Come ride the Scottish hills with highwayman Dougal MacRae, in Devil Black. Follow in the footsteps of Robin Hood with Wren in Daughter of Sherwood. Feel the magic deepen with Wren's daughter, Linnet, in Champion of Sherwood. Travel to Celtic Ireland with the young warrior, Banadh, and learn how to listen for the music of The God's Song. Fight for love with Creghan, battling on The Shadow Ground. Follow the magical lure of ancient music with Trelagh, in The Waking Dream. Live the life of a mystical Highland Seer with Siula, in The War Raven.
I'm celebrating the World Wide Release of Champion of Sherwood on April 23, 2014 with this exclusive post about how I wrote the book:
A KNIGHT IN SHERWOOD FOREST
Most of us are familiar with the legend of Robin Hood. It’s filled with daring rescues, valiant acts of courage and defiance of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s unjust laws. It pits the Saxon peasantry against their Norman overlords in a classic battle of good versus evil – evil in this case being represented unabashedly by the Normans.
When I began Daughter of Sherwood, the first book of my Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy, I accepted that premise whole. Not wishing to reinterpret the original legend, I set my tale well after Robin’s death and focused on the Saxons’ continued fight, led by Robin’s daughter, Wren. My Norman characters displayed all the cruelty and arrogance you might expect.
But when it came time to write the second book of the Trilogy – my new release, Champion of Sherwood – I began to wonder. My characters are rarely just “characters” to me. Once I birth them, they tend to take up personalities, opinions and even lives of their own. They write – or, in the case of the illiterate, tell – their own stories and are rarely simplistic or one-dimensional. This made me see that the line between black and white – or Norman and Saxon – might not be as clear as it first seemed.
What if, I asked myself, I introduced into my Sherwood a sympathetic Norman figure, one capable of bridging the distance between Norman and Saxon, perhaps for the sake of love? What if, through him, we were able to see the vulnerabilities, heart and human kindness usually reserved only for the “good” guys? Thus was born Gareth de Vavasour, a young knight just proven and on his way to his first post in Nottingham –nephew to the Sheriff of Nottingham, no less. Captured by outlaws, wounded and held for ransom, Gareth has no reason to think kindly of those who hold him, yet something in the gentleness of the young Saxon healer, Linnet, touches him on a level too profound for him to comprehend.
The path to happiness is rarely easy for star-crossed lovers (otherwise, we’d find more than a few romance books awfully boring) and Gareth must prove himself many times before he wins his prize. But when he declares he’s willing to sacrifice himself for the woman he loves, he discovers that sometimes the spirits of Sherwood choose to defend an unexpected hero.
What do you think? Do you like a story with an unexpected hero? Do you believe an assumed enemy can redeem himself? Gareth and I invite you to Sherwood, to see for yourself!
Laura Strickland books, where legend comes to life!
The legend of Robin Hood's descendants continues with Champion of Sherwood: The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy Book Two! Available now at: http://www.amazon.com/Champion-Sherwood-Guardians-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00HJEHOFE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393431017&sr=8-1&keywords=champion+of+sherwood
When Gareth de Vavasour, nephew of the Sheriff of Nottingham, is captured by the outlaws of Sherwood Forest and held for ransom, he knows he will be fortunate to escape with his life. Amid the magic and danger that surround him, he soon realizes his true peril lies in the beautiful dark eyes of Linnet, the Saxon healer sent to tend his wounds.
Granddaughter of Robin Hood, Linnet has always known she is destined to become a guardian of Sherwood Forest, along with her sister and a close childhood companion. She believes her life well settled until the arrival of Gareth. Then all her loyalties are tested even as her heart is forced to choose between love and the ties of duty, while Sherwood declares its own champion.
DAUGHTER OF SHERWOOD: THE GUARDIANS OF SHERWOOD BOOK ONE is now available in ebook or print format from Amazon or from The Wild Rose Press!
DEVIL BLACK is now available in paperback as well as a digital download from the publisher, The Wild Rose Press at:
Also at Amazon:
Disgraced in her father’s eyes, Isobel Maitland travels to Scotland, determined to purchase her sister’s happiness at the cost of her own. But when her coach is held up and she is abducted by a dangerous highwayman, she faces an unexpected choice: suffer the loveless union to which she has resigned herself, or marry this ruthless, Scottish outlaw who can ignite her desire with a single touch.
