Thursday, January 29, 2015

Best Viking Romances!

Every now and then I love a good Viking Romance. Not fantasy, not paranormal, just straight up historical romance from the time of the raiding Norse warriors. There’s nothing like a Viking raid and a strapping tall warrior to get your blood boiling, right? Well, of course, it must be well done and we want a strong heroine to give the guy a hard time. And a little history thrown in doesn’t hurt either. If you like ‘em, here’s a list of those I’ve rated 4 and 5 stars!

·       Blind Allegiance and Blind Mercy by Violetta Rand
·       Dawnfire by Lynn Erickson
·       Dream of Me, Believe in Me and Come Back to Me, trilogy by Josie Litton
·       Edin’s Embrace by Nadine Crenshaw
·       Fires of Winter, Hearts Aflame and Surrender My Love, trilogy by Johanna Lindsey
·       Forbidden Passion by Theresa Scott
·       Golden Surrender, The Viking’s Woman and Lord of the Wolves, trilogy by Heather Graham
·       Season of the Sun, Lord of Hawkfell Island and Lord of Raven’s Peak by Catherine Coulter
·       Maidensong by Diana Groe
·       Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle
·       Northward the Heart by Maureen Kurr
·       Odin’s Shadow by Erin Riley
·       Raeliksen, Mac Liam and The Temperate Warrior by Renee Vincent
·       Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri
·       Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson
·       The Bewitched Viking by Sandra Hill
·       The Deepening Night by Jayne Castel (7th century Britain, but no Vikings)
·       The Enchantment (first published as My Warrior’s Heart) by Betina Krahn
·       The Pagan’s Prize by Miriam Minger 
·       The Viking’s Defiant Bride by Joanna Fulford
·       The Viking’s Sacrifice by Julia Knight
·       Twin Passions by Miriam Minger
·       Viking Captive by Emma Merritt
·       Viking Gold by Nadine Crenshaw
·       Viking Passion by Flora Speer
·       Viking Rose by Ashland Price
·       Viking Sword: The Stranded One by Mairi Norris

Let me know if I’ve missed one you love! I know there are good ones out there and I am always looking for a great Viking romance.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Review: Heather Graham’s LORD OF THE WOLVES – Great Viking Romance!

This is the third in Graham's excellent Viking trilogy. Set in 9th century Ireland (Eire), England and the north coast of France, the trilogy tells the stories of Prince Olaf of Norway, the first Lord of the Wolves, and his bride, Princess Erin, daughter of the Irish High King, the Ard-Righ of Tara and their descendants.

I warn you that the Viking men in this series are strong willed, arrogant and domineering and those in the last two books are half Irish. Their loves are independent, stubborn and courageous women who have lost much and still can fight with the best of the men. They have no intention of allowing a Viking male who has taken everything from them to dominate them. But then wolves and the cubs of wolves mate for life or so says the druid who is advisor to the Irish king's family--and these men are wolves. Each of the marriages is arranged over the objection of the females who fight the husbands laying claim to their lands and to them.

This third in the series tells the story of Olaf and Erin's son, Conar, who like his father is known as the Lord of the Wolves for he has been great in battle, and Countess Melisande whose castle lies on the north coast of France. Melisande's father, Count Manon, a virile and handsome man, loves his daughter deeply and takes pride in her beauty, her intelligence and her independence. At nearly 13, he knows her growing beauty and her vulnerability as Countess will require that she must one day wed and he's been surveying worthy candidates for the eventual day. With such a purpose in mind, he invites the Wolf's son, Conar, from Eire (Ireland) who he's been impressed with before, to visit his lands in France and meet Melisande. He will not force her to consider him if she doesn't like him, however.

Conar arrives just as the Count is slain by a neighbor who covets his daughter and his lands. With the Count's men now leaderless, and believing Conar will protect their lands, they decide Melisande must marry Conar (though the marriage cannot be consummated for many years). Melisande, who takes an instant dislike to the arrogant and demanding Viking, is forced into the marriage. Conar is only willing to marry the difficult child to get the lands. Once wed (in a hasty ceremony), he sends her away to Ireland to his sister who is a nun so she can grow up. His family falls in love with her and many years later he decides to come for her. But she has escaped to his brother, Eric, who is in England. She has no intention of being Conar's wife in truth. She wants an annulment. But Conar will "never" let her go.

