RETURN, was released on May 12... but if you pre-ordered it, you will NOT automatically receive a copy, as the pre-order was unfortunately canceled right at the last moment. So, please look for it now on Amazon.com, .UK, or the other sites and pick up a fresh copy. Thank you!

Lastly, I'm pretty good about responding to friend requests :)

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5 stars
34 (36%)
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21 (22%)
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Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews
Profile Image for Nocturnalux.
122 reviews122 followers
February 20, 2020
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A Knight's Tale is a perfect example that mere adhesion to the politics of a particular historical moment does not historical fiction make. So much so that the sucess of this novel will most likely depend on how immersive an experience the reader expects from a fictional work that sets out to recreate the 13th century through a first-person narrative strewn with terms such as 'mechanical' (the first known usage of the word dates from the 15th century) and even worse, 'doppelganger', a term that was coined in the 17th century.

As for the other main vector of the story, its m/m element, it is ill resolved as far as a romance goes and barely passable as taking place in 13th century England. Homosexuality has of course existed since the dawn of man but the terms in which it is presented here is far too modern. In fact, the novel as a whole suffers from this, which in historical fiction is nothing short of a fatal flaw: not only is the vocabulary full of anachronisms, as has already been pointed out, characters think and act almost as one would do in today's world.

The medieval setting is not entirely perfunctory but it veers very close to it as the story progresses and the grave liberties taken with the reality of the time- such as having William, the narrator, able to read Latin despite having received absolutely no formal training in the language- make it increasingly more difficult to accept A Knight's Tale as that worthy an entry in historical fiction.

Speaking of William, casting him as the main character felt like a misstep in more ways than one. It is not entirely clear what allure that William is supposed to have and I found myself thinking, more than once, that the love triangle could have been done away with by omitting him altogether and focusing on Simon, a dashing rougish nobleman and Stephen, the fey and studious one. Not that these characters are that well accomplished but it is still odd how a first person narrative still manages to make them come across as much more real than the narrative voice.

As for the romance, it has its moments but suffers from a lack of actual conflict.

The background of warring, feuds and a rebellion against the King is interesting but unfortunately delivered through characters spewing exposition. Even characters that normally talk in broken slang will deliver lines lifted from a history book, complete with naming the exact years when something happened (as opposed to the much more organic way of framing dates in relation to the present, which is how actual humans speak).

Add to this some baffling elements () and one is stuck with a story that would probably have fared better as fantasy than historical novel.

With all this said, the writing is competent in itself and there are moments when the narrative leaves its main threads altogether to offer glimpses into daily life- a shaft of sunlight, rain pettering the surface of a river, a horse grazing- that serve as potent images. It is a shame these are fairly rare but they show the author does have potential.
Profile Image for Ulysses Dietz.
Author 15 books624 followers
October 11, 2017
A Knight’s Tale: Kenilworth
By Gabriella West
Published 2017 by the author
Four stars

Set against the backdrop of historical reality in the high Middle Ages, this is the story of Will Talbot, fatherless son of a minor country squire, who is taken into the household of the fifth Earl of Leicester, Simon de Montfort. Will is training to be a knight, and is assigned to act as squire to one of the ambitious earl’s sons. For a country boy who has grown up in relative isolation, the world of Kenilworth castle is eye-opening. As he learns the skills he needs to be a warrior and earn his knighthood, Will also learns about the increasingly complicated relationship of the Montfort family with King Henry III. He also learns about love, which is, of course, the point. First there is the fair, scholarly, Stephen, clerk to the castle chaplain, a nameless orphan rescued by the earl in the bloody aftermath of a French battle. Then there is Simon, second son of the earl and countess: handsome, brave, and reckless. As historical tensions build around him, Will must find his future and his heart.

I enjoyed West’s story, and very much appreciated her scholarly and vivid depiction of medieval life, in and out of the castle. She doesn’t overdo the details, but uses them to bring the narrative alive. It is a less emotionally complex story than J. Tullos Hennig’s “Wode” series, set in the 1190s during the reign of Richard I, but West does a good job of creating a love story that rings true to the historical period. The main players are all nicely fleshed out, and our perception of them is handily manipulated by West’s careful plot structuring. The sexual interactions throughout the story certainly play their part, but West does fall into the formulaic language of m/m romance. I am pretty jaded when it comes to sex in romances, and I was more interested in and compelled by Will’s emotional evolution than I was about his actual physical encounters.

