Friday, May 25, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

Everyone knows at least something about the legend of Robin Hood - he robs from the rich and gives to the poor. In this version, Robin Hood is a young nobleman whose lands have been stolen from him by the wicked Prince John and given to the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Rob leads a small band of not so merry young men to steal what they can to help support the common people. There's Munch, the Miller's son who is sweet, the flirtatious John Little and mysterious and aloof Will Scarlet. Actually, make that just Scarlet for Scarlet is actually a girl. Scarlet is running from the past, literally and emotionally and has been taken in by Rob and the others.  She's fierce and feisty yet she doesn't feel as strong and brave as she acts. Her feelings are complicated, especially those feelings for John and Rob. She insists she isn't really part of the band but yet feels compelled to stay and help. When the sheriff hires a thief taker Scarlet has to make a decision. If she stays, her life may be on the line. As the situation becomes more dire, Scarlet inches closer to the past and truths she doesn't want to reveal. This is a vastly different Robin Hood story than any of the others I'm familiar with. The characters are younger and there are fewer men in the band. The non-stop action adventure kept me very interested to see how it all turned out. The story is told from Scarlet's point-of-view and her story is revealed little by little, which I really liked. Clever readers may figure out her secrets before I did. She's a very proud and stubborn girl and her angst started to bother me a bit by the middle of the book but not half as bad as Rob's self-sacrificing attitude. I bought Scarlet's attitude because she's been through a lot but she sounds younger than she really is. I would have set the story a little earlier than it is. There's an interesting love triangle that was at times sweet and other times maddening. I honestly didn't know if Scarlet would survive long enough to choose a sweetheart or not. The thrilling conclusion is a bit unusual and unsatisfying. It leaves room for a sequel or two and for the characters to grow. This book is very violent and contains profanity and dialogue about sex. For these reasons I would recommend this book to anyone 14 or older. I think this book would appeal to boys as well as girls. 

Claire : A Novel of Love and Adventure Set in Late Eighteenth-Century England by Elizabeth Lyle -- Georgian Romance

Mademoiselle Claire de la Robiniere and her cousin Simone, the Countess de Lille escape the guillotine and arrive unescorted in England where they immediately make the acquaintances, both honorable and dishonorable, they need to help them set up a new life in England. The handsome carefree bachelor The Honorable Vincent Carlow has escaped London to avoid the matrimonial noose his childhood friend Maud is determined to place around his neck. He heads to Brighton to help the Prince of Wales redesign his famous Pavillion. He finds himself with his hands full rescuing Claire and the Countess from trouble and introducing them to Brighton society. The enterprising ladies set up a business selling antiques and other goods smuggled from France, achieving great success among the Prince of Wales and his set. They insist on selling only things that belonged to them and only until they have enough money to bring Claire's brother Raoul over safely. Carlow suspects what the ladies are up to but refuses to get involved. He's not interested in responsibility yet he feels responsible for Claire's safety and is continually helping her out of scrapes. He's attracted to the spunky young woman but his attraction can never be more than a passing fancy for he does not wish to be "leg-shackled" and she has a fiance back in France. At first Claire is infuriated by Carlow's high-handed manner. She comes to depend on him as a friend but she knows that in order to secure his friendship she has to tell some white lies and deny her growing feelings for him. Another gentleman takes an interest in Claire and her activities too, though not in a beneficial way. The dastardly Lord Milcroft seems amiable enough in public but Carlow knows otherwise and he's determined to keep Claire away from Milcroft. Milcroft has other ideas. He is determined to posses Claire at any cost and is willing to blackmail her to achieve his ends. Will Claire be able to rescue herself and her brother before Milcroft ruins her or will Carlow once again be there to help? If Carlow becomes involved with responsibility there may be no turning back to his carefree life again. This novel is written in the tradition of a Georgette Heyer comedy of manners. It is full of many of the character and plot elements found in that style of Regency romance though the action is set just before the war with France begins. The characters are very flat and two-dimensional with the exception of Claire. Claire is brave, proud and spunky and able to hold her own against a villain. I liked her a lot yet she didn't quite come to life on the page. Maud is the only other character that shows any depth or originality. I liked her transformation though it happens very quickly. Carlow is a typical hero: he's a noted Corinthian and friend of the Prince of Wales; honorable and caring. His only flaw is his stubbornness which makes him perfectly suited for Claire. The villain's motive seems unbelievable and his actions don't make sense. Giving him a motive seems like a way for the author to make him less than a stock villain but it comes too late and doesn't really work. The author did an excellent job describing Georgian era Brighton and especially the Pavillion. The descriptions of the clothing and manners are also excellent. The plot is good but not great. It's very slow moving and I had no problems putting it down. The plot drags on and then is concluded too speedily. I liked this book and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it but I didn't love it. No one can quite match up to Georgette Heyer.

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