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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Review: The Viking She Would Have Married

Earlier this year I read Lucy MorrisA Nun for a Viking Warrior and got my head turned by Valda - a shieldmaiden "stuck in the friend zone" with the hero.  Valda really thought she had found "the one" in Jorund, a man eager to put down roots, have a home, create a life outside of war.  He never loved her, never toyed with her affections, but when he married the heroine Valda knew she couldn't stay. The Viking She Would Have Married finds Valda returned home to her mother and two sisters, having fallen on hard times after her mother's latest beau ran off in the dead of night with their silver.  Now Valda and older sister, Brynhild are trying to earn enough coin to keep them fed and convince a jarl to give them some land to farm. However even though both have fearsome reputations as shieldmaidens, sexism is still sexism.  Valda has taken to the docks looking for work and that's when her past comes back to haunt her.  Unfortunately it's a past with an offer she cannot refuse.

Halfdan Ulffson is a successful merchant and a jarl's son. Years before he and Valda had a relationship, eventually torn apart by class differences and misunderstanding.  Never mind that his father is a vile sack of human flesh.  The man is constantly bringing Halfdan to heel because unlike Dear Old Dad, Halfdan has a soft heart. He feels obligated to his half-brother, a slave. He needs to buy his freedom, he needs to secure his older brother his birthright, and to do that he needs to figure out a way to play his father like a fiddle. Well he's finally gotten Dad to agree to an exorbitant price to free Erik and all he has to do in return is wed some woman from Wales. Then Valda shows up on the docks, looking for work, desperate to provide for her family, and Halfdan gets his head turned. He loved Valda, fiercely, and she broke his heart. Now is his chance to win her back and hope that his plan to not walk down the aisle with the Welsh woman comes to fruition.

Except, of course, Valda doesn't want to be won back. In her eyes it was Halfdan who broke her heart. And while she may still be attracted to him she is still stung by his betrayal all those years ago.  Besides, what stood in their way before is still there.  She's a broke shieldmaiden from a nothing family and he's a jarl's son.  End of discussion.

This is what I call a Pride Goeth Before A Fall romance. The conflict is made up entirely of both characters being prideful, stubborn, and not talking to each other.  Valda turned down Halfdan's proposal for a life of passion and adventure on the high seas all those years ago (notice he didn't offer her marriage...) and then Valda witnessed an "appropriate for his station" woman leaving his ship the night she spurned his offer.  Then she finds out later the woman was pregnant and married another in haste.  On top of this Halfdan does not speak of Erik's true circumstances to anyone and what he is doing in the hopes of securing his brother's freedom.  

However, this is also a road romance, with Halfdan and Valda setting their sights to trade in Constantinople. A chance for Halfdan to seduce Valda's senses (and other parts of her...) and a chance for Valda to make stupid amounts of coin. Halfdan may be untrustworthy and a silver-tongued devil, but he's very good at his trade. One voyage with him and her family's problems will be solved.

Eventually Halfdan and Valda succumb and thank the Lord, they set their pride aside long enough to spill their guts.  That said, it still doesn't change who they are. A powerful jarl's son expected to marry to broker an alliance, and a shieldmaiden with few prospects.  Just because they fall into each other's arms again, that doesn't necessarily change anything.

I'm not going to lie, their stupid pride did wear me down after a while. By the halfway point I kind of wanted to shake them both senseless, not because I didn't believe in the obstacles standing in their way (alliances, loyalty, this was all stuff that could get you killed if you chose poorly) but because they wouldn't just talk honestly with each other and puzzle out a way to work around said obstacles.  Eventually though these two crazy kids do open their eyes, and I enjoyed the way to come to reunite in the end.

This is the first book in a trilogy and the set-up is delicious.  Valda is the pretty one, while youngest sister Helga is the ethereal one and older sister Brynhild is the fearsome-looking one.  The next book partners Brynhild with Halfdan's half-brother, Erik, and the angst is already simmering.

I didn't love this as much as I was hoping to, but I still really enjoyed it and read it in a couple of sittings.  Valda was an intriguing, strong heroine who finds herself falling back in love with a rogue - and Lord help us all, romance readers love us some rogues.

Final Grade = B-


azteclady said...

Well, DAMN, I'm really intrigued.

I already have the first one in Ye Olde TBR, which should help in figuring out if I enjoy the writing voice, but oh, how you tempt me, Miz Wendy!

(thank you)

Wendy said...

AL: I don't think it's necessary (per se) to read A Nun for a Viking Warrior before this book, but I would recommend it only because I fell a bit in love with Valda in that book over her unrequited love for the hero and the fact she was never pushed into a villainess role by the author (so, so smart).

Also, BIG FAN of reading what you already have in your TBR before glomming on to more books by an author. I can't tell you how many times I've rage-quit a book by an author and then turned around and weeded out like 3 others I had languishing in my TBR unread. Sigh.

azteclady said...

Yes, both of these are my reasons to try what I've already bought before I get this one (unless it suddenly goes on sale for like a buck)--tell me how often I've bought six novels by a new-to-me author, on the strength of the sample, only to discover by mid-book one that I *hate* the writing voice.