Taking on historical fiction, particularly with a medieval setting, is no small challenge. Add into that mix a gay love story, and you know it takes a brave author. West’s approach romance fiction seems to be wide-ranging, and I have to give her props for doing such a good job in a challenging arena.
Profile Image for UnusualChild{beppy}.
2,180 reviews50 followers
February 23, 2018
*I received a free copy through the M/M Romance Group DBML program in exchange for an honest review.

2.5 stars

Synopsis: Will is sent to be a squire, and eventually a knight, when he is fourteen years old, which is a little old to be leaving home, but circumstances prevented him arriving earlier. Upon his arrival, he is roomed with Stephen, who is an outcast among the other boys, and servants. Will, however, likes Stephen, and even though they don't associate much out of their room, they do come to be friends, and eventually feelings stronger than friendship developes. But then Stephen is sent away, and Will has to deal with his feelings of loss, as well as trying to be the best squire that he can be.
He is chosen as a personal squire by Simon, son of the feudal lord, and when Will is a little older, his feelings for Simon become complicated, especially since he still has feelings for Stephen, even though he hasn't seen him. The time is coming closer and closer to war, though, as Will's lord is leading the charge for the Second Barons' War, which puts paid to many plans of all the people involved.

What I liked: I felt that the connection between Will and Stephen was honest and true, and would have really liked to have seen more of them actually being together, not just Will thinking about Stephen. I liked Will's friendships with Thomas, his fellow squire, and Christiana. I also liked the descriptions of the unrest and the tensions that abounded during that time, and felt that it was an honest portrayal. I liked the story telling, and the pacing.

What I didn't like: although I understood Will's growing attraction to Simon, especially since Will was so young, I didn't like how he kind of fell in to it, and didn't really own either relationship. Even though this was historically accurate, this felt very modern, with modern sensibilities. I first noticed it when Will thought that he was full of questions and might have, perhaps, been better suited to being a lawyer. Since lawyers had only really been recognized for the past 60 years, and then in connection with the church, which Will never mentioned, this threw me out of the timeline.

Overall impressions: I liked the characters, and the natural development of the story. I would definitely read another book by this author.
Profile Image for Tex Reader.
465 reviews20 followers
January 15, 2018
3.0 of 5 stars - Nice Rom Set In Interesting Medieval England.
[Thanks to the author and Goodreads' MMRG Don't Buy My Love program for a free copy in exchange for an honest review]

I love gay historicals, especially that of knights; so, my hopes were up for this one. While not fully met, the romance itself was nice; and even if the historical aspects were more background, they depicted an interesting period to frame the romance for those who prefer romance over history.

Gabriella West’s style was easy to read and well paced, with good descriptions of the romance, surroundings and actions for me to picture the people and settings. The best part was the romance, which for me was mostly believable for teenage boys. Like it wasn’t just a monogamous affair. The dual loves of the MC, Will, made it realistic and engaging. The key characters were likable, yet had their faults, a plus for me; and I felt the attractions and complications of coming of age.

This would appeal to those who don't prefer a deep dive into history, but like it to provide an interesting background in which the romance may occur. I liked that Gabriella populated her story with the real people, places and events from the 1260s England, just decades after the Magna Carta was signed. This fed my historical bent, and I appreciated the effort; but it didn’t sate my appetite. It lacked the historical feel I like to be immersed in, due to the sometimes modern language and sensibilities, and to the story occurring peripherally to the actual events.

I was also distracted by a few other things. The precognition of one of the lovers made for an intriguing dynamic in the relationship, but it was also an odd element that didn’t always fit in. I thought the teenage boys’ desires and actions were not always realistic and too purely restrained. This included the sex scenes, which to be sure were good and fit with the story, but still didn’t fully depict what a guy feels physically and emotionally.

