TITLE: Scarlet (Scarlet, #1)
AUTHOR: A.C. Gaughen
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction
FORMAT: eBook, 304 Pages
They steal from the rich to give to the poor, but not all of Robin Hood’s merry men are what they seem. Scarlet, for one, isn’t even a man. She’s a young woman dressed as a boy, and none of the boys can keep up with her — except one, and that’s the fabled Robin himself. Scarlet would do anything, commit any crime, if it meant bringing justice to oppressed, overtaxed Nottinghamshire. Masquerading as Will Scarlet, she lies, cheats, steals and breaks innocent prisoners out of the sheriff’s jail. But Scarlet is also running away from the guilt and trauma of her past, and no disguise could ever be enough to evade the truth.
It’s been a long while since I last read a Robin Hood retelling (The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, specifically) and I’ve never read the original, but I’ve always enjoyed the premise and was familiar with the main characters so I was interested to see what kind of twist Scarlet would bring to the timeless story. Guys, I was not disappointed! I just really love strong female leads in books for so many reasons, and the titular character here is as tough as they come. While there was a minor adjustment period for me when it came to the narrative style, I ended up rather impressed by how the author used Scarlet’s way of talking in such a strategic way. I thought this book was an incredible take on Robin Hood with all the adventure, daring deeds, and romance a girl could wish for.
TITLE: I’ll Be Seeing You
AUTHORS: Suzanne Hayes & Loretta Nyhan
GENRE: Historical Fiction
FORMAT: Digital ARC via NetGalley
RELEASE DATE: May 28, 2013 (Harlequin)
In January 1943, Glory Whitehall takes a deep breath and writes a letter to a woman who lives miles away. That woman is Rita Vincenzo, forty one years old and praying that her husband and son will stay safe wherever they are in the war-torn world. Despite how different they are, the two women forge a bond through pen and paper that ultimately withstands pain, tragedy, and tumultuous change. They become lifelines for one another in a time of great uncertainty. Rita sends wisdom and advice tempered by years of being a wife and mother, while Glory relates the constant learning experience of marrying young and trying to raise two small children while their father fights at the front lines in Europe. Together, far apart and yet side by side, they wait for the war to end and fight to keep faith alive.
I don’t know what it is, but I usually find myself liking books told through letters. I think it’s an especially good medium for historical fiction; it works like a charm for The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, for example, and that’s one of my favorite reads (and re-reads) ever. There’s something about letters back and forth that makes a story so much more personal. It’s a quality that I think is becoming steadily overwhelmed in a world where snail mail isn’t anyone’s primary method of communication any more. But I’ve had pen pals my entire life, and finding a letter in the mailbox is still a lot like Christmas for me. That’s why it was easy for me to appreciate the easy warmth of the friendship between Rita and Glory, and although it lacked the magic of Guernsey, I still found it to be an enjoyable read.
TITLE: Strands of Bronze & Gold
SERIES: Strands of Bronze & Gold, #1
AUTHOR: Jane Nickerson
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction
FORMAT: eBook, 297 Pages
Still mourning the loss of her beloved father, Sophia Petheram is surprised to receive a letter from her godfather — a letter inviting her to travel to his sprawling Mississippi estate and stay with him as his ward. Bordering on destitute now that their father and his income are gone, Sophia and her siblings come to the conclusion that she will accept the invitation and thereby have hope for a better future. She will be taken care of, her every need attended to; in short, she will be gain financial security, something the family has never been able to enjoy. And in the beginning, Sophia does indeed enjoy living at majestic Wyndriven Abbey, lavished with expensive gifts and a new, exceedingly privileged lifestyle. But as time passes, and as the affectionate attentions of her handsome godfather gradually intensify, it becomes clear that Sophia’s beautiful surroundings are nothing but a gilded cage. What terrible secrets lie in wait behind locked doors?
This… was not a pleasant experience for me. To be honest, it was a total train wreck and I have this vague theory that I stayed on board for the entire thing out of grotesque fascination. Either that, or it was the undying optimist in me that kept hoping something would happen to redeem this book before it was too late. Sadly, this was not to be. Strands of Bronze and Gold was extremely problematic for me, from the decidedly useless non-heroine to the disturbing lack of plot. I was drawn to the prospect of a Southern Gothic retelling of Bluebeard, but this one definitely didn’t deliver.
TITLE: Keturah & Lord Death
AUTHOR: Martine Leavitt
GENRE: YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction
FORMAT: Hardcover, 216 Pages
I will tell you a story of magic and love, of daring and death, and one to comfort your heart. It will be the truest story I have ever told. Now listen, and tell me if it is not so.
Keturah is a gifted storyteller, most often found weaving tales by the fireside. When she becomes hopelessly lost in the deep forest surrounding her village, she never expects that it will be her talent for storytelling that will help her thwart death among the trees. But when Lord Death arrives to bear Keturah away, she manages to enthrall him with the promise of the greatest love story ever told: a story with an ending she refuses to tell unless Death allows her to live. Her wish is granted, but it’s only a temporary reprieve. Death will come to collect her the following night unless she manages to find true love within the span of one day…
I credit Goodreads for recommending this book to me, because otherwise it might have slipped past my radar. Which would’ve been a tragedy, because I liked it quite a lot. It has a real fairy tale vibe — not a happy, fluffy, rainbows-and-unicorns fairytale vibe but a dark, brooding sort of Brothers Grimm vibe. If I had to make some comparisons, I’d say it was similar to stories like The Robber Bridegroom because of the darker underlying themes. But there are some comical moments as well, and I love the book’s insight into the topic of death; specifically, that death may not necessarily be something to fear, after all. I had to review this on the blog because I hate that its praises go unsung due to obscurity. I want you to know about this book, and I want you to give it a try!