Conar gave his body to his mistresses and his mind and heart to his family and his rune reader, the lovely blonde Brenna. So it was a bit hard to see how he could love Melisande, It does come together in the end. It’s a worthy installment in the series, and as always, Graham delivers a good tale. She can create tension between a couple, that’s for sure.

The Viking Trilogy:


Sunday, January 25, 2015

New Review: Valerie Vayle’s ORIANA – Wonderful Story of Love Deferred

Set in England, Scotland and the Caribbean, beginning in 1709 (and going to 1713), this is the story of Oriana, the daughter of a Norwegian princess and a savvy English sheep farmer on the border of Scotland (near Hadrian’s Wall) who went into the shipping business to transport his wool. When his son disappeared in the port of Calais, he raised his daughter to take the son’s place. And Oriana thrived in the world of ships and sheep, dressing more like her brother than the young lady she was.

Oriana loved only one man, Gaerith Treig, a Scottish neighbor and fellow sheep farmer who plays bagpipes and makes her laugh, but who is unfortunately locked into a loveless marriage. His wife is a jealous harridan who is slowly going mad. One night when Gaerith and Oriana are at sea, she gives herself to him, and for him she wants to become a lady. On a trip to the Caribbean, she gets the chance to be made over in appearance (with some help from heroines of books 1 and 2 in the trilogy) and she takes it. Still courageous, intelligent and independent (my favorite kind of heroine), Oriana is now a woman men drool over.

The story drew me in from the beginning and held my attention through its many twists and turns. It has great depth and detail. There are some great action scenes, wonderful characters and funny episodes as the women try to make tomboy Oriana into a lady. Althea, the “auntie” who takes Oriana under her wing, is priceless.

Oriana is a very worthy heroine, taking initiative, rising to every challenge and caring unselfishly for others. Gaerith is noble at heart and constant in his love for Oriana. There is history, too—of a tumultuous time in Scotland’s past (Rob Roy is a character). And all the twists and turns are neatly tied up in the end.

Hadrian's wall near Carlisle where much of the story is set

It’s well written and a pleasure to read. I recommend reading the trilogy in order as some of the characters reappear in this last book.

The Pirate trilogy:


Friday, January 23, 2015

New Review: Renee Vincent’s THE TEMPERATE WARRIOR – First in the Warrior Saga: Gustaf’s Story

This book is related to Vincent’s Emerald Isle trilogy of Viking stories. It’s book 1 in the Warrior Sagas. For those who anxiously waited for Gustaf’s story, now you have it. He’s the Viking warrior who is the older brother of Daegan, the hero in RAELIKSEN.

Set in 923 AD, it tells the story of Gustaf and Aesa, who first met in MAC LIAM, book 2 in the Emerald Isle trilogy. For 23 years, Gustaf has hunted and killed the ten men who killed his father on orders from the King of Norway. He located one of the murderers on Iceland and stole from him a redheaded woman, Aesa, who was a sex slave from the age of 14 when she was first captured. Kept as a thrall, but now freed by Gustaf, she calls him her “temperate warrior.”

Finally Gustaf and his men have completed their mission and can settle down. While Gustaf would be content with his Aesa, there are evil men he must still deal with for her to be safe.

Vincent writes well and has obviously done her research to accurately describe the culture of the Norsemen. You’ll enjoy this well written continuation of the story, though I do think you’ll find the second half more exciting than he first with some excellent fight scenes. (The first has quite a few steamy love scenes as Gustaf and Aesa reunite after a separation.) As always, there are side stories, and even a side romance for one of Gustaf’s warriors.

For the beginning of the romance between Gustaf and Aesa you’ll need to read MAC LIAM. And to understand that one, you’ll have to first read RAELIKSEN. Good stories all!

THE WARRIOR'S CAPTIVE, Book 2 in The Warrior Sagas is, we’re told, coming soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

And the winner is...

Thanks to all who commented on Jayne's fascinating post about setting romances in Anglo-Saxon England!

