Bound By Honor, is the time old tale of Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Prince John, and the Sheriff of Nottingham with a fresh twist. Told primarily from Marian's perspective, Gale begins the odd and seductive dance between Robin, Marian, and Will (our Sheriff of Nottingham), triangulating the characters ably. (I would throw Prince John into the mix...but I'm not sure "quadrangulating" could pass for a real word....lol)
Sent to the court of Prince John by Queen Eleanor as a spy, Marian is thrust into a world of court intrigue more dangerous and costly than she imagined. Immediately, she is caught between the playful persual of Robin Hood, the outlaw, and the provocative protection of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who seeks to keep Lady Marian from the clutches of the vile Prince John. As Marian maneuvers in the court, she begins to see something more behind the cold, uncaring facade the Sheriff projects, while realizing how tenuous her situation is in Prince John's domain. Gale adds in a few supporting characters mostly as fodder for Robin's philandering, or additional bodies for Prince John's "Court of Pleasure", with none worthy of an honorable mention.
Will's character is intriguing and I absolutely adored the idea of the Sheriff of Nottingham as a rival love interest. Gale nicely created a character I hated to love, but did, and loved to hate. Purposefully, I suppose, Gale wrote Robin Hood as a playboy adventurer, which highlighted the greater masculinity of the Sheriff. Terrific! Not so terrific is Gale's Prince John, a cruel, sexual deviant and possible psychopath whose blackness stains every other page of the novel. The idea of Prince John being the above named things isn't what irritates - we need a truly bad man to be the antithesis to our hero, however, Gale gave Prince John and his wretched behavior far too much attention. Unfortunately, this decision took quite possibly the best idea I've heard of for a romance novel and reduced it to a mere backdrop for Prince John's carnal carnival.
Recommendation: ** _ _ _ (two out of five stars)
I'll Never Be Able To See That King John in Disney's Robin Hood The Same Way Again
The idea for the story of Bound By Honor is fantastic; I wish I had thought of it. The original story of Robin Hood isn't one of romance, primarily. Maid Marian is certainly part of the story, but love and sex aren't the focus. To decide to transform the story into erotica is pure genius. Unfortunately, that seems to have been the last stroke of genius Gale had concerning Bound By Honor.
She makes some extraordinarily poor choices in her characterization of all the main characters. None of them work on any level. Maid Marian is a recent widow, having lost her exceedingly old and unsexy husband, and she seems quite unsexy herself. That's just not erotic. Robin Hood is something akin to a teenage boy of 18 or 19: he flits from female to female and has absolutely no substance at all, sexually or otherwise. Will, the Sheriff of Nottingham, is Gale's best attempt at an erotic character, but he is overshadowed at almost every turn by her characterization of King John. He is a superfreak. He likes to inflict pain on others, particularly women, and his deviance seems to know no bounds (no pun intended). And Gale spends far too much of the book inflicting him on the reader.
There can be something quite erotic about deviance in erotica, if it's handled correctly. (Moira and I might part ways on this particular idea, but I think if S&M is written well, it can be incredibly erotic.) However, the sexual deviant must be appealing outside of his or her deviance. This is key. Whether the character is incredibly handsome/beautiful, rakish, or intelligent, something other than simply being a freak must be present. This is not the case in Bound By Honor. King John is not appealing on any level. He is physically and psychologically one of the most repellent characters I've read. His deviance isn't sexy; it's simply aberrant. This is why it doesn't work.
Bound By Honor could have been an incredible erotic story. Anne Rice understood that fairy tales have the potential for smoking hot sex. Her Erotic Sleeping Beauty Trilogy is steamy times ten! If you want to read those old children's tales with a sexy, wild twist, give her stories a try. Avoid Bound By Honor. It simply leaves you wishing for more and wishing for so much less at the same time.