Reivew: Royal Rebel

Title: Royal Rebel
Author: Dana Taylor
Format: E-book

I am an enormous fan of Robin Hood–both the original legends/poetry and modern retellings. I had previously read a genderbent Robin Hood novel–Ronin: Lsdy of Legend by R.M. ArceJaeger, which I really enjoyed, and I was hoping to find another adventurous and updated take when I bought Royal Rebel. I was sadly disappointed.

The following is the blurb, on the strength of which I bought this ebook:

Courageous, captivating, cunning—the Royal Rebel leads her band of freedom fighters against the tyranny of Prince John. Inspired by the classic Errol Flynn film “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Royal Rebel” twists a beloved legend with humor, whimsical imagination, and romance. Winner of the “Great Expectations” and “Gotcha” contests of the Romance Writers of America.

That paragraph is more interesting, coherent, and better edited than this novel. Instead of a ‘captiving’ or ‘cunning’ heroine, the eponymous Robin is a spoiled, hot-tempered woman-child who never stops to consider the consequences of her actions. It is pounded into our heads time and time again that it is remarkable for her to have assembled her band of youth into a fighting force, and indeed it does seem nigh on miraculous; not, however, because she is a woman, as the book takes pains to state every two paragraphs, but because she is such a reckless idiot that it’s a wonder her followers didn’t mutiny after one of her many catastrophic decisions.

Robin’s love interest, Sir Simon of Loxley, is even worse. When he is introduced, the narrative both shows and tells the reader what an arrogant, insufferable misogynist he is. The reader wonders how Taylor will write his growth as a character such that Robin will actually fall in love with him. Short answer? She doesn’t. Both characters fall in love in spite of their dislike of each other, mostly due to their unrestrainable lust (which culminates in several rather boring sex scenes), which makes them want to bone so much that they can overlook each other’s faults. At the end of the novel, Sir Simon is pretty much as arrogant and insufferable as ever, and he makes it a point to tell Robin at their wedding that ‘a wife obeys her husband’. Charming sentiment.

That brings me to my third gripe with this novel: despite the sex scenes, I looked up halfway through the story and said ‘This is an author who normally writes Christian novels.’ It’s not that characters pray to God and have their questions answered or their fears assuaged; it’s the sudden Complementarianism that rears its head once Robin and Simon start falling in lust. I don’t have a problem with Christianity at all, but Complementarianism (that posits that wives should submit to their husbands and men are appointed by God to be the head of their families) bugs the heck out of me, and Complementarianism in a book where I was not led to expect it by the cover, blurb, or any other descriptor makes me all tetchy. I was expecting romance (and am in fact a semi-regular reader of Harlequin novels, so I have no problems with it), and was prepared for purple prosey sex scenes, which happen in better novels, but the fact that the sex was so heavily focused on had lead me to expect a more secular (or at least a less fundamental) romantic plot line. Taylor skirts the problem of premarital sex (despite her characters having it) by having them pledge to belong to one another from that night on (and thus sort of marry themselves, in a way). Ultimately, the romance in this novel was badly-written, shoehorned in, and felt wildly out of character.

To top it all off, one would expect a Robin Hood novel, even if billed as a romance, to contain compelling scenes of action and many acts of derring-do, but there are probably less actions than sex scenes, and those that are there are uninspiring and lack any actual suspense, and consist of full-on duels or tumbling down mountains rather than woodland guerilla ambushes or longbows. Some of the action is either completely unexplained or isn’t even shown on the page, being mentioned by a character later on, and what is shown explicitly makes the characters seem like even bigger idiots.

Overall, despite a few cool ideas and some off-the-wall humor that works because it’s so bizarre and unexpected, this novel fails on pretty much all its fronts as either a romance, an adventure novel, or a story about Robin Hood. I’d encourage any readers to opt for the superior Robin: Lady of Legend, which is entertaining and doesn’t make you want to drown its characters.

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