We have a winner: Janice Hougland!

Congratulations, Janice. Jayne will be gifting you the book from Amazon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guest Blogger Jayne Castel, author of Anglo-Saxon Romances

Welcome with me today Jayne Castel, author of romances set in Anglo-Saxon England, who is coming to us from New Zealand. Do comment on her post (and leave your email) to be entered to win her book The Deepening Night!

After studying Old English language and Medieval English history at University, she developed a passion for the history, culture and language of Anglo-Saxon England. She loves setting historical romance in this vibrant, gritty era. Her Kingdom Of The East Angles series, set in 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England, spans a decade and the reigns of three kings: Raedwald, Sigeberht and Annan (Dark Under Cover of Night, Nightfall till Daybreak and The Deepening Night.) I’ve asked her to join us to talk about that time in England’s history.

Bringing Anglo-Saxon England to Romance

Anglo-Saxon England (from around 400 A.D. to 1066 A.D.) is a challenging era in which to set a historical romance. Many people imagine it was a brutal time, when men were warriors, life was cheap and women were nothing more than property.
While there is some truth to that, it was also a period that experienced a rich, vibrant culture.

My romances are set in 7th century A.D. This was a time of great change. Kingdoms rose and fell: Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia all battled for dominance. It was also largely pagan. Christianity started to make inroads in the early 600s, but most people worshiped the old gods like Woden and Thor.

The Anglo-Saxons had a fatalistic view of the world. To them, it was fate - or wyrd - that dictated who would live, and who would die. This was a world dominated by blood feuds and battles. Read any of the literature of the time, The Wanderer or Beowulf, and you will notice just how dominant the role of fate is. The message is clear: whatever your doom is, you can't escape it. As the famous quote from the Anglo-Saxon poem, The Wanderer states: "Wyrd bið ful aræd" – Fate is everything.

War also dominated, but so did notions of valor, honor and kinship. Women were the property of men (that didn’t end with the Anglo-Saxon era), but they were also strong. War and death were a way of life, not just a part of it. This time in Britain’s history was before the times of courtly love, and knights and ladies. Even highborn women had to be tough to survive.

You can probably tell by now that I love writing novels set in this period!

My novels are about warriors – most men were warriors in Anglo-Saxon England, even those who worked the land had to learn how to defend it – and strong-willed women.

My hero in The Deepening Night, Annan of the East Angles, is a true Anglo-Saxon warrior. Based on an actual historical figure, Annan was one of the last kings of the great Wuffinga dynasty.

Click for Amazon

Here are a few facts about this hero and the history surrounding his rule:

● Annan of the East Angles ruled from around 636 – 653 A.D. I have taken some ‘author’s license’ with the dates – since this story takes place in 630 A.D., I have shifted Annan’s time line slightly.
● Annan’s real name was Anna – which I altered slightly for my readers’ benefit.
● In my story, it was Annan who ‘bent the knee’ to Penda, the warmongering Mercian King – however, historically, it was Annan’s brother, Aethelhere who did so.

● The last half of the novel is centered on Devil’s Dyke; a ditch and bank defense, which the East Angles built to defend their kingdom from the Mercians. Set in the heart of rural Cambridgeshire, Devil’s Dyke is often described as Britain’s finest Anglo-Saxon earthwork of its kind – and it’s certainly one of the best surviving. There are historical records of King Anna of the East Angles spending time in Exning, possibly overseeing work on the dyke.

The storylines of all my novels are built around actual historical figures and events; even if the love story itself is fiction. The closer I get to history – the stronger the plot!

Do you enjoy reading romances set in Anglo-Saxon period? If you do, comment below and tell me why, and you will be entered to win a copy of the eBook of The Deepening Night!

Keep up with Jayne at her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Review: Sandra Hill’s THE BEWITCHED VIKING – Unusual, Clever, Whimsical Viking Tale

This was my first by Sandra Hill. I had been putting off reading one of her stories since I learned most are fantasies. (I prefer straight historical romance.) But then I got a list from her that told me which of those she’d written were not fantasy (see list below). While this one is not fantasy, it is fanciful. And witty, at times funny and, while not a serious historical romance and sometimes modern sounding, it is also very entertaining.

