Dear Mrs. Styles,
I trust that placing “Viking” in the title has got this one selling well in the UK. Isn’t that one of the words that your mother-in-law’s friend always looks for when deciding which new books to buy? Too bad for us US buyers that Taken by the Viking hasn’t been released here but it can be purchased in Canada. Go Amazon.ca! I’ll be frank and admit that when you emailed me that your next offering would be a Viking romance, I kinda cringed. I still have memories of reading “Fires of Winter” by Johanna Lindsey back in the early eighties (and not being bothered much by it then but my, how my tastes have changed). Viking raid, rape, rinse, repeat. Heroine gets treated like crap, hero goes all alpha every 4 pages and I’m supposed to believe in true love when it’s all over. Thanks, but I’ll pass on any more of that. Thank goodness there’s not a bit of the what I dreaded to find in your book.
Since we don’t know which Vikings actually carried out the horrific raid on the Priory at Lindesfarne in 793, I have no problems with you appropriating it for your plot. And I liked that the initial reason the Vikens (I assume this is their name for themselves while the term Viking meant raiding?) came there was to use it as more or less a bank as did the English who stored their money there. The raid only came later when misunderstandings caused a breakdown in communications between the monks and the Vikens. I was also pleasantly surprised when our hero, Haakon, has no desire to haul Annis off as a captive but tries to honor his debt to her for saving his life by leaving her where no one will find her. It’s not his fault when she comes out of hiding to try to save her maid (who’s sort of a silly wench character) and he resents having to deal with her and keep her safe from the other men. Women — what are you going to do with them when they won’t listen to what you tell them to do?
After this one false step, I liked Annis. And after all, she was trying to honor her promise to keep her silly maid safe. Once she is Norway bound, she thinks before she acts and doesn’t stamp her feet and do the opposite of what she’s told just to be a PITA and show how feisty she is. I like that Haakon respects her for her intelligence and later for her strength. She tries to get along, see to the welfare of her fellow captives and hope against hope for the ransom which she doubts her stepfather will shell out. I also thought that she was fairly well treated for being a captive. We do have the old stereotype of a shrill native woman (Guthrun, the stepmother), but the two kitchen wenches sorta balance each other and I guess Haakon’s half-brother Thrand balances his mother. The captive monks, except for Aelfric who was a weasel, were rather two dimensional but other than that I had no problem with them. One thing that thrilled me was that Haakon apologizes for his mistaken belief about Annis and what he did to her. Now how often does that happen?
What bothered me the most was the ending was too rushed with too many threads being tied up at one time. With about 15 pages left, you present us with two events that could have taken 20-40 pages apiece to settle. While I’m glad that the story didn’t get padded out, the way that you bring it all together didn’t quite satisfy me. Would the villain have gone back with Annis so easily? Would the ultimately banished villain voluntarily confess when his villainy was revealed? It just seemed too easy given the way those characters were portrayed earlier. I did like that Annis actually gets to use her healing knowledge to save the day and I did figure out what the poison was that was used. Go me!
Overall, I did enjoy the story and the historic details you included. I liked that twists on what I was expecting and when I had to stop reading for such daily mundane things as going to work to earn a living, I eagerly looked forward to getting home and picking the book up again. Viking romances won’t ever be my favorites but this one gets a B-