In medias res, the second volume of the Scarlet series (Scarlet, 2013) plunges readers happily into the world of Sherwood Forest and does not end with any resolution, but its spirited action and rich voices hold.
The main voice is that of Scarlet, thief and lady indeed. As Lady Marian, she has married Gisbourne to protect Robin Hood. Gisbourne has injured Scarlet and tortured Robin Hood, but he promises her an annulment (and no consummation) if she will just play a part while Gisbourne fawns upon Prince John. Scarlet sees all these wheels within wheels clearly as she tries to protect the people of Nottingham. She also needs to protect herself from Robin, whom she loves but who suffers from a kind of PTSD. There is a full measure of kisses and caresses (but no more than that) and some very lovely and slightly antique language—“She were as pretty as milk and sun”—as well as splendidly choreographed jousts and archery contests. There are also some brief but vivid scenes of physical cruelty. All this holds together as Scarlet discovers her true heritage and finds a supporter and protector in the ancient Eleanor of Aquitaine (mother of Prince John and Richard Lionheart). There are secrets and lies, and back story comes to the forefront enough so readers who might have missed the first volume won’t be lost.
The tale comes to a bitter stopping point that will leave readers very much in need of the next volume. (Historical fiction. 13-18)