Sunday, April 14, 2019

Review: Marrying Her Viking Enemy

One of the reasons I enjoy medieval romances is that they lend themselves well to the Enemy to Lovers trope and, what I call, "high stakes conflict."  Certainly, you can find lighter medievals, but they're a rarer bird - which suits me just fine.

Marrying Her Viking Enemy by Harper St. George is an Enemy to Lovers romance for people who think they don't like the trope.  The author avoids a lot of the pitfalls, and our couple doesn't spend a lot of time needlessly bickering to the point where you want to smack them and tell them to "grow up already!"  No, these two crazy kids are pretty much attracted to each other from the get-go.  The problem lies with her family - like, isn't that always the way!

This is the first book in a duet about two sisters, but it's a spin-off from St. George's previous Viking series, with the couple from The Viking Warrior's Bride playing an integral role in this romance.  For this reason it took me a couple of chapters to get my sea legs under me, but once I did it was off to the races.

Elswyth and her younger sister Ellan have been sent by their father to serve Gwendolyn of Alvey's household (a distant relation), despite the fact that Gwendolyn married a hated Dane.  Daddy Dearest isn't the biggest fan of the invading Danes, given that his wife ran off with one.  Elswyth has spent her whole life trying to prove to everybody in their small village that she's not like her faithless mother, so when Daddy asks her to learn all she can, to spy, while he throws his lot in with the Scots to the north, she reluctantly agrees, though her heart isn't in it.  Gwendolyn has been nothing but kind to her, and while she is loyal to her father, knows she could never marry a Dane, she doesn't share the same fervent hatred that he or her brothers do.

Rolfe returns to Alvey from a skirmish in Elswyth's village.  From a distance, he's intrigued and when she is assigned to tend to his wound well...let's just say our guy is sunk.  He's captivated by her. So when Gwendolyn and her husband, Vidar, strongly suggest that he marry a Saxon woman to help promote peace among their people, Elswyth is seen as an ideal choice.  Naturally though, there are complications.  Her father is a known agitator, so there's the very real question of where Elswyth's loyalty lies.  Also, while her sister seems agreeable to entertaining a potential Dane suitor, Elswyth might as well have a No Trespassing sign emblazoned above her head.  But Rolfe is intrigued by this woman, the first woman who has managed to get under his skin since the only woman he thought he loved done him wrong.

What I really enjoyed about this story is that while Elswyth and Rolfe are enemies, they're not adversarial.  She flat-out knows she's not marrying a Dane, largely because even if she wanted to her father would never allow it.  Also she's got her mother's reputation to live down, and that's a hard habit to break yourself of when you've spent your entire life going through those motions.  For his part Rolfe is sweet, values Elswyth and her abilities (he's taken with her skill throwing a hatchet and how quickly she's become skilled as an archer) and figures out rather quickly that's the way to win her over.  Don't underestimate her, and reward her natural curiosity.   Offering to teach her sword fighting is surely the ticket.

The conflict of the story is wrapped up entirely in Elswyth's family loyalty.  She doesn't share her father's hatred, but she also doesn't trust the Danes.  Not entirely.  And how do you cut yourself off from your own father and older brother?  From some of the others in her village that she grew up with who now seem to be conspiring with the Scots?  And when it appears her younger brother is in danger?  Elswyth wrestles with what to do, even though she knows she doesn't have a lot of choice in the matter.

Rolfe's Big Secret regarding the battle in Elswyth's village, along with his past romantic betrayal do play some role in the conflict, but blessedly he isn't one of those heroes who tars and feathers all women just because he had the misfortune of falling for the wrong one.  That said, when the conflict boils to a head towards the end, when he discovers Elswyth stole something from him (she had her reasons), that past betrayal comes to the forefront.

There's some loose ends left in the end, namely involving Elswyth's various relations, and for the shadow she casts, readers don't get any real answers as to where Mommy Dearest might now be.  But, Ellan's romance is due out in September (2019), and it's likely safe to assume that some of this will be revisited then.

For an Enemy to Lovers romance, there's a gentleness to the romance that I enjoyed and the angst isn't so high drama that I felt hungover or wrung-out after finishing the final chapter.  I closed this book safe in the knowledge that this was a romantic couple well-suited for each other, despite all the outside obstacles standing in their way.

Final Grade = B

1 comment:

azteclady said...

Well, this sounds lovely indeed! Thank you, Wendy!