Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Book Review: Earl of Huntingdon (Outlaw's Legacy Book 3) by N.B. Dixon (Guest Post)

Book Review: Earl of Huntingdon (Outlaw's Legacy Book 3) by N.B. Dixon (Guest Post)


He was once Robin Hood, bold outlaw of Sherwood; now he is Robin of Huntingdon, one of the most powerful earls in England.

Sir Roger of Doncaster, an enemy from Robin's crusading days, is back in England and determined to take Huntingdon for his own. Caught in a desperate struggle for survival, Robin's only solace is Will Scathelock, the man he has loved and resisted for years. Surrendering would be easy, but the stakes have never been higher. Roger has the might of King John behind him, and he will not rest until Robin is dead. Win or lose, Robin's life will never be the same.

Outlaw’s Legacy, an incredible journey
by N.B. Dixon

Now the release date for Earl of Huntingdon is finally here, I look back over the last six years and the truly amazing journey that has been the Outlaw’s Legacy Series.

I’ve loved the Robin Hood legend ever since I was a little girl. In fact, I love all folklore—Troy, King Arthur etc, but none of those stories grabbed my imagination the way Robin Hood did. I also love medieval English history, so really it was inevitable I would write my own version of the famous outlaw’s exploits someday. But how to make my version different from all the others out there? How to keep readers engaged enough that they wouldn’t simply dismiss the series as a story they’d already overdosed on and knew by heart. That was the challenge.

Two things intrigued me at the outset: the gaps in the existing legend, and homosexuality in medieval England. The original story of Robin Hood is told in a series of ballads. They disagree on various points. The earliest ballads have Robin as a peasant or yeoman. They are set during the reign of King Edward II rather than the more popular version, which takes place during the reign of Richard I. In this version, Robin is a nobleman who returns from fighting abroad to find his lands stolen. This was not an uncommon occurrence. Many a knight returned home only to find his lands taken over by enterprising neighbours, and were often forced to turn to outlawry in order to survive. But while this was common, Robin’s reaction isn’t. An outlaw’s main concern would naturally have been his own survival. He would not have been overly concerned with helping the poor, so what made Robin different? It’s been argued that this story was just a very clever piece of propaganda. Give the underdogs a hero to believe in, who sympathised with their plight and fought back against the wicked government. It still resonates with people today.

I opted to go with this version of the story, but I was fascinated with what would have made Robin different from others of his station and time. He certainly would not have been brought up that way, so what shaped his thinking? So, Heir of Locksley, the first of the series, which shows Robin as a young boy and details the events that shape Robin into the man he would one day become. I enjoyed filling in this particular gap in the legend, which gives us next to nothing about Robin’s childhood, meaning I could give my imagination free reign.

With Knight of Sherwood, I was on more familiar ground, since that story covers what I like to think of as Robin’s outlaw years. I needed a new angle to keep readers interested, which was where the LGBT angle really helped. When anyone thinks of Robin, they think of his love, Lady Marian. However, Marian is not in the earliest stories. It’s just Robin and his men, and the devotion between them. It’s been suggested that there are sexual undertones in the stories, and I was intrigued. How would a teenager or young man deal with the fact that he was gay, or in Robin’s case, bisexual, since I wanted to explore his relationships with both men and women? In Robin’s day, homosexuality was regarded as unnatural and could be punished in a variety of ways, including death, so discovering you were gay was extremely dangerous. In my original story, Only Robin’s friend Will was gay and in love with Robin. I intended to write the usual Robin and Marian romance, but it just wasn’t working, probably because I’ve never liked Marian as she is portrayed in the legend. It was back to the drawing board. As an experiment, I tried writing a scene between Robin and Will, and the rest, as they say, is history. I went back to Heir of Locksley and did some rewrites, but I really got to explore the theme properly in Knight of Sherwood. I also got to re-invent Marian’s character, and I think in the end, I enjoyed writing her the most.

So to Earl of Huntingdon. All the books involved research. One highlight was being put in the stocks so I’d know what it was like, but I faced the greatest challenge with this final book. The story mainly centres around a siege, and is filling in yet another gap in the legend, what did Robin do after, as we are told, he is pardoned by the King? The biggest problem was separating Hollywood battle tactics from genuine tactics of the time. For instance, despite what Hollywood claims, boiling oil was rarely used during a castle siege as it was expensive and hard to come by. I’m deeply indebted to English Heritage for their assistance. I wanted to make this series as authentic as possible, while also providing entertainment to my readers. It’s always a fine balancing act between historical accuracy and not sounding like you’re writing a textbook. I’m hoping I found that balance and that people will love reading the Outlaw’s Legacy Series as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

4.5 Stars!

Earl of Huntingdon is the last installment in the Outlaw's Legacy series by N.B. Dixon and wow, it has been quite a journey! This series needs to be read in order and it's a retelling of the legend of Robin Hood from his birth until his 'death' with a MM twist.

While I enjoyed the previous two books, this one was the one that finally gave me what I've been wanting, more of Robin/Will together after overcoming all the obstacles life and others had placed in their way. The sex scenes weren't especially detailed, but I could feel the chemistry between Robin and Will (and which had been lacking before) in the little touches, the camaraderie and even the looks they exchanged.

The book is told from several perspectives, so we get a broader view into what's going on, which is great in a book such as this one. There are so many things happening and every single detail, every single scene was important for that final outcome. I don't want to spoil the story for you, but let's just say that Ms. Dixon did an outstanding job at not leaving any plot points without resolution, bringing it all to a head in a masterful way.

The detail and obvious research put into the fight scenes made them very realistic and the language and descriptions set the mood to lose myself in this engrossing tale and become invested in not only Robin and Will, but in the other characters as well, even Lady Marian, who I didn't particularly like.

If you're a Robin Hood fan, or love books with adventure, I have no trouble recommending this series. The writing was top-notch, detailed and action-packed, I would've liked the main romance to play a bigger part in the story, but I was satisfied with the overall result.

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

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