Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Captivating "Real" Viking Romance!

For those of you who love a good Viking romance, but have trouble finding one, this may be the book for you. Told from the first person, our heroine, Tara, it is not an ordinary formula romance, but a sweeping saga that covers many years in the life of a young woman you will come to love.

More than any other Viking romance I've read (and I've read and reviewed quite a few), this one actually allows you to experience the time period (the 10th century), and how the Vikings lived, including what they wore, what they ate, what they believed, their governing bodies, the ships they sailed in and their marriage and family customs. You also get a feeling for the extent of their raiding and travels in the world at the time, and the use of slaves by the various countries. It was fascinating. The story of an unlikely, but true, love between two people from different cultures will hold your attention and your heart.

Tara is the beautiful flaxen-haired, younger daughter of an earl living in the south of Britain in the 900s. At 15, she falls in love with Ian, the son of a neighboring lord and they become lovers. He tells her he loves her, but that is something she doubts when Tara's father betroths her older sister to Ian with Ian's full consent. Tara is so distraught she runs away to the nearest abbey where she takes the vow and lives for the next 7 years. While she would not have chosen the cloistered life, she finds peace and meaning there.

The story begins when she is 21, and Vikings raid the south of England. The abbey is in their path and all of the nuns are raped and/or killed and the abbey burned. Tara escapes rape only to be taken captive, saved for the Viking leader who was not at the abbey. The leader, Rorik, is the eldest son of a Viking jarl. Once Rorik takes Tara onto his ship, he tells her she will become his wife. He ostensibly gives her time to consider this, but then tricks her into a quick marriage. From a nun to a pagan's wife is a giant leap, but Tara is willing to accept her lot and begins to have feelings for Rorik...that is, until they reach his home, Hordaland, where she learns some hard truths. And that is just the beginning of this extraordinary tale.

The story is well told and moves along at a good clip. It kept me turning pages until late at night. You had to feel for Tara, who is betrayed on so many levels by almost all the men in her life and faces challenges most of us will never know. Of course, at that time women were merely possessions, there for the pleasure of men and their political gain; but still, it was possible to find love in all of that. And Tara does, amazingly. Still, there are some things I would have changed.

The time in Constantinople could have been shortened and Rorik and Tara were separated for too long a time. Then, too, I could have skipped the perversions of the men in that part of the world and the life in the harem. I can imagine the author wanted us to see how horrible a woman's life could be at that time, but it didn't take long before I wanted the "perils of Pauline" to end. So, while I can recognize some negatives, if you're looking for a different romance, one that is well written and gives you a real feeling for the time period, I can recommend it. It's a believable Viking romance with lots of action (including storms at sea, adventures on land and on ship, captives, slave trading, wolf attacks, etc.), as well as heartbreak and heartwarming episodes.

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