Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29822-8
Historical Romance, 2015
Sayrid Avildottar, Michelle Styles is proud to announce, is based on those legendary shield-bearing warrior women she uncovered during her research on the sex lives of medieval Vikings and what not. While that sounds exciting, Taming His Viking Warrior is just like that strip club which bears the sign, “Tonight only: Sister Flamenka of the Church of Passionate Devotion!” Guys flock into that club, only to have the nun in question come on stage and start reading aloud choice passages from the Bible while waving a crucifix in one hand. They can’t say that they have been misled, so sorry guys, no refunds today. It’s the same here. The heroine may be a shield-bearing warrior, but the story is all about her becoming a “woman” and a mother. You can’t say you’ve been misled either – look at the title of this book, it’s not like you’ve been tricked.
On the other hand, I can never understand authors who proudly create a warrior heroine only to have that heroine in question playing the more traditional role next to the hero in the entire story. Do they deliberately set out to write some kind of “this is your rightful place in life, woman” propaganda to show modern women today how these women have lost their way to all that heathen left-wing pagan nonsense like feminism and what not? I can’t think of any other reason to write stories like this sort, but I guess that’s why I’m not a romance author.
So, Sayrid. She’s supposed to be this tough chick whose father once attempted to humiliate her by saying that she must marry any man who could best her in combat. Today, she has turned that humiliation into some mark of defiance, as she has indeed beaten off all men who try to win her hand and, hence, her properties. She does traditionally manly things to bring in stuff and keep a roof over her and her other family members’ heads. When the story opens, she aids her brother’s fiancée – that girl’s father has accepted Sayrid’s money but is clearly now attempting to wed the girl off to another man who can bring in more into the marriage – to run off with her brother, only to run afoul with the man who offered for that girl. That man is Hrolf Eymudsson, the sea-king who is in a powerful alliance with the neighborhood jarl.
Hrolf admires Sayrid’s poise and battle ability, so he beats her in combat and proceeds to “tame” her by insisting that she be a “real woman” and take care of his brat. He’s trying to get rid of the very things he admires in his new wife, but I guess guys can be simple like that sometimes, sigh. Sayrid huffs and puffs, but the only thing she truly defeats here is a barn door. Oh, that’s right, the hero uses a trick he learned while defeating her in battle earlier to take down the bad guy, so Sayrid isn’t that useless after all outside of being her husband’s mattress and his daughter’s mother. Again, why make her a shield maiden in the first place? She could have been a more conventional nobleman’s lady being wedded off to Hrolf in a wedding of convenience – at least that wouldn’t set the wrong kind of expectations a reader may have when she reads the synopsis on the back cover.
The story is quite predictable, actually. The heroine learns to sing the sounds of music as the stepdaughter warms up to her. There are the usual female bitches in the hero’s castle who want to cause problems for the heroine, and the hero doing his best to bark orders to the heroine like she’s his dog when, surely, honey could have persuaded her to drop those pants faster. The bad guys are what you’d think they are, things that happen won’t surprise anybody – in short, this story is typically another Viking romance.
I find Hrolf an inconsistent character, though. He does his best to verbally and manipulatively bludgeon the wife into his idea of femininity, but later on he would accuse her parents of forcing her to be someone she isn’t, and claims that he likes her for what she is. This guy comes off as someone who seriously have no self awareness at all. He also sings that tired old song about how he will never love any woman because his father died of heartbreak and, oh, our big strong brawny hero can’t bear the thought of going down the same path.
Taming His Viking Warrior is a predictable story that follows a familiar story line and gender dynamics, marred by the hero doing his best to appear like a different guy with every rise and fall of the tide and the author’s claims about Sayrid’s warrior prowess even as that poor darling can’t even look at a fly without being defeated into submission. It’s not a good thing when I find myself wondering whether the author is aware that the things she claims and the things she makes her characters do are not even remotely close to being one and the same.