Set in 952 AD, this is the story of Tykir Thorksson, a wealthy Viking trader in amber, who is sent by the King of Birka (present day Sweden) to find a redheaded witch who, the king is certain, has cursed his male part. The target of Tykir’s quest, Lady Alinor of Yorkshire has been thrice widowed and is done with men. She prefers to be left alone with her sheep. But her two ridiculous brothers want to betroth her once again, this time to a fat man Tykir dubs the Lord of Lard.

Alinor denies she is a witch and resists going with Tykir, but he gives her no choice and so she and her dog and some of her sheep follow Tykir into Northumbria and eventurally to see the king. In a clever story, Tykir comes to believe she is a witch when things happen he cannot explain.

It took me a while to get used to Hill’s style as she begins each scene with a line that forecasts what you’ll see (I thought it was someone’s thinking but it’s the narrator), but eventually I got used to it and decided I rather liked that feature. She does manage to drop in some historically interesting tidbits so that I could see she knew her subject well and had done much research for her story. The proper place names are all there, too. The characters are wonderfully drawn and some quite funny. Bolthor the Skald comes to mind with his silly verses.

If you like witty, off beat historical romances with extended love scenes, this is a good one. I suppose all of Hill’s may be similar. I would read another of hers, particularly Rurik’s story (The Blue Viking).

The list of her Viking romances that Hill says are not fantasy:

The Tarnished Lady
The Bewitched Viking
The Blue Viking
A Tale of Two Vikings
Viking in Love
The Viking Takes a Knight
The Norse King's Daughter

Friday, January 16, 2015

New Review: Theresa Scott’s FORBIDDEN PASSION – Viking Tale with an Irish Hero

This one was recommended to me by a Goodreads friend who likes Viking romance. It’s my first by Scott.

Set in 10th century in Ireland and Greenland, this is the story of Yngveld Sveinsdatter whose father once contracted her to wed Ivar Wolfson of Dubh Linn. Since Yngveld lives in Greenland, Ivar sends his trusted Irish bodyguard, Thomas Lachlann, bastard son of Viking Lord Harald, to retrieve Yngveld. Meanwhile, Yngveld, whose father is dead, has no idea of the prior contract. Her biggest worry is avoiding marriage to a ruthless man in Greenland who wants her and her lands.

Thomas sails for Greenland only to have his ship seized by the same evil man who is after Yngveld. When she seeks a ship and a crew to escape to Norway where she has relatives, she purchases a ship and slaves to sail it, which turn out to be Thomas’s ship and he and his men. Ah, but Thomas has no intention of remaining a slave…

The story takes off and held my attention as Scott brought me into the Viking world, sailing on a Viking ship to Greenland. All that was to the good. And the hero and heroine are a worthy pair. I really liked Thomas. The middle of the book meandered a bit (at 441 pages, I really thought it a bit too long for the story), but the ending was exciting.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Review: Catherine Coulter’s LORD OF HAWKFELL ISLAND – Well Told Viking Tale from 10th Century Ireland

This is a part of Coulter’s Viking series and follows SEASON OF THE SUN though it is not related to it. Really, it seems this is the first in the “Viking lord” trilogy (see list below). Set in Ireland and an island off the coast of England in 910, this is the story of Mirana, a Viking woman who is abducted one night by her brother’s enemy, Rorik, Lord of Hawkfell. Rorik seeks vengeance for the death of his wife and children at the hand of Mirana’s brother, Einar. Once on Hawkfell Island, Mirana makes friends among the women and comes to see the island as home, but all is not well, and Einar still has plans for her.

Coulter has taken care to get the period right, including details of dress, food and dwellings. She has also created some wonderful characters, including a huge dog named Kerzog. The writing is well done and the plot has many satisfying twists and turns.

While Rorik’s actions toward Mirana were brutal at times (and the low ratings are just a reaction to that in my opinion), you have to remember this is a Viking romance, set in the times when women were chattel and many were taken in raids to be slaves. Then, too, Mirana, who Rorik is coming to care for, is the sister of his enemy who slayed his family. That these two could find love is definitely a story of second chances and love triumphing over many obstacles. Mirana’s brother, Einar is a real deviant who likes inflicting pain and cares for no one.

