Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29802-0
Historical Romance, 2014
Lady Cwenneth of Lingfold is on her way to her husband-to-be Hagal the Red in Acumwick – okay, here is where a timely PSA is due. People, contrary to what you may be thinking right now, “Lingfold” and “Acumwick” are just names of locations, so please don’t open this book expecting a viking-era historical erotica. Okay, back to PG-13 territory, Cwen is married off by her brother to Hagal in a practical cementing of an alliance to allow the two men to join forces and take down the terror of the neighborhood, the Norseman Thrand Ammundson, also known as Thrand the Destroyer. Not to be confused with Khan the Destroyer, of course.
Cwen wants to take a walk in the middle of the journey, so she slips off only to return to a scene straight out of a bad romance novel – her maid and her men are all dead. The killers conveniently enough linger around, telling each other in unnecessarily thorough detail why they did all this. This is how Cwen learns that Hagan actually wants her dead, framing Thrand for her murder and thus setting off a chain of violence due to some vow Hagan had taken a while back. Fortunately, Cwen is soon rescued by… you guess it, Thrand and his men.
Thrand wants Hagan dead, but he is bound a vow he’d made to his liege that he would never harm another person under this liege’s service. That means he can’t lay a finger on Hagan despite Thrand being sure that Hagan was the man who killed Thrand’s family. Cwen is a witness to Hagan’s effort to kill her, so Thrand wants Cwen under his supervision until he can find a way to use Cwen’s knowledge to implicate Hagan and have that villain removed from the scene for good. Of course, he would fall for Cwen – the usual.
Despite what the title may lead you to believe, this one isn’t a seafaring tale full of brawny guys in horned helmets going, “Ola-la, Valhalla!” every few seconds. Saved by the Viking Warrior is basically a standard medieval romance – think castles and all – where the hero just happens to look a lot like Fabio before he discovered peanut butter. The plot isn’t groundbreaking, and the story won’t hold many surprises for people who are familiar with the whole castle-kidnap-honeymoon fantasy, but the story itself is a pretty easy read.
Mind you, it starts off pretty awkwardly. Cwen is a heroine who is way out of her depths, so she’s understandably afraid of what she has found herself in. Unfortunately, the story soon settles into the familiar pattern of her mouthing off indiscriminately like a feisty festival turkey when she is supposed to be afraid of Thrand. It is only later in the story that she starts to come to her own, her feisty nature going from cringe to win when she demonstrates that she can stand up for herself when there’s no hero in sight to come and rescue her. Likewise, Thrand becomes a better character later on. He starts out like a clumsy effort from the author to emulate the alpha he-male formula, his demonstrations of “me, man – you, mine!” behavior often seeming like some mechanical attempt to go through the motions. It is later that he comes together better as a character – he is actually a pretty nice guy, his darkness a result of him being driven by vengeance for his family. Saved by the Viking Warrior is a far more better read by its last third – better romance, better-drawn characters – that it’s almost like that last third belonged to a different book altogether.
The last third is the reason why I’m pretty okay with Saved by the Viking Warrior at the end of the day. However, I have to warn you before you rush off to buy this book – the whole thing feels more like Medieval Fair than anything else. The characters think like distinctly modern day people, especially the heroine who is all peace and love, acting horrified that a man of her time, especially a soldier, would do something like killing people. Only evil people kill! This story is set in 876, but the characters use words like “commission” – first used in the 14th century if we can believe Merriam-Webster – in a modern day manner. If you are looking for something more authentic in feel, you may want to keep looking, as Saved by the Viking Warrior isn’t going to be that baby.
Anyway, I have no strong objections to this book. I also don’t have any strong enthusiasm for it. That makes Saved by the Viking Warrior squarely on the average side of things.