One of my favorite heroes in literature is Robin Hood. My love for this character goes way back to when Errol Flynn played Robin Hood on the big screen. There was just something so dashing about the man who would fight for those who couldn't defend themselves, and sacrificed so much for those around him. His undying love for Maid Marian, and hers for Robin, is one of the best romances in literature.
The book I have reviewed here is not about Robin Hood directly, but one of Robin's fellow outlaws. Carrie Lofty has decided to write about Will Scarlett, who was a member of Robin's band of merry thieves. If you have seen the 1991 movie, Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner playing Robin, then you remember Christian Slater as Will Scarlet. In that movie we find out Will is Robin's long lost half-brother. In Carrie's What a Scoundrel Wants, Robin is Will's uncle, and Will has turned his back on everything Robin believed in. Will works for a new evil Sheriff of Nottingham. What a Scoundrel Wants takes place a few years later, after Robin became an outlaw. He is now off fighting with King Richard, and his wife, Marian, and their young son are all alone at Locksley Manor, waiting for Robin's safe return. Will was supposed to stay and watch over Marian, but he left because he feels he did something so horrible, where he destroyed the trust Robin has placed in him.
Will needs to survive and he aligns himself with the Sheriff for reasons some readers may think is a very selfish one. But Will is all alone. He has no where else to turn to. He hates what he has to do, but sucks it up and makes the best of it, just like he always has. Will is responsible for arresting a young woman buy the name of Ada, who was trying to use some counterfeit emeralds while she was in Nottingham. She was placed in the dungeon where Peter Finch, the Sheriff, wants Ada to make him more. Finch has a way with a knife and gives Ada a taste of some torture to make her do what he wants. Ada has no choice but to agree, even though it is her sister, Meg, who is the one responsible in making these jewels.
Meg is on her way to rescue Ada. Her party is besieged by a representative of the Sheriff. Will happens to be included in this group of men, and before he knows it, both sides are fighting each other. Will doesn't notice Meg at first, until she is caught by one of the Sheriff's men who will probably rape and kill her. Will saves Meg and brings her safely away. But he then realizes by saving Meg, he may have made himself an outlaw once again. Will wants to lose Meg, but because he has a sense of chivalry, he will help her return home. Will is in for quite the surprise, because Meg is not some meek gentlewoman, but is rather waspish and stubborn. He feels the sting of her tongue and she never really does thank him for coming to her rescue. All Will wants to do is rest since he was hurt in the fray, but Meg complains to the point where he leaves her by the river to fend for herself. And he doesn't care that Meg is blind.
Meg's blindness wasn't from birth, but rather because of a horrible illness. The reason she is so rude and basically a bitch because she is out of her element. She hates everything about her life, from her lack of sight, to the death of her father, and even that of her Ada, who she felt betrayed her by lusting after her lover. If it were up to Meg, she would let her sister rot, but since Ada is her sister, and endangered herself by selling the counterfeit jewels, Meg has no choice, because of family honor, to save Ada.
Even though the forest may seem a pretty big place to get lost in, Will and Meg keeping coming in contact with one another. They actually need each other. Meg needs his eyes, and for Will to help her save Ada. Will can't turn away from Meg because he finds her to be very intriguing. She gives him a sense of honor and begrudging respect. Will feels he finally has a purpose when it comes to Meg, and as he learns who this particular woman is, he begins to fall in love with her.
Not only does Will have to work for Meg's respect and love, he has to face his own internal demons, such as the ones he has for Robin and Marian, and his guilt with working for the other side. He also has to stay alive and make sure Meg is safe because Will's former employer, the Sheriff of Nottingham, now wants Meg for his own evil plans and will kill anyone who gets in his way.
What a Scoundrel Wants has a lot of action, tension and many layers to the characters Carrie has written. This is a gritty story, where violence, torture and greed is a way of life. Meg suffers a great deal from the injustices against her. I can understand why she acts out the way she does, but it got to a point that I wanted someone to smack her and tell her to get over it, we all have problems you snotty brat. Yes, Meg reminded me a bratty little girl who would throw a temper tantrum to get what she wanted. At least Will wasn't a push over and wouldn't put up with her crap. When he left her by the river to fend for herself, I wondered if Meg had fallen into the river by accident and could have drowned, would I have been sympathetic? I don't think so.
My main peeve with What a Scoundrel Wants was the character of Meg. I did feel for her anguish because of her handicap and everything that has gone wrong in her life, but enough is enough. Because Meg is so bitter towards her sister Ada, for impeaching on a past lover, Meg feels that Ada should suffer like she has. So what if Ada is at the hands of some deranged psycho who likes to use his knife to cut Ada's tender flesh? Ada had the audacity to steal her blind sister's boyfriend at the time. I also found the way that Meg treated Will was very harsh. Again, I understand that she couldn't trust him right away, but her harpy like attitude towards him was a bit grating. And when horny Meg decides to literally mount Will, while he is under a fever induced sleep because he was hurt saving Meg, I was disgusted. I can't figure out at the moment why Meg would want Will, because you can practically see her seething with hate for Scarlet. And since Will is weak and Meg is straddling his naked bits with her own naked ones, he has no choice but to give Meg what she wants. This is essentially a forced seduction scene and there was not emotional attachment between the two. Meg needed a warm male body to quench her desires and Will had no other choice but to go along with it. That scene left me very unsatisfied.
I was more interested in Will and his inner turmoil, especially when he confronts those demons. As for his epiphany toward Meg, where he comes to the conclusion that he loves her, that doesn't ring true to me. I never saw anything between these two that would make me think that they are perfect for one another. If Will had saved the day and left Meg to look for brighter pastures, I wouldn't have been surprised.
Other than my issues with the love story between Meg and Will, I found Carrie's writing to be almost lyrical in her telling. I felt like I was reading a ballad, a medieval poetry about knights whose armor is less than shining. The action scenes were great, and I could taste the blood and desperation in the air. I was also very intrigued by Ada and the relationship she had with Peter Finch, the Sheriff. I think there was more than meets the eye between these two and not just the one introductory scene of torture Finch inflicts on Ada. I am not sure if Carrie meant to keep this a mystery, or if something was left out because I feel that a few interactions were missing between these two. The final scene between Ada and Finch was somewhat confusing, mainly because the way Ada overreacts to Finch when he tells her he will never let her go.
I have been on the fence as to what grade to give What a Scoundrel Wants. I did find Carrie's writing excellent and the atmosphere of the novel to be incredible, but I couldn't get over my dislike with Meg and the lack of chemistry between her and Will. Their romance just didn't do anything for me.
I have to hand it to Carrie for finally giving a most beloved character his own story. I just wish his mate would have been more worthy of his love.