There is humor, action and a complex love story here. A worthy Viking tale. Coulter does not disappoint.

Viking Series


Monday, January 12, 2015

New Review: Jayne Castel’s THE DEEPENING NIGHT – Well Told Saga from 7th Century Britain

Note: Jayne Castel will be a guest on my blog on the 21st and will be offering a giveaway of this book to one lucky commenter so be sure and check in that day!

Castel has tackled an unusual period for historical romance…it’s early England. And it’s not Viking but it fits the period when Vikings were roaming afar. This is the third in her Anglo-Saxon series and it’s a well written tale of an arranged marriage between enemies.

Set in 630 AD Mercia in Britain, this is the story of Saewara, widowed from an abusive husband and wanting to take the veil but her brother, King Penda of Mercia, a cruel man, has betrothed her to Annan, the king of the East Angles, their enemy who Penda defeated in battle. Annan resents Saewara because he was forced to take her as a bride, depriving him of the woman he wanted, who is now married to his brother.

Castel does an excellent job of bringing this period in England to life with some real historic figures, including King Penda. Her characterizations were vivid and the story well told with much detail. And I like that it’s set in an unusual time in Britain’s history. I think you'll find this story compelling and enjoy the diversion to the 7th century!

Anglo-Saxon England series:


Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Review: Emma Merritt’s VIKING CAPTIVE – Engaging even if sometimes unlikely Viking Tale

Though no date is given, this story is likely set in the early 11th century when the Norse made voyages to the new world (the author’s note seemed to confirm this).

Kelda, Viking woman of the Norse and adopted daughter of Thoruald, one of their jarls, leads a mission to the new world to find her chief’s child, born nearly thirty years ago to an Iroquois woman Thoruald married and left behind when he sailed for home. (A half Norse boy, recently taken by the Vikings in a raid upon the new world, wears an arm band Thoruald gave his Indian wife and the Norse jarl believes the boy is his grandson, hence Kelda’s mission.) Upon their arrival, Kelda and her warriors are seized by the Iroquois who want vengeance for the last Viking raid two years ago.

Thoruald’s son, now Chief Brander of the Iroquois, wants nothing to do with his Nordic father or the Norsemen who killed his Iroquois wife and daughters before stealing his young son, but he will take the Viking woman Kelda as his slave for vengeance.

Merritt portrayed well the two cultures warring within Brander causing him great angst even as his Iroquois mother pleaded for him to embrace who he was. The heroine, however, was somewhat confusing. She could be smart and brave one minute and turn to mush the next.

Effectively raped by her captor (a forced seduction), our Viking heroine nevertheless decides Brander has “captured her heart.” While Kelda occasionally gets angry, those incidents seemed like minor fits compared to her overwhelming physical attraction for Brander. Still, she manages to hatch a plot that will bring all her warriors and Brander back to Norway.

Merritt has obviously done considerable research into the Viking way of life and did a great job of showing us the culture and travel on a Viking dragon ship. And the story was intriguing…a Viking encounter with the Iroquois Indians of the new world. All that was to the good. But some improbable moments and a heroine who at times lacked a backbone detracted.

Despite the negatives, I still found the story engaging, and for fans of Merritt, the detractions I noted may be insignificant. I am a fan of her work and she can certainly tell a good story.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Review: Penelope Neri’s SEA JEWEL – Enemies Can be Lovers, A Classic Viking Saga Superbly Told

Set in the late 9th century in Jutland (Denmark) and England, this is the story of Freya, daughter of Thorfast, Lord of Danehof, a powerful jarl, and Alaric, son of the high chieftain Aeldred, descendant of the kings of Kent in Britain, whose father and brothers were brutally murdered by Thorfast in a Viking raid.

When her father rejects her because she is not the son he wanted, Freya vows to become a warrior who will lead her father’s men a-Viking. Her guardian, Sven, the skald who sees visions tells her that she will be taken in a raid by a great bear. And so she is. Alaric, called the great Bear, now leads his people in Britain north of Wessex. He captures Freya and vows to make her his thrall (slave) and take his vengeance. Oh, yes, he does that (this is a bodice ripper). But in the process, Alaric discovers the Viking maid he has taken has captured his heart. What is he to do when he is betrothed to another, one more worthy of a Saxon thane?

