Crown, Apr 2004, 23.95, 307 pp.
Born an orphan and a ward of King Richard the Lionhearted, wealthy Lady Marian Fitzwater is married to Hugh of Sencaster when she is five. When she turns seventeen, he dies under mysterious circumstances turning her into a widowed virgin as they never consummated their marriage. Richard's mother Queen Eleanor and Marian's mother-in-law Lady Pernelle agree the lass must marry the latter's second son Sir Stephen as her valuable lands and wealth is up for grabs.
However, Marian is no longer a preadolescent so she decides to take her fate into her own hands rather than another ill-conceived marriage forged by plotting females who care not one iota about her. She procures the help of Robin Hood and his band of merry outlaws. Marian realizes that once Stephen gains her estates her life is forfeit. As they fall in love, Robin abets Marian's escape from a deadly trek down the aisle of matrimony, but the royals are coming as she is too valuable of a property to allow outlaws to stand in the way.
MAID MARIAN is an exciting rendition of the legendary tale starring two fabulous protagonists and several fascinating antagonists. The story line is at its best surprisingly in the royal courts as plotting and scheming by designing women showcase an era of court intrigue that would make Machiavelli proud. The Sherwood scenes are also interesting, but do turn a bit syrupy (I kept hearing Jane Froman singing). Still this medieval saga is a terrific rendition of the classic Marian-Robin romantic suspense.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner