Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29790-0
Historical Romance, 2014
Boy, I can’t remember when I last read a story with Vikings! Surrender to the Viking is most likely the late Joanna Fulford’s final published work – I checked but I couldn’t find out whether there is anything else that would be published down the road – so, believe me, I was hoping very hard while reading this book that I wouldn’t have to pan it. No matter what you may have heard of me, I do feel a bit of guilt if I have to say something bad about the work of someone who departed this world only last year. Or maybe I just don’t relish receiving anguished feedback from people who think it is always too soon to do this kind of thing.
Anyway, it is with some relief that I can say that this story isn’t that awful. Unfortunately, it isn’t great either. It’s one of those stories featuring characters that think and talk like modern day people without any context given as to how they become so ahead of their time.
The heroine Lara Ottarsdotter, for example, is the quintessential medieval hoyden that runs wild with a sword – although she doesn’t get to disembowel even a bunny rabbit with it because that would be really unladylike – and screeches to everyone that would pay her any heed that she will never marry. Why? It may be understandable if she had seen examples of women suffering in arranged marriages, but no. She doesn’t want to get married because it’s the principle of it all: she hates it because she has no say in who she marries, so it’s all or nothing for Miss Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death here. How does a medieval lady of her time even come to this idea that she deserves freedom in everything? How is she able to mouth off and act like a stubborn mule with a mouth a hundred times the size of her brain without being, at the very least, reprimanded for her antics?
I have read in some history books that, while Viking women were generally respected and haf more freedom that their other medieval European counterparts, these women still lived in a male-dominated society and they had distinct roles in society, roles that were more domestic than militant. Therefore, Lara is a very unusual heroine, but the author treats her antics like it’s something every Viking lass does on a Sunday morning.
Anyway, one fine day, Finn Egilsson shows up at her father’s place. You see, there is some upheaval in Viking Ville, and Finn needs men to bolster his army. Lara’s father agrees to supply the men, but on one condition: Finn must marry Lara right away. Dear Daddy, understandably, wants someone to marry Lara before she becomes even more unmanageable. Lara is like, “Hell no, it’s liberty or death, remember?” and Finn is like, “Hey babearilla, that a pretty eensie-weensie, teeny-weenie polka-dot thingy you got going there!” and she melts inside because he’s so hot and… hot.
As she starts realizing that marriage to a guy ain’t so bad at all, she still says dumb things and does dumber things because Lara wants me to think of her as a feisty firecracker. Naturally, the self-professed “I am as good as any man!” diva crumbles before the bad guy like a swooning little girl meeting Austin Mahone up close and personal because, while beauty fades, dumb is forever. But as she realizes that she’d rather be shackled to marriage than to cling to her lip service about independence and what not, she wrings her hands because, clearly, Finn doesn’t love her. Oh, how can she live without his big rock-hard love?
Finn, on his part, was once betrayed by his wife. He rushed out to kill her lover and, people said, ended up killing her too. So, really, he has been hurt by love before, so he doesn’t think he can love again, blah blah blah. The usual. For all his supposed trust issues, he actually treats Lara very well. Not that Lara appreciates this until he shows her how good sex with a man is and she rationalizes her orgasms into true love. After all, if it’s really true love, I don’t see that here. It’s more like a dumb girl who acts like she doesn’t want it until she gets it, and now she wants it all the time – true love, baby!
These two behave more like emo kids than what they might have realistically been in their time, and their emotions, thought processes, and actions all scream modern day love fool shenanigans. Of course, the villain shows up late in the story for some throwaway save-the-bimbo drama, but on the whole, this one feels like a dressing up game played by modern day kids who think it’s cute to play as Vikings for a day. They could at least make things more interesting by dressing up as Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd or something.