When Gareth de Vavasour, nephew of the Sheriff of Nottingham, is captured by the outlaws of Sherwood Forest and held for ransom, he knows he will be fortunate to escape with his life. Amid the magic and danger that surround him, he soon realizes his true peril lies in the beautiful dark eyes of Linnet, the Saxon healer sent to tend his wounds.
Granddaughter of Robin Hood, Linnet has always known she is destined to become a guardian of Sherwood Forest, along with her sister and a close childhood companion. She believes her life well settled until the arrival of Gareth. Then all her loyalties are tested even as her heart is forced to choose between love and the ties of duty, while Sherwood declares its own champion.
Linnet asked, a bit too casually, “Have you, perhaps, a betrothed who awaits you?”
Their eyes met. Gareth’s heart began to beat high and hard, which fairly well matched his condition below. Had things been different, he would have traded his life for one night in this woman’s bed. But things were not different. He shook his head again and changed the direction of their words.
“How deep are we in the forest?”
“This place lies, nearly, at its heart.”
“But Nottingham lies south?” He turned his eyes that way.
“Aye.” She laid her fingertips on his arm. “I pray you will not do anything foolish.” Could she tell what lay in his mind? He widened his eyes and strove to appear guileless.
“Because,” she went on, “the forest, and this part of it in particular, is no place for you to be on your own. It is very ancient, and inhabited.”
“By what? Other outlaws?”
Her eyes met his once more. “By spirits. They live here among the trees and in the earth itself. The magic here is very deep.”
“Magic?” He could not help but scoff. “That is pagan nonsense. With proper burial, are spirits not laid to rest?”
“Proper burial under the auspices of your church, you mean? What is that to these spirits? They walked here long before Christ was born.”
“So you may believe.” The girl knew only what she had been taught. Her ignorance was not her fault.
She gathered up her supplies and rose. “So it is,” she told him implacably before she walked away.
I write Historical Romance, in part because I enjoy reading it. I love the notion of magically traveling through time via the power of my imagination to long-ago eras and distant lands. It’s a thrill to be dropped into the court of Elizabeth the First, to marry a Highland lord, or breathlessly await my husband’s return from Agincourt. It’s an adventure to meet and fall under the spell of the man who planned and raised Stonehenge. It’s even exciting (in a slightly darker and more unsettling way) to live through the black death in London.
Any good writer of Historical Romance does her research. There’s some literary license, but dates and facts have to be reasonably accurate. It wouldn’t be correct for William the Conqueror’s soldiers to whip out muskets on the battle field. And medical advances such as penicillin didn’t exist in the time of, say, Brian Boru. But how much historical content in a Historical Romance is too much?
Some writers of Historical Romance are faulted for concentrating too heavily on the story, and not enough on historical events. But why do we read Historical Romance? It’s nice to pick up interesting facts and learn details we didn’t know concerning the way our ancestors may have lived, but I feel when it comes down to it, Historical Romance is meant to entertain. In our hectic world, we long for something that will allow us to unwind after the pressures of juggling home, family and work. So we reach for a wondrous fantasy wherein a man and woman fall instantly in love, and then set about proving it to one another all night. We reach for pageantry and beauty and, basically, escape fiction. How many factual details do you want to plow through when you’re curled up in bed with some dashing hero, waiting to feel sleepy enough to drift off to dreamland?
When I began my Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy, I had a huge advantage. Most everyone knows the legend of Robin Hood. But I wanted to move past the legend, to tell the story of what happened after Robin’s death. Which of his followers carried on the fight against Norman tyranny? What was life actually like for a Saxon peasant in the time of King John? What impact did the signing of the Magna Carta have on the common man? How much power did the Sheriff of Nottingham really have?
The author who wishes to keep her readers well entertained walks a fine line between fact and fiction. I discovered the best way to tread that line is to ground myself well in the time about which I’m writing,
do enough background work to be familiar with the feel, smell and taste of it – begin to think like a man or woman of Norman England. Then the facts flow without effort onto the page, as seen through the eyes of characters rather than force fed to an audience. When my readers finish my books, I want them to feel as if they’ve truly walked for a time in Sherwood Forest. In-depth, scholarly tomes are for historians who love facts; but Historical Romance is for those of us who love love. Come spend a while in my Sherwood, and I think you’ll see what I mean!
About the Author
Born and raised in Western New York, Laura Strickland has pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, all reflected in her writing. Though her imagination often takes her to far off places, she is usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario, with her husband and her “fur” child, a rescue dog. Currently she is at work on the third book of the Guardians of Sherwood series.
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