Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reviewing Scarlet & Lady Thief AGAIN! books by AC Gaughen, re-read by me


Scarlet (Scarlet, #1) Lady Thief (Scarlet, #2)

When I finished the series, reading Lion Heart, I had to go back and re-read the first two books in the series. This is one of those series where the first read is not the same as any subsequent read.

So... don't spoil the books by figuring out who Will Scarlet is, etc, etc, My first review of Scarlet is here.  It's spoiler-free like the following is NOT.

Reviewing Scarlet & Lady Thief after reading Lion Heart.

Reading back through the series, I couldn't believe how much of a romance the story is.  I was caught up in the action on the first read. I paid close attention to the characters, since Scarlet is revealed sooooooo slowly and everyone else rather follows suit.

The second time, I knew who Prince John was much, much better. I already thoroughly disrespected his wife, for example, even as I realized how her opinion of Guy Gisbourne affected his life as much as his place in society. (Pawn!!) In fact, there's a kind of sick satisfaction with how much Prince John knows and toys with her while she believes she has the power.  My sense of justice is served regarding her, although, she receives a sort of HEA that is much improved over dear PJ.

PJ, himself, has more of a realistic ending which made me respect the queen mother more. I mean, she really has a grasp of how the life of chess is played among royalty. In fact, Eleanor (is that her name?) is awe-inspiring. She sees further than anyone and acts strategically. I enthusiastically disagreed with her along with Scarlet when she did, but at the same time, the more I knew of the queen mother, the more I respected her up to the end of the series and beyond.

So... Prince John, PJ, is just rotten. He's one of those motivators that makes other characters stand out depending on how they act and react around him, but he, himself, is just rotten. One of those bad guys I love hating and honestly wish I didn't hate quite so much.  He has so much opportunity to make good choices and never does unless all other options are removed from his grasp. Snake.

Scarlet detests the name Marian and is never called "maid", so it's like Gaughen totally re-created the character completely. (Duh, right?)  The essentials are as I felt they should be. She has power, but must move carefully, strategically or lose everything. The stakes are always so dang high. As the series progresses, the danger expands from her life to her band's life to the town, to all of Nottingham to the entirety of the country of England. Her perspective expands behind the stakes... so she's always discounting her involvement to the point that she nearly forfeits her chance at victory. I don't blame her, though. I don't always agree with her choices initially, but they're logical. (And she comes 'round.) In the end, I thoroughly loved her, cover to cover. Not unlike the general masses of fans who don't really know who she is... she deserves the fame and glory by the end. And that's saying something since she starts out as a gutter thief only.

Robin or The Hood is not as awesome as Scarlet is.  He's very, very human and can't overcome his opponents like Scarlet manages to.  Logically, he is more evenly matched in battle because his strengths are more obvious, whereas Scarlet is quite sneaky with her knives, but I did get a bit... well... he sure needed rescuing a lot.  I love his inner demons, although they show up so viciously that I can't believe they hid so well at the beginning. I still love 'em. They add such humanity and vulnerability to him in a powerful sort of way and I love how they're resolved and he discovers peaceful sleep. I did like all that. But the way he is predictable and defenseless against stronger muscle and PJ's chess moves... that part was always a bit stinky to me. It kind of makes some of Scarlet's choices more logical, but I still didn't like 'em. I wanted Robin to live up to his hero status a bit more... although, I'm sure the idea of having Scarlet as the victorious person behind his hero status will be very appealing to many. Lol. For me, I like a guy who is equal to or in competition with my awesome woman, and Robin attains that in a shadowy way, but he really needs rescuing a lot.

John Little or Little John... is one of those OMG-I-LOVE-YOU characters for me. He has faults that make him deep and human, but I couldn't help liking him right from the start. I was quite convinced that Scarlet would get together with him the first time I read the first book because I was so sure "Maid Marian gets Robin Hood" that I missed all the hints that made John incompatible with her. So... I was quite pre-disposed to like him best whether I wanted to or not. He gets to keep that status forever since he leaves the story so dramatically, darn him.

Much is pretty darn cool. So steady and so nice... he's good scenery for the rest to be dramatic in the vicinity of.  He nearly meets an untimely end, but Gaughen has mercy on him and me, both. His disability, with missing a hand after being caught stealing (before Scarlet showed him how to get away with it) is nicely done and turns into a great twist. Scarlet helps him manage his goals despite missing his hand and receives her own advice in bucket-fulls when she finds herself facing similar challenges. Much never has to say or do anything, necessarily, but his success is a testimony of not giving up.

I know I was rough on Robin... but the romance between Robin and Scarlet is absolutely beautiful and my favorite part of the series. It's really a love story, beginning to end. *sigh*  They face so many obstacles including their own morals, darn them. There are scenes... that just wow.  So many of them.  There's a thousand hints and references that I saw the second time through the book that I'd overlooked the first time. Not that I hadn't seen them before, I just was afraid for broken hearts and wasn't sure how much weight to give those tiny moments. But the second time through I relished each one.  Each look, each pause, each fixing of wounds... each jump into the cold lake!

Their romance is stolen in shadowed corners or high branches in a tree... so many little moments that mean mountains to each of them.  They face death and separation at every turn, but their biggest obstacle is always themselves. Either they discount the emotions of the moment or lie in bed for hours, alone and un-chaperoned, but won't kiss because that would be a sin.  Not that I didn't value how they defined their boundaries and stood by them, that was honorable, just... for cryin' out loud... they're the only ones who ever even know they create such boundaries and stand by them.

I suppose that's a good question. If I'm the only one who knows I lived by my standards, does that mean I've accomplished my goal?  Like... if a tree falls in a forest and no one's there, does it make a sound? lol  I guess part of me believes that standards are meant to be seen, that an inherit part of having a standard is for human interaction about that standard. Well, anyway, Rob and Scar know they lived by their standards and having such high ones did affect the rest of their lives.

I think it's obvious that I love where the series ends. Wasn't sure Happily Ever After was possible in this case, but Gaughen pulls it off in dramatic fashion. Maybe too dramatic, but it is a re-telling of a legend, so that's to be expected.