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REVIEW: Taken by the Viking by Michelle Styles

Dear Mrs. Styles,

Book CoverI 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-

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

14 Comments

  1. TeddyPig
    Oct 15, 2007 @ 15:43:00

    Oh no you didn’t!

    Don’t you go dissin my Johanna Lindsey Fires of Winter.

    ReplyReply

  2. Jayne
    Oct 15, 2007 @ 18:40:14

    Yes Teddy, I must, I must. Note that I said it didn’t bother me when I was a fresh faced youngster but now….

    I’m so glad that Styles’s book is — um– different from it. ;)

    ReplyReply

  3. TeddyPig
    Oct 15, 2007 @ 23:16:32

    Yeah, but she don’t rate her own fabu wiki page.

    ReplyReply

  4. Michelle Styles
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 03:31:30

    Jayne,
    As ever thank you for the thought provoking review. Your reviews always give me ideas on how I can improve my writing.
    You asked several questions and I will try to answer them.
    The reason Viking is used in the title is that the lovely editors at HM&B historicals did some research to try to discover which time periods were actually the most popular. And to their surprise, they discovered that while they did not get many Viking/Angl Saxon set manuscripts, the time period had histoircally proved popular. And as far as I understand it that is why they are using Viking as a key word in titles.

    You asked about Viken and viking. Viken is the name historically given to the area around the Oslo fjord. There is speculation that eventually the meaning was widened. Vik simply means a creek or bay in old Scandanavian. Viking is a verb and came to mean to go trading or failing that to plunder — in other words to go and make your fortune. By the ninth century, it had come to mean raiding.

    One way for people to try to get their hands on a copy is to visti the Unusual historicals blog http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/ I did a Q&A for them, and have offered a copy of Taken as a giveaway. The winner will be drawn from people who leave a comment before 20October (Saturday)

    FWIW

    All the best,

    Michelle Styles

    ReplyReply

  5. Jayne
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 06:20:39

    Teddy, you’re right. That is a fabu page. I want a fabu page for DA.

    ReplyReply

  6. Jayne
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 06:30:11

    Michelle, that is bizarre that the time period is still so popular yet M&B and Harlequin Historicals don’t seem to want to publish many MS set before medieval times. And for years they haven’t seemed to want to publish anything outside of the Regency era. Perhaps this is the breaking of a bold new dawn.

    Now I remember that the words “virgin” and “mistress” are what spur your m-i-l’s friend to buy, buy, buy.

    ReplyReply

  7. Michelle Styles
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 07:23:32

    I think they weere surprised when the findings came out last summer. I know they have certainly been trying to get some of their established authors to write in unusual time periods.For example Louise Allen’s Virgin Slave, Barbarian King (that word agai!) is out in December in the US. Louise is better known to the HM&B historical readership for her Regencies. Personally, I am really looking forward to it as it is set in the dying days of the Roman empire. And Lousie tells me that they are publishing it first in the NA market and then in the UK market.
    And much of the credit for the change in thinking, and the publishing of unusual historicals needs to go to Linda Fildew, the sr editor. Linda was responsible for helping to set up the initial Masquerade line that preceeded the Historical line as an assistant editor type. Her first love has always been Historicals and she is personally interested in a wide range of time periods. for example, one of the reasons I got to write my Victorian Christmas novel –A Christmas Wedding Wager was that Linda and I got into a discussion over lunch about Brunel and civil engineering as she had been on some sort of tour of the tunnel he built under the Thames…

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  8. Keishon
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 09:16:50

    I clearly don’t understand the distribution problem with her books in the US. She sounds like a talented author but her books are unavailable to potential readers who read your reviews and want to read her books here in the US. What’s the deal with that?

    ReplyReply

  9. Jayne
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 09:50:25

    Keishon, this book at least is available through amazon.ca. It seems that about every other book of hers is released at the same time here as in the UK. Makes no sense to me either. I noticed that it’s not available through eHarlequin either unless I managed to miss it somewhere.

    ReplyReply

  10. Jayne
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 09:57:14

    “For example Louise Allen's Virgin Slave, Barbarian King (that word agai!) is out in December in the US. Louise is better known to the HM&B historical readership for her Regencies. Personally, I am really looking forward to it as it is set in the dying days of the Roman empire. And Lousie tells me that they are publishing it first in the NA market and then in the UK market.”

    Yes, I’ve read one of her Regencies and have been meaning to try something else by her. This one sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the heads up!

    ReplyReply

  11. Michelle Styles
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 10:26:27

    Taken by the Viking will be released in the US at some point, but the current plan is for my Viking books to be released one after another. So three months of vikings from Michelle Styles. This is to make it easier for readers. As it can be frustrating to miss one of the books in a linked series. They are being released in the UK as and when I finish them. It is how they do things and it does mean with something like this that a rather newish author like me is not put under the pressure of really tight deadlines.

    Part of the problem is that I keep writing other books in between writing Viking stories. For example, A Christmas Wedding Wager which will be released in the US in December was written just after Taken, because I really wanted to that story and my sr editor wanted it written. Then I wrote Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife (to be released in the UK in June 08) and then because my daughter begged and begged I wrote a linked story to ACWW. I think the date of UK publication is August 08.
    And then my editor really wanted a Regency duet from me, and because of the way they do schedule things with duets, my current contract had to cover those two books, rather than the next Viking.
    My editors are eagerly waiting the third Viking from me. And then there is a question mark over whether or not I will do Thrand, the half-brother’s story. (ie my editor wants a story about Thrand but we have both agreed that he needs to grow up a little and we will revisit the question after I write Ivar’s story) My daughter also thinks Thrand would make a good hero…

    Personally I think scheduling is a nightmare. A lot of things come into play with scheduling — such as time period, type of story and author. And it is up to the editors to co-ordinate these things.

    Because of the success of Harlequin ebooks, Mills and Boon will be releasing its frontlist as ebooks sometime in 2008.

    I hope it is not too confusing.

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  12. Jayne
    Oct 16, 2007 @ 10:33:34

    Hmmm, so it appears (if I understand this correctly) that it’s going to be a long, long time before this book is released in the US. Bummer for those who want to read it.

    “Because of the success of Harlequin ebooks, Mills and Boon will be releasing its frontlist as ebooks sometime in 2008.”

    Now that is good news!

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  13. Viking Princess
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 20:39:39

    Johanna Lindsey’s Fires of Winter is still one of my all time favorite Viking romance novels.

    ReplyReply

  14. Jayne
    Jan 09, 2011 @ 07:37:30

    @Viking Princess: I did enjoy it back in the day…but that was a long time ago. However, I have several friends who have fond memories of reading it.

    ReplyReply

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