Title: What a Scoundrel Wants
Author: Carrie Lofty
(God, I hate this cover)
Genre: Historical (medieval) romance
Stand Alone/ Series: Stand Alone but there is another book in the same world in the works.
Summary: In Sherwood Forest, outcast warrior Will Scarlet rescues a blind woman who dreams of fire. Now, to defeat the new Sheriff of Nottingham, he’ll need to become a hero for the ages. It’s amazing what a scoundrel will do for love…
Why did I read the book: In the interest of full disclosure and honesty I have to say that I asked for the book. Yes, I did that. I heard about it quite a few months ago and because I just LOVE Will Scarlet I took a deep breath, emailed the author and asked for the ARC. The cheekiness panned out when she actually replied to me and sent me the document. This happened back in May and the book has been sitting in my computer ever since because I was afraid to read it – what if I didn’t like it? What would I do then? It is with a great sense of happiness and relief that I say that I really really liked it – and I am being 100% honest about it.
Adventure! Romance! Sword Fights! And a drool-worthy hero – What a Scoundrel Wants is great! (even if the title isn’t)
That the above-mentioned hero is named Will Scarlet -, The Will Scarlet of Robin Hood and his merry gang fame – is only one of the things that makes it even better. I love Robin Hood stories , have loved it since I was a kid and had an old book with a collection of Robin Hood stories collected and translated by one of Brazil’s most famous children’s author. Will Scarlet has been a favourite character of mine, in all of his depictions – as a funny sidekick , as a whiny half-brother or as a daring young man always dressed in scarlet but always in all of them, a fantastic fighter.
In What a Scoundrel Wants, Will Scarlet is Robin Hood’s nephew and it has been a few years since Robin Hood and his gang lived in the forest of Sherwood. Robin and Marian got married , had a young boy who lives with his mother at Loxley Manor while Robin is fighting a war with King Richard. Away for three years, Robin left his nephew to take care of his wife and son but Will and Robin never had an easy relationship and Will did the unthinkable and kissed Marian and had to leave the estate as a matter of honour – ever since then he has been away from his family and living the easy life by ( brace yourself) working for the new Sheriff of Nottingham who is really, no better than the previous one.
As the story opens, Will is riding through the forest with the sheriff’s men under Roger of Carlisle when they meet Lord of Whitstowe’s party and a fight ensues – the reason behind Will does not comprehend until later – when Will hears a woman’s scream. That inner chivalry of his kicks in and he rides to her, saving the woman. Things happen quite fast and Will realises he is being set up for the murder of Lord Whitstowe and so he grabs the woman and they flee. Soon he realises two things: one that the woman, Meg, is blind. Two, that he is responsible for imprisoning her sister Ada under the orders of the sheriff and that Lord Whistowe was escorting Meg to the castle so that they can argue for Ada’s release. Things are not as simple though as Ada has been arrested so that they can get to Meg – a woman seen as a witch for her alchemy studies and whose counterfeit emeralds are really what the sheriff is looking for.
At first, Will wants nothing to do with the woman – feisty, argumentative, strong Meg – and plans on leaving her in the middle of the forest by herself (not that she has a real problem with it, she may be blind but she knows how to get around). Later, he realises the only way of keeping Marian safe and to prove his own innocence is to give Meg to the Sheriff. Meg, on the other hand, needs help getting Ada back (she can’t live by herself being blind and all, even with all the hard feelings that there are between Ada and her) and will use anyone to get what she wants. I have to admit that for the first 50 pages or so, I did not like these two at all. Will was a real scumbag and Meg was no better – there is even a scene where Meg behaves no better than an old school hero and takes what she wants from Will, no questions asked.
But soon enough in the midst of all the bickering and the incredible repartee, the layers that hide Will and Meg start to be peeled off and glimpses of greatness appear and the action-packed (I mean, really non-stop action – fights, castles, dungeons, torture, dangerous escapes , witch burning, castle invading, etc etc ) plot serves the romantic plot (and vice-versa if I may add) and from the moment when they choose to trust each other, when Will looks into his heart and thinks to himself:
“Reaping the rewards, both his return to the sheriff’s good graces and a guarantee of Marian’s safety, should have been promise enough to compel him. Instead, Will wanted to put her hands to his face and make promises. Promises he would actually keep.”
the story takes a turn – and Will is relentless in his attempts to protect Meg – he will do everything, anything to save her, to protect her and to have her – there is a great scene where Meg is about to be burnt as witch and Will is chained at the dungeon and he is desperate because of her screams and he nearly cut his hand off so that he can get rid of the chains that bind him and save her.
