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Thursday, March 26, 2009:
"What a Scoundrel Wants" by Carrie Lofty - 2008)

In this dazzling, original tale, Carrie Lofty imagines a new chapter in the well-loved Robin Hood fable. Meet Robin's rakish nephew, Will Scarlet, a man whose talents with the sword and the ladies are legendary--until his desire for one woman changes everything.

A Passionate Lover...
A swordsman for the Sheriff of Nottingham, Will Scarlet has finally emerged from his famous uncle's shadow. But when he's unwittingly drawn into a bloody battle between the Sheriff and a nobleman, it's impossible to tell friend from foe. A woman's screams lead Will straight into the carnage to save her--but the ravishing young lady is not the helpless maid she appears to be…

An Amorous Lady...
Meg of Keyworth lost her sight to illness years ago, but that hasn't stopped her mission to save her imprisoned sister, who's been arrested by none other than Will Scarlet. Meg wants to hate Will for betraying her family, but he sparks heated desire in her heart--a desire that only he can satisfy. Meg is lovely and loving, and bedding her is sensual bliss. To please her in every way is what he wants most, for Will knows he will cherish her forever....

I love the Robin Hood Legend, most especially the 1980's version starring Michael Praed (as Robin) and Ray Winstone (as Will Scarlett). It was haunting, romantic, poignant, and exactly how I imagined the legend to be, and I thought Michael Praed was just the dreamiest of romantic heroes. Thanx to Shiloh Walker, I now know that there is a DVD version of the series that I just have to have.

I picked up Carrie Lofty's first book, "What a Scoundrel Wants" in part because it was about the legend of Robin Hood, and also because I have dropped by her blog a time or two and thought it was a cool place to visit. I also liked that it was a different take on this particular adventure than I was used to, which mainly focus on Robin and not so much on the other characters. The hard part is of course to try and not conjure up visions from the various film renditions I've seen, and let me tell you, it's very difficult not to imagine the characters a certain way, especially if you favored one or even several.
The three versions of Will Scarlett I think of the most, in no particular order, are Christian Slater from the 1991(?) movie with Kevin Costner. Then there's Ray Winstone from the 1980's series. And last is Harry Lloyd from the 2000-something BBC series with the delicious Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne. Now I loved Ray Winstone's version (he was also in "King Arthur" with Clive Owen) because he was such a hothead. He was entertaining and unpredictable. So while reading this book, I admit that I was channeling this edition of the character.
Obviously the book is very different than these movies. First of all, it's primarily about Will and Meg. We do get to see Robin and Marian, even Little John and Friar Tuck, and that was fun. But the main story is about Will, which, of course, would make sense since it is their story. Because we are "seeing" him through Meg, so to speak since she is blind, there's not really a specific physical description of him other than how she saw him, so in my imagination, he looks like the guy on the cover. But that's not exactly right either because I'm sure he's bruised and scarred, worn out and world-weary. He might be handsome and even possess all or most of his teeth, but with the life he's lead and continues to lead, he's gotta be pretty beat up, or at least look like someone who was.
Then there's Meg, who sounds a lot like a cantankerous and earthy witch. I didn't really have much of an opinion about her physically, because it's really her strength and courage and attitude that keep her going. Not that she was all that likable, because I'll admit it took me awhile to warm up to her. There were times I strongly disliked her. Most of what she did was driven by her determination to survive. She had to be cold and selfish and even cruel at times. As understandable as that was, it didn't always make me like her, especially when Will saved her ass a time or two. But she really didn't know Will from Adam, and he did arrest her sister, so already there was a built-in grudge. I had to remind myself of this when Meg was getting on my last nerve.
The other thing about this book is that it's rather grim, which makes sense with the time period. But with the battles and the violence, I wasn't sure if the characters would make it to the end of the book with all their body parts intact. There was lots of fighting, and swords and daggers, and fire. It got to the point where I was just hoping they would both survive each ordeal they found themselves smack dab in the middle of. They both tended to attract trouble.
So in the beginning, the story was not so easy to watch unfold. Not that it was unspeakably violent, but it was harsh and dirty and a bit blood-splattered, and I kept wondering how there was going to be a love story between these two. Will was more inclined to have warm feelings towards Meg, maybe because he was protective of her and a little guilt-ridden for arresting her sister. She was more resistant to Will, though their strong mutual attraction eventually wore her down, yet that still didn't stop her from walking away.
Gradually, as Meg started to feel less hostile towards Will and they began to fall in love, I was finally able to relax and enjoy the story, but it took me awhile. The realism and hardships of what these characters endured to be together takes away that sense of romance, at least it did for me, so I had to work harder to escape and enjoy. In the end, everything lead to a much-deserved HEA, and I can honestly say I probably would pick up another story by this author.
Now I know I didn't really tell you much about the book, but basically what the cover blurb says is what happens. I more or less wanted to capture the feelings and thoughts I took away from this story. It's more realistic than enchanting, but it's solid throughout, and I'm glad I gave myself the chance to read it. Yeah, I'd say it was worth my time.
Rating: **** out of *****

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  1. I enjoyed you review. I have this book in my tbr and hopefully will get to it one of these days. I loved Robin Hood the movie so I'm interested to see where this author went with the tale.

  2. I had a tough time getting into the romance for quite a while. The first half of the book was challenging for me to read... but the second half was much better. I'm happy for the way things turned out for Meg and Will.

  3. I've read such varied reviews on this book it's amazing!

    Thank you for your review.

  4. Barbara, I'd agree with what Christine said. It's a hard book to get into, but once it got going I liked it better. And it was fun to see Robin & Marian, for sure.

    Christine, exactly. I wanted to like it so, so much, but, well, it had issues.

    Tracy, I purposely stayed away from reading some of the reviews, only because I know people have definite ideas of how they like their legends. I went in with no pre-conceived notions. That helped a lot.

  5. I love the Robin Hood Legend, most especially the 1980s version starring Michael Praed (as Robin) and Ray Winstone (as Will Scarlett).

    *SIGH* I love that series too...and was listening to the sountrack (by Clannad) today. I have series 1 & 2 on DVD...

    Thank you for the great review Stacy. Meg sounds like a very interesting of those you don't know whether to love them or hate them...

  6. not gonna lie...carrie is a friend and I was excited to read her book just because she's so darn cool. so my opinion may have been colored. But I really dug the story and the fact that Meg (and Will really too) was so a-typical. Sure, she frustrated me a little but she was so layered and prickly, I was interested. Also, the battles and swashbuckling scenes were quite kinetic. It felt gritty and real. I'm looking forward to the sequel and whether Carrie can redeem sister Ada.

  7. I, too am a friend of Carrie's--and one of her critique partners, so I had the privelege to help tweak the sequel to perfection. If Will and Meg stirred you in ways you find difficult to describe, you'll LOVE "Scoundrel's Kiss," Ada's book. You come into the sequel with the idea that you'll hate Ada...and sooner than you can blink you'll be inside her heart. Carrie has a gift for redeeming the unredeemable characters.

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