Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Review: Tempted by Her Outcast Viking

Tempted by Her Outcast Viking
is the second book in Lucy Morris's Shieldmaiden Sisters series and features a classic Wendy catnip heroine - the sister who doesn't think she's much to look at but is just the sort of sister you want to have your back. This is also a prototypical book two in a trilogy, which is to say it serves as a bit of a bridge between books one and three.  While I do think you can probably read this as a stand alone - be advised it'll take a few chapters to get your sea legs. The reason for this? Decisions made and actions taken by the hero in the first book come home to roost.

Halfdan and Valda have just been married and older sister Brynhild is in a bit of a sour mood.  Oh, she doesn't begrudge Valda her happiness, but Brynhild still has her responsibilities, securing a farm for her mother and looking after their younger sister, Helga. Unfortunately she's not alone with her thoughts.  Halfdan's half-brother Erik the Black is trying to have a conversation with her.  While Halfdan was the heir, Erik was the illegitimate bastard their father enslaved. That should have sown bitter roots, but it didn't. The brothers are united in their loathing of Dear Old Dad. Erik is now a free man thanks to his brother, but part of Halfdan's plan to ride off into the sunset with Valda was to allow the escape of the Welsh princess his father wanted him to marry (alliances, yo).  The princess didn't want to marry Halfdan either, so when he presented her with a chance at freedom the girl didn't let moss grow under her feet.  What nobody really bargained on?  Her older brother. And just to prove how unhappy he is?  He kidnaps Helga.

Brynhild is beside herself. Helga gets taken on her watch, during a moment when she was distracted by Erik's mere presence. While their mother, Valda and Brynhild are all fierce warriors, Helga is not. She is the Earth Mother, rune caster, homemaker, gardener of the family and the only way to get her back is to find the runaway Welsh princess and take her back to her brother. That means Brynhild and Erik are now traveling together, and the simmering unrequited attraction between them is not so easy to dismiss.

Brynhild is my favorite sort of heroine. She's fierce and independent but hiding a vulnerable heart. She's a strong capable warrior, but is fully aware she is not the sort of woman men desire. She's heard her whole life some variation of "Wow, you're related to Valda/Helga? Really?!"  She knows she'll never marry, because not only is she the exact opposite of what most men want in a wife, she's not the sort of woman men even consider. Besides she never could see herself turning her life over to man, giving up her independence, plus her family needs her.

There was an incident between Erik and Brynhild when they were younger that Erik still deeply regrets, especially since he cares for her. But there was nothing for it. Erik was a slave, his father an odious man. Any sign of weakness was exploited. If Dear Old Dad had any indication whatsoever that Erik cared for Brynhild? It would have been disastrous for her and her family. So he cruelly pushed her away cutting her in a manner he knew would inflict the most damage - which it did. Now here he is, a free man, hopelessly smitten with a woman who looks at him like she just stepped in a pile of dung.

This story features a lot of my favorite tropes - the fierce yet vulnerable heroine, the smitten (and virginal!) hero desperate for a home to call his own, and a road romance.  I was predisposed to liking this almost from the jump.  That said, it sagged a bit in the beginning for me (the plot driving this romance is heavy with series baggage) and the ending?  Well, calling it a cliffhanger is a disservice, but it's also not entirely tidy.  Here's the thing - our couple ends up together. There is a happy ending. But what is driving this story is rescuing Helga. The author cannot entirely wrap up that bit of baggage because book three in the series is the romance between Helga and the Welsh prince who kidnaps her.  So yes, Erik and Brynhild declare their love for each other but it's very much a bridge book that connects the end of book one and presumably the events that will occur in book three to wrap it all up.

I do think this could be read as a stand-alone, so long as expectations are managed. You've got to get your sea legs in the beginning, and accept that the Helga storyline is left a bit dangley at the end.  But honestly, just read book one. It's good and Morris is the only romance author this year that I've read multiple books from (this was #3).   

Final Grade = B


azteclady said...

I need to read at least a few books before I give in and buy this whole trilogy.

Wendy said...