All in all, it was enjoyable to see this gay romance set in England amidst the dynamics surrounding such world-changing events as the Magna Carta.
Profile Image for F.K..
Author 6 books15 followers
January 30, 2019
There was potential here and the bones of a good story but overall I was disappointed with this one. I love historical fiction and am interested in the era the book is set in- but there was too much modern phraseology and terminology used throughout the course of the book and I found it jarring. I also found it hard to believe or connect with some of the characters who just blurted their inner feelings out in an unrealistic manner quite regularly. Big chunks of exposition in places,when I really wanted to be shown, not told - and many political plot points that could have been exciting just got glossed over and epic battles got quickly summarised with no sense of suspense.
634 reviews8 followers
October 29, 2019
A tightly rendered, character-driven, coming-of-age m/m historical romance well worth your time

A Knight's Tale: Kenilworth is a carefully conceived, well-paced novel in which the writing is paired down, direct, and minimal - a literary choice that is highly effective in conveying the thoughts, impressions, and experiences of its young protagonist, Will Talbot. At age 14, Will comes to Kenilworth Castle to squire for the local Earl's sons after the death of his father. He quickly befriends Tom, another local lad learning to squire but who detests sodomites, and Stephen, a slightly older boy who is being sexually abused by a friar and with whom Will falls in love. Unknown to Will, Simon, the Earl's second son, a handsome knight who beds women and men, has set his sights on Will. As they become young men, Will's friendship with Tom is tested by his love for Stephen and his attraction to Simon. All of these interpersonal dynamics are set against the real-life historical dangers of the Second Barons' War that culminated in the siege against the real Kenilworth Castle in 1266.

I was surprised at how good this book was given my early impression of the writing. I expected the seemingly abbreviated narrative style to turn into a rather thin story. How wrong I was! Instead, the writing turned out to be a crisp, incisive study of growing up and navigating the treacherous waters of love, sex, friendship, and jealousy. There are moments of beauty, inklings of tragedy, and feelings of joy, sadness and tenderness in this novel, all skillfully handled by an author who is not afraid to recognize that life's interpersonal ambiguities speak just as loudly as does its passions. And there is passion in this book, in the form of a keen understanding of what men and youths say with their bodies about desire, love, and belonging through sex.

Finally, there is a touch of magic realism in this book that both heightens its psychological appeal while emphasizing how historically well researched it is. It's an intellectual and aesthetic achievement to distill so much into the carefully chosen scenes and tightly crafted dialogue found in A Knight's Tale: Kenilworth, and I'm looking forward to the next book by this author.
386 reviews2 followers
February 3, 2020
I’m torn by this whole series

I’m sure I would have liked it better if I hadn’t read the second one first and been confused enough to discover this one. I think it’s very important to clearly mark each book in a series. It’s a disservice to readers not to.

The character of Stephen is weak. He’s weak in the second book too. I wanted to like him both times but he’s written in such a blah way. Maybe he’s supposed to be mysterious or something. It seems the author likes him because he turns out ok, but he’s such a not strong character that you don’t celebrate his victory so much as see it as he was only victorious cause he waited out everyone else. Literally.

The writing is good and there’s not a ton of errors, which I appreciate. But I didn’t really find either book satisfying. I had sympathy for the main character but if I think about it he was pretty weak. He spent his whole life, through both books anyway, torn between two loyalties. I believe it’s supposed to be complicated but it doesn’t feel that way. I mean, if Will is so in love with Stephen why can’t he ever be faithful?

Simon is the most interesting character and then he’s shown to be this nasty twisted whack job with no explanation for it. It’s obvious he charismatic but there’s not a lot of backstory for him, even in the second book. You don’t know why he turned out like that.

So I’m unsatisfied with this series. It’s fairly well written but you’re left wondering why did I put myself through all that? None of the conclusions were satisfactory, and the knight whose tale it’s supposed to be didn’t even do anything....he just agonized a lot about who he loves and kinda got thrown around by other people’s choices. He didn’t do any knightly stuff at all 🤷🏻‍♀️
Profile Image for PointedlyBlunt.
389 reviews32 followers
November 2, 2017
This is a story of a young man’s path into adulthood whilst in training for Knighthood with a touch of M/M romance. William Talbot’s father died a few years ago and his new stepfather is eager to be rid of him. Will is sent to the Castle at Kenilworth to train as a squire destined for knighthood as his father once did. We get to follow his journey of self-discovery where relationships are formed and loyalty is tested.

The writing is an admirable effort on keeping the medieval era book accurate, but some things caught my attention. I understand the use of modern language for the sake of a more cohesive read, but the use of the words ‘mile’ and ‘f#&k’ threw me off. I’m not certain how distance was measured during that time, but ‘mile’ seemed too western and too precise. I’m also pretty sure that ‘f#&k’ didn’t exist until the 16th century. Yeah, I’m probably being anal about this, but it lessens the integrity of the story to me.

