16 January 2012

Post 469: Scarlet

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen. ISBN: 9780802723468 (eGalley - publishes February 14, 2012).

I rather like the inclusion of women in stronger-than-they-normally-get roles in stories with Medieval settings. There were actually quite a few women who held powerful roles, though normally as high ranking noble women with extremely dead husbands or as pre-beatified saints. The latter were women who often fasted, or hid their eating habits, as proof of their religious purity, that they could sustain themselves strictly on the spirit of Christ... or sometimes his body, as a few were known to eat only Communion wafers. The noble women were often seen as far more threatening, as hardly anyone really wanted to live the life of a saint, which by definition was difficult and full of burdens. Therefore more women were inclined to want a life of nobility, preferably with a weak and gullible, or at least permissive, husband... old or dead were good too, so long as there was an heir.

I found it interesting then that Gaughen combined these two archetypes of women into one "Will" Scarlet. Although I doubt it was done purposely, the combination of eating disorder and noble birth was intriguing. At a time when the Roman Catholic church was still the only game in town, Scarlet might have been the pinnacle of womanhood, except that she ran away from her family, dressed in men's clothing (for which she could have been killed), and joined a band of randy men living in the woods.

Yet somehow she has found not one, but two men to fawn over her and one to obsess over wanting to capture, kill, own, and marry her... in no particular order. We have the commoner who treats her like a loose woman by positioning himself in a physically aggressive manner, often backing her up against a tree, leaning over her, etc. Then there's the "dishonored" honorable nobleman who calls her a whore and a tease. With choices like these, it's a miracle that Scarlet has any desire at all to be with a man, much less that she'd actually have a preference for one. But lucky for us, dear reader, Scarlet has a guilty conscience and believes she is unworthy of a "good" man, so of course that is exactly what she ends up with.

There was a lot of potential in this book, and while I don't expect my heroines to be so blindingly perfect that they aren't humanly possible, it would have been nice to see Scarlet have the balls she claimed to have and actually stick up for herself.

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: Advance Reader Copy provided by Netgalley.

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