Believe by Victoria Alexander
Please note that Believe by Victoria Alexander (2009 and 1998) is a re-release of a book orginally published eleven years ago. Alexander says in her author's note that the book "has now been updated and tweaked a tiny bit, but the story is the same--a story of white knights, myths, and magic."
As I've noted before, I'm not a fan of re-releases, especially since most potential buyers don't consult author's notes or copyright information before purchasing a book. That's something I've learned to do, though, because "frustrating" barely covers the feeling when buying the same book twice!
That aside, I enjoyed Alexander's story, featuring Tessa St. James, a modern woman and professor, who catches the attention of Merlin--yes, the one from the legend of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Since Tessa instructs her college students that the story of Arthur is all a myth, Merlin decides to transport her back in time to assist Galahad, a knight and the son of Lancelot, in his search for the Holy Grail.
In this story, many of the details of the "real" situation are different than in the legend passed through the generations. I particularly appreciate the portrayal of Merlin, who, after intentionally seeking to have history treat the time of Arthur and his Camelot as merely a myth, is actually miffed that almost no one in modern times believes they were real people. Talk about being careful what you ask for. . . . And, instead of being imprisoned by Viviane, they're actually a very cute, fiery couple.
The chemistry between Tessa and Galahad is fantastic, too, for forming another cute, fiery couple. Here's an excerpt from p.204-5, after Tessa has just passed a test of trust involving a cabbage and a bow and arrow to determine that she's worthy to go on the quest with Galahad. She turns the tables on him, to see whether he can pass the test:
She blew a long breath, pulled back the arrow, shifted, aimed at a forty-five degree angle away from him and let it fly.
The twang reverberated through the early-morning air. The arrow sailed in a wobbly arc, missing the tree by a good twenty feet. Thank God. She blew a long sigh of relief. Even deliberately aiming away from him she couldn't be absolutely certain, by some freak of nature, she wouldn't hit him. The only thing she'd been worse at than archery was soccer. And she was terrible at soccer.
She grinned and started walking back to the tree. Galahad swept the cabbage away, shook the last clinging bits out of his hair and started toward her, one of his long strides equaling three of hers. Her grin faded. His expression was not that of a man who'd successfully passed a test. Her step slowed. Now, it was more like a man who'd been conned. Or screwed.
Tough. Didn't he do exactly the same thing to her? She raised her chin and marched toward him, stopping with less than a foot between them.
"You have no skill with a bow, do you?" Irritation underlaid his words.
"This was a trick then."
"Not at all." She couldn't suppress a smug smile. "This was a test. You know, for trust, faith, courage and all those noble qualities."
"You did not intend to shoot the cabbage."
"Duh. Let me tell you, there was no way I could hit that cabbage, or for that matter that tree, with an arrow." She shook her head. "I stink at archery."
"Yet you allowed me to stand there, with a cabbage upon my head, believing you would indeed attempt to skewer it." His words were measured.
"You got it." She studied him for a moment. He appeared completely under control. What was he thinking? "It was something Sister Abigail taught. If you weren't the best player physically, then you'd better be the smartest."
My overall personal rating of Believe is a B+.