Will was too wishy-washy of a character. Granted, he’s a teenager learning as he goes, but he’s still confused and immature by the end of the book. I wanted to watch him grow and become a man, but he just kept treading the same water. Until the second to last page, I still wasn’t sure which love-interest he felt more dedicated to.
Which brings me to… The ending.
I am so confused by the ending. Everything just *STOPS* and there’s no conclusion. There was still so much more to discover, even enough for a sequel, but it seems like the author rushed a three page epilogue and dusted her hands of the rest. It was disappointing to have such important things unanswered.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
392 reviews6 followers
November 2, 2017
An exciting historical M/M romance. A riveting story that contains politics and romance. I was happy to follow the relationships and politics within the castle along with William’s platonic friendship with a fellow squire, Tom. I wished there had been more action and more into his training as a squire. There was a lot more telling than showing in almost every area except the sex scenes. I like that we watched William struggle with his feelings and the impact they would have on him in regards to the time period and the piety of his relationship. I did find the acceptance of their relationship was more accepted than would have been historically accurate. I would recommend this book to someone who likes M/M romance, likes politics in their romance, and doesn’t mind or enjoys explicit descriptions of sex.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
45 reviews
January 13, 2019
It started out fast and never let up! With the mixture of war and battles, love scenes and plain old sex it was pretty darn good read.

It may not be historical correct in every little detail, but if you are reading only for history forget it.
This book is about sex!! Hot sex between 3 men off and on but ends on a very good note. The sex scenes were hot but always tasteful. Not raunchy sex

Now all I have to do is scrape up the $4.00 for the follow-up. The sex scenes were hot but always tasteful. Not raunchy sex.

OH, yes the grammar, spelling, proof reading made it even better. I am a nut about misspelling and jumping from line or sentence that doesn't make any sense.

I believe this is the first 5 star I have ever giving.
Profile Image for Pat .
18.3k reviews3 followers
November 1, 2017
Great plot with well developed characters pulled me right in from the very first page and the characters kept me totally engaged until the turn of the very last page!

I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.
Profile Image for Tammy.
8,900 reviews35 followers
November 2, 2017
I really liked this medieval romance. Will is leaving his home to become a squire for the Montfort’s at Castle Kenilworth. While they he shares a room with Stephen, a chaplain’s clerk and they develop a relationship. When they are separated Will vows to reunite, but will they? Lots of drama and intrigue. The story is fast paced and really draws you in. A good read.
161 reviews
December 31, 2018
Well written, and a good read, with interesting historical background. There are occasional anachronisms, such as black swans (about 400 years too early), but overall the book seems to be well researched The heart of the book is the relationships, which are tenderly handled. We are, of course, left hanging to some extent, and intended to buy the next in the series.
Profile Image for Andrea.
714 reviews2 followers
February 9, 2019
Love and loss and learning to live within the castle rules. A nice adventure of a story.
715 reviews1 follower
August 27, 2020
I got this book as a freebie in exchange for an honest review and one I am glad to give. Enjoyed the book, the storyline embedded well within the historical fued in medieval England. Well crafted mixing the romance between young Will and Stephen as well as between young Simon and Will. The brutality of the era, being a Knight, squire, member of a household of a ruling nobility family is very well covered. It is not a quick read as it takes some time to devour the contents within the chapters, the scheming, personal trauma and growth, manipulatons from all the characters. Well worth reading. I recommend it yo everyone to read.
464 reviews5 followers
May 5, 2018
A Must Read!

If you are like me and love a great historical book, this is a great one. Laced with intrigue, love, and battles for supremacy, this book measures up.
Profile Image for A.R. Jarvis.
Author 37 books31 followers
February 24, 2019
DNF. Writing too slow, relationship too fast. Helped me fall asleep once or twice, though.
Profile Image for K.
1,608 reviews70 followers
Shelved as 'yeah-no-not-happening'
April 7, 2018
Having read the reviews and noted the historical inaccuracies that are being flagged, given this is one of my favourite historical periods (to read fact & fiction & occasionally write) reading this would probably make me throw my kindle across the room...
Profile Image for Kelsey.
84 reviews
January 13, 2019
I was and am still confused. I have no idea what the main pairing of this story is supposed to be. While I like that idea in theory, the execution leaves me just...confused.
It’s not poorly written but the characters lack depth and spark. I didn’t get a sense of chemistry from any of the characters. There is a lot of historical info dumped on you in random parts. Because I am not familiar with this history, the dump of info is totally lost on me and I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care? I liked the idea of this book but am left underwhelmed.
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