Neri writes very well and weaves a complex story that kept me turning pages. This is a classic sage and covers several years in Freya’s life, first a jarl’s daughter and a warrior, then a slave who wins respect, then freed to wed a man she counted as friend and then to find her true home and her greatest love. There are wonderful secondary characters, richly drawn: Robin the skald, entertainer and spy; Sven who became like a father to Freya; and Ilse who Freya rescued, both to love the same man. And so many others.

Rich in historical detail based on much research into the era, Neri brings alive the 9th century and the villages of Denmark, Wessex and Danelaw in Britain. And it is so well done—simply superb storytelling.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Review: Nadine Crenshaw’s VIKING GOLD - The Gold Standard of Viking Romances!

This superbly written story will draw you in, I promise. This is one of the best Viking romances I have read. And very unusual in some respects.

A Norwegian princess, Aasa, the only daughter of Harold, a wealthy king, is 17 when the story opens. While promised to another, she meets Olaf, the son of a ruthless Viking lord who would kill Aasa’s father and brother and take her for his own. Olaf, sent to ask for Aasa’s hand for his father, falls in love with Aasa when he first sees her—and she with him. Aasa’s brother, discovering the two are lovers, separates them and sends Olaf and his ship back to the sea.

Olaf experiences first a violent storm and then an attack of pirates that leaves him gravely wounded. He recovers slowly. Meanwhile, Aasa has been taken by Olaf’s father in a brutal Viking raid where everyone she loved was killed and her home burned. Believing Olaf is dead, Aasa becomes the unwilling bride and queen of Olaf’s father whom she loathes. She lives for revenge. She has a son, Halfdan (likely patterned after the real person, Halfdan the Black, the 9th century king of Vestfold and father of Harald I of Norway, the great unifier who lived from 850 to 933).

Crenshaw paints a vivid picture of Viking life and weaves an enthralling story that will keep you up late reading at night. I could hardly stand to put it down. Olaf is a wonderful hero, a strong Viking warrior with a softer side, who freely declares his love for Aasa. Aasa is at first a young maiden with few cares and a family that loves her. Then she becomes a woman with Olaf. Suddenly ripped away from all she loves, she becomes a strong and defiant queen of a man she hates, definitely a worthy heroine. The unrequited love experienced by Olaf and Aasa will tear your heart out. I thought these two would NEVER get together.

Crenshaw does not spare us the violence of the times, the hardships people at all levels endured nor the pagan rituals. But that is all a part of the rich tapestry she weaves so well. Written in 1995, this romance is as engaging as any you’ll read written today. I highly recommend this one for you Viking romance lovers!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Review: Mairi Norris’ VIKING SWORD: THE STRANDED ONE – Authentic Viking Romance Trekking Across 9th century England

Set in the Kingdom of Wessex, England in 882, this is the story of Brandr Óttarrson, a Viking jarl’s son who attacks a Saxon village only to be sent fleeing with his men by another band of Saxons who decimate the village. Among the ashes, a wounded Brandr discovers a Saxon maiden, Lissa of Yriclea, the sole survivor. He thinks to give her a merciful death but she persuades him to take her with him and his uncle as they leave. On the condition she becomes his thrall (slave).

His ship having left without him, Brandr and his uncle must journey across England, avoiding those who would kill them, including a Saxon who hunts for Lissa. As they travel, they pick up others along the way.

Norris does a wonderful job of bringing the reader into the Viking mind. It is obvious she has done much research to capture the speech, their way of thinking and their culture. Brandr, being the son of a jarl, must marry nobility, not a thrall. But he can make Lissa his concubine, and he wants her. Lissa, sees this as a possibility and she wants to remain with Brandr but not as his concubine. Secondary characters add to the complexity of what is otherwise a simple but very well told story of a trek across England to reunite Brandr with his family. While there are no love scenes there is great chemistry between the hero and heroine.