They call him Diabhal Dubh – Devil Black – and he spends his days terrorizing the countryside, trying to outdistance the memories that torture him. The King has decreed he must settle and take a wife. And when he steals the alluring woman betrothed to his enemy, Dougal MacRae sees a way to both answer the King’s demand and obtain the revenge he has sought so long …
THE GOD'S SONG:
In pre-Christian Ireland, young Banadh of Bragh enters his first great battle at the side of his best friend and spear brother, Creghan. Having trained exclusively for this moment, he feels no fear, only the desire for glory. But as he is about to slay his first opponent, the great battlefield goes suddenly still. A man materializes from the mist at the edge of the river and tells Banadh he must lay aside his weapons. Thinking it a wild enchantment, Banadh tries to resisit, and his subsequent hesitation costs Creghan's life. Banadh is branded a coward and traitor by everyone who once cared for him.
Turned away by his foster-father and disowned by his family, Banadh travels throughout Erin, Wales and Gaul, eventually discovering that the "man" who appeared to him on the battlefield was in fact Lir, the god of the sea. Unsure what the god wants from him, he nevertheless embarks on a spiritual journey of self discovery encompassing the lessons lent by an aging druid, the love given him by Creghan's sister, Mohrna, terrible betrayal, slavery, and tangled loyalties into eventual enlightenment. He learns to trust those whom he once feared, to value what cannot be seen, and that the song given by the god never dies, but is carried in the heart.
THE SHADOW GROUND:
The Shadow Ground is the place where wonder meets fear, and the flickering succession of light and darkness deceives the eyes. In a time when gods and men share the earth, legends abound, and mythical islands come and go in the mist of the Celtic Sea, a young man must discover the one truth that will change the past so that he may ransom the future.
Following a bitter argument with his brother, Creghan leaves his home on Erin’s east coast, vowing never to return. Forced to take up the life of a mercenary, he enters the service of The Ban, a mysterious warrior queen, who trains him to join her company of elite warriors. She bestows upon him an ancient sword – the Duir – which, Creghan discovers, can transport him back to another time when he was the sole, surviving protector of a young priestess, to whom he gave his heart.
The Ban tells Creghan that in order to reclaim his love, he must overcome illusion and learn to look beyond the shadows that blind his eyes. Throughout the dangers he must face in his present life – the defense of two young, dispossessed women, the battle fought on behalf of his sister’s husband, a contest with the sea raider, Adderle, and even the ire of a wild man armed with an axe – he continues to journey back to the past, hoping that in the spaces between the shadows he may see the truth.
THE WAKING DREAM:
When she is sent to Alba (ancient Scotland) to fulfill a marriage agreement made in her youth, Trelagh Mahon discovers her new husband, Colain, is a brutal man who despises her and has agreed to marry her only to please his father. Cold and merciless, he demands her absolute obedience and schemes to cripple her independent spirit. Trelagh is despairing, but unsurprised. In her experience, the gods have never smiled upon her – not, at least, until the moment she first laid eyes on her new husband’s half-brother, Gabhan, gifted harper and son of a Pictish slave.
Trelagh finds favor with Colain’s father, the powerful Chief Kintire, but she knows even his affection will not protect her if Colain discovers the growing relationship between herself and Gabhan, whom he denounces as a bastard usurper. When at last Colain’s abuse becomes unbearable, Trelagh and Gabhan flee together and take refuge with his Pictish relations in the beautiful glen above Loch Sule. Gabhan is content to stay there and take up his inheritance but Trelagh, feeling she does not belong, becomes restless. For her sake, Gabhan agrees to move on, and Trelagh has only herself to blame when Colain at last hunts them down, and her world is rent asunder.
Trelagh is hauled back to Kintire where she emerges from her darkness only to discover she is carrying Gabhan’s child which Colain, enraged, threatens. With help from Colain’s brother, Druan, she manages to escape, only to be forced to take refuge with the same Pictish tribe she had persuaded Gabhan to leave.
Years pass, but Trelagh’s contest against Colain is not done. Kintire warriors, hungry for land, bring war from the west. Trelagh, now fighting with the Pictish, finds herself defending Glen Sule. But Colain’s campaign is powerful; all will be lost unless the Picts can enlist the aid of the mysterious northern chief called the Gray Man. Still, the gods refuse to smile. At last, captured and nearly broken, Trelagh must weigh her faith and face her greatest fears: Colain’s hatred, and the possible loss of a life far more precious to her than her own.
THE WAR RAVEN:
When Siula is captured in a brutal raid by Celtic warriors, she is sustained only by the comfort that comes to her through her dreams of the war raven. Like her ability as a Seer, awareness of the raven is something she has known all her life.
But even that comfort cannot sustain her when she is claimed as the spoils of war by Aidan MacKintire, who is engaged in a desperate struggle for control of his clan. He represents everything Siula fears and distrusts about the Celtic warriors who have devastated her tribe: ambitious, single-minded and merciless. Why is it, then, that when she looks into his silver eyes, she sees the soul of the war raven?
Author Laura Strickland's dog, Shannon, at the Tonawanda Folk Festival: