The mysterious Cloaked Bandit lives in the forest of Wessex, robbing its nobility to feed peasants displaced when the current Lord usurped the lands. Now he combs the forest seeking the identity of the Bandit, unaware that in fact, she is the rightful heir to Wessex.
When the Cloaked Bandit robs a neighboring noble, Lord Collin recognizes the girl as his childhood friend. Concerned for her safety, he convinces her to stay a week in his home, far away from Lord Wessex’s soldiers. As he learns the terrible truths that led to Juliana’s impoverished circumstances, he vows to do something to help her. Her compassion for the poor moves him, and the injustice of her father’s death stirs him to outrage. But before Collin can enact a plan to right the wrongs in Juliana’s life, she slips away, her feelings for him suddenly more than she can bear. Collin pursues her, but if Lord Wessex finds her before Collin does, his love will be lost forever.
I liked the Robin Hood-ish element of the Cloaked Bandit, and the way Juliana’s band of thieves operates like a family. Fans of the series will remember Lord Collin as one of the three knights who competed for Lady Rosemarie’s hand in marriage. I enjoyed the fact that this story followed him, but I found it difficult to connect with his character. He spent a lot of time obsessing about Juliana’s or his sister’s feelings. I wanted to feel more of the warrior-knight in him, and that stronger side didn’t show until very late in the story. I also found his flippant attitude about his wealth to be a bit strange. It was okay that he started out feeling that way, but I guess I wanted to see more maturity emerge on that front? I don’t know.
Romance dominates this medieval tale. I lost track of how many times Collin or Juliana experienced butterflies in their bellies over being near each other. I had a hard time really buying into exactly why they felt this powerful attraction toward each other. It seemed like the physical attraction overshadowed the development of their relationship. It’s definitely one of those swoony, sweet stories, which is great. I think I just wanted a little more bite or something to balance out that sweetness.
If you like Melanie Dickerson’s medieval fairy tale novels, you’ll want to check out this series by Jody Hedlund. Though A Daring Sacrifice isn’t a true retelling of the story of Robin Hood, it definitely has some similarities. If you’ve already read and enjoyed A Daring Sacrifice, and you’re looking for another story with a bit of a feminist spin on Robin Hood, try Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Lots of description of tingling hands and fluttering tummies when Juliana and Collin are in close proximity to each other. A few kisses. At a midnight picnic (with a chaperone) a man places his head in a lady’s lap.
Juliana wrestles with the morality of her life as a thief. She knows her father raised her to do right, and that stealing is wrong. She looks for the courage to find another way to stand against her uncle. She prays in times of need. One young woman ends the story shaken and disillusioned about love and marriage. She joins a convent.
Juliana recalls finding pieces of her father’s body after her uncle tortured him to death. Not a lot of gory detail, but even the straight descriptions are pretty harsh. Something about a young girl finding her father’s body in pieces just can’t be anything other than disturbing to me, no matter how few details there are beyond that. Juliana’s uncle captures a young thief and tortures him in an attempt to find the location of the Cloaked Bandit. The boy suffers broken bones and having his nails removed. The torture itself isn’t described, only his injuries afterward.
Juliana’s uncle arranges to have a young woman burned to death. Later, he arranges to have a man tortured to death.
Juliana describes the servant uprising that led to her father’s death. Collin describes another battle in which soldiers and civilians are injured or killed.
Servants give ale and wine to guests at a dinner party. Collin and Juliana both drink ale.