A worthy Viking tale with authentic terms (there is a detailed glossary). The first in the Viking Brothers Saga. I recommend it.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Review: Betina Krahn’s THE ENCHANTMENT– Simply Wonderful Viking Tale!

January is Viking month on my blog…those powerful Northmen of old whose dragon ships wandered far and raided much. The romances that feature such times and such warriors are often great sagas and wonderful love stories.

First up is THE ENCHANTMENT by Betina Krahn. I have come to appreciate Krahn's attention to detail in her well told romances…it's excellence in romance writing. I always know I’m going to find a well woven tale that spends time with character development, and gives me a feel for the culture of the time. This is a Viking romance that takes you into the late Viking period when the Swedish Vikings sailed all the way to Byzantium. It was also a time when the old Asa gods were being replaced by Christianity and the "White Christ." Krahn treats this subject with great care, showing us how the old often combined with the new in this story that begins with belief in myths and ends in very real action.

Since she was a young girl, Aaren, daughter of Serrick, understood she was unusually tall and strong, trained to be a warrior, a battle-maiden, and not a woman of the hearth, because her mother was a Valkyr, a daughter of the Viking gods. She is beautiful with a long, lean body, dark red hair, and golden eyes. Aaren had two beautiful sisters, also daughters of Serrick, and born from another blond Valkyr.

Serrick brings his three daughters to the village of Borger, a powerful jarl, and gives them in payment of a tax debt--but with conditions. No man may touch them or wed them until one man can defeat Aaren in sword fighting; then each may be given in marriage. Borger accepts the conditions with his eldest son, Jorund, in mind. Jorund is a huge, handsome Viking, who two years ago tired of battlelust and the "dew of wounds" (blood), so he has no intention of fighting any woman. But after Aaren defeats two of Borger's best warriors, Borger decrees that no man may fight Aaren save Jorund. Aaren wants to end the curse and the condition to her sisters' ability to marry, so she prods and taunts Jorund into fighting her. He resists.

German cover
That's the basic storyline, and except for the myth underlying Aaren and her sisters' introduction to the village, which myth Jorund doesn't accept since he is a follower of the White Christ, the rest of the story is pure historical romance. It's an unusual courtship, to be sure, and there is more than one romance in this one. The hero is noble of heart and the heroine a fierce woman who will give him a run for his money.

I highly recommend it. It's not a fast-paced light read, however. You need a good rainstorm, a cup of tea and a crackling fire in the fireplace to settle in with this one, but it will be worth it!

NOTE: This was previously released under the title THE WARRIOR’S HEART.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Review: Kathryn Le Veque’s BEAST – An Arranged Marriage Neither Wants Leads to Love between a Noble Knight and His Lady

This is the 3rd in the de Russe series. Set in 1431, it’s the story of Sir Bastien de Russe, first knight of the Duke of Bedford, who, while fighting in France, was assigned the job of guarding the captured Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc. During the course of her captivity, they became friends. Before he death at the stake, she asks Bastian to bring her remains back to England to bury. He doesn’t do that, but he does bring back a piece of her.

The Duke of Bedford, orders Bastien to London to become the “Lord Protector” for young King Henry. For his service, Bastien receives lands, the title “baron,” and the hand of Lady Gisella le Bec. Bastien and Gisella get off to a bad beginning when Bastien shows up at the manor where she lives and she is engaged in a play he finds appalling.

While neither desires to wed, they quickly get over that and a sweet romance develops. Le Veque does an excellent job of portraying their budding romance. For all his bravado with his men, Bastien is a softy when it comes to the women in his family and, uncharacteristic of a warrior, he is comfortable showing emotion, both tears and “giggles.”

It’s a tale with many characters, some no doubt from earlier books in the series, and some historical, but it can be read as a stand alone. Le Veque develops the secondary characters well. There is much action and intrigue as the French patriots who want the part of the Maid’s remains Bastien took from France and his new wife misunderstands his feelings for the Maid.

This is a long one at 418 pages and a lot of it is taken up with medieval life, the food, the travel and the obligations of a knight serving nobility, and the relationships between Bastien and his family, all of which are well described. Le Veque places the story well in the history of the time. The ending was sweet and the epilog endearing. Fans of Le Veque’s work will love it.

The de Russe Legacy series