Meg is a more difficult character to understand with her blindness that separates her from everybody else, carrying the hurt of being treated like shit by her former lover and her own sister, with her great sense of solitude that is only dimmed when Will is around and when she can touch him. But do not be fooled, Meg may be vulnerable but she hardly shows it, she is a kick-ass heroine who will not cower in front of danger. Their moments together are fun to read but also full of sentiment especially when they see past any masks they may wear. I am especially fond of the scene where Meg is twirling around herself because when she does so she can colour and have a measure of normality or when she tells Will that she thinks he is, indeed a good man.
They start off as two completely unlikeable characters that go from partners to lovers, to enemies, to friends, to lovers again in a story that goes full circle: back to their own love story who starts as hate , back Will’s inner struggle to be seen as man by Robin Hood, Meg’s fight with her sister and of course, the fight against the villains in a old-fashioned hoods and swords, bows and arrows (and perhaps a bit of explosion on the side, courtesy of Meg) way. Even if it all happens in only a matter of days which is really, the only minor grippe I have with an otherwise very enjoyable, very fun read.
And I am not even mentioning the brilliant scenes with Robin Hood and Marian – which are emotional and deep. And when Little John shows up to help? I cheered.
Notable Quotes/Parts: This is a good example of action + repartee between Will and Meg. They are in the dungeons fleeing their chasers, Will was dressed as a fool (this is how he got into the castle without being recognised ):
“You there,” shouted a man with a deep voice. “Stop!”
She dropped. The skin at her knees split, assaulted by the twin demands of bone and
unyielding flagstones. A sword’s deadly steel clanged when it slammed into a wall. Shards of rock rained over her veil. Hearing only the grunts of a man-on-man brawl, she could not recall if Will wore a weapon. Had he relinquished his arms in favor of a jester’s disguise?
She pressed against the sanctuary of the nearest wall and fished in her satchel. Upon
locating a particular glass vial, she held it aloft. “Will!”
He snatched the vial without question. The glass shattered and the other man screamed, his tinkling mail rattling to the ground. The slither of steal pulled from a scabbard, a sound too succinct to be that of a sword, etched the air. Will pounced. The other man’s life ended with a single nauseating gurgle.
Meg tried to stand, but trembling legs refused to sustain her weight. “A dagger?”
“Two daggers, in truth.” He sheathed the weapons, pushing air in and out of his nose.
“Fermented urine, in truth.”
“Do you create anything that does not stink?”
“Funny girl.” He pulled her up, her knees throbbing. “Turn to your right.”
An endless labyrinth of turns later, he looped her waist and pulled her flush against the
hard length of his armored torso. Bodies pressed into a tiny wedge of space, their limbs
negotiated the mysterious confines. The rumbling clatter of metal and male shouts charged past.
Will panted, heating her temple. “Quiet now,” he whispered.
For a bare moment, Meg relinquished her fear. She sagged against him and sapped
comfort from his arms. He tightened his hold, an enticing promise. He would defend her. No matter his lies or misdeeds, no matter the lengthy list of her own faults, he would defend her.
“I wish I could determine how much of this is to your blame,” she said.
He pushed her none to gently against the wall, both hands on her hips. “Before you
decide, let me describe my grand scheme to have Dryden arrested, and well before the end of his usefulness.”
“Stop your foolery.”
“I still wear my new costume.”
“Will removing it put an end to your ill-timed wit?”
His lips were close, his words like a laughing sigh. “You and your obsession with
removing my clothes.”
Additional Thoughts: What is your favourite Robin Hood?
I have to say, mine is and always will be Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner.
I watched it so many times – I don’t even know how many. I remember one day, when the movie first came out, I had already watched it at the movies but wanted to watch it again. My best friend and I went to the groceries store and bought all sorts of crappy food: crisps, cookies, candy, drops enough for a few hours. We got the movies for the first afternoon showing and stayed there for 4 consecutive showings of the movie. FOUR. And still we managed to cheer every time that camera would follow that arrow (the precursor of the Matrix Bullettime?)
or every time Marian would scream “ROBIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNN” in that scene where she thinks he will be killed when they invade the castle. Good times.
But really, one of my favourite things in that movie after Alan Rickman’s camp and yet all kinds of awesome Sheriff of Nottingham
That’s it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.
Humm , me thinks it is time for another viewing.
Verdict: BOTH action-driven and character-driven story makes What a Scoundrel Wants a fantastic read. Prepare to fall in love with the hero.
Rating: 8 Excellent
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