Reviewed in the United States on March 19, 2012
Summary: Olaf the White, a Prince of Norway, has set sail to Ireland with his Viking clansmen. Olaf isn't in this new land to pillage and raid in typical Viking fashion, he is there to build a home and establish a new legacy of leadership in the country. He intends to battle for control of Dublin, but that is where it will end for him. He isn't a power-hungry man, nor does he want to spend the rest of his life in war.
Although Olaf is not interested in taking spoils of battle in the form of women and property, some of his warriors choose to stick with this old custom. The first Irish village they reach upon landing on Ireland's shore, is the home of several relatives of the Irish High King. His youngest daughter, Erin, is there visiting and manages to escape, but she witnesses the death of her aunt and uncle, and the rape of her friend before getting away. From this moment on, Erin's sole goal in life is to kill Olaf the White to avenge the death of her family.
Years later, Princess Erin has not lost her craving for revenge. But it isn't only the Vikings who are threatening her world. The Danes have also arrived in Ireland, and they are enemies of both the Irish and the Vikings. In the bloodiest battle of his life, Olaf loses his lover, a large portion of his army, and almost his own life. On the verge of death, he makes his way to the edge of a river and passes out. It is Erin who discovers his body. He is so covered in dirt and blood that she doesn't recognize him at first. She knows only that he is a Viking and she intends to take him to her father as a prisoner. They are both warriors, but Erin wouldn't have stood a chance if Olaf had been at full strength. They both manage to gain the upper hand at different points of the day, but eventually they part ways without a winner. And now Erin isn't the only one who wants revenge - Olaf swears to pay her back for her ruthless attack on him during his weakest moment.
Eventually, the Irish and the Vikings decide to form an alliance in order to defeat their common enemy - the Danes. As High King, it is up to Erin's father to finalize this treaty. He does it in the form of giving Erin's hand in marriage to the Viking King - Olaf the White. Since Olaf never knew his attacker's name, he had no idea he had agreed to marry the woman he'd love to punish severely. Erin, on the other hand, finds out who she is supposed to marry and adamantly refuses. She certainly doesn't suspect that her own sister (a nun) would drug her in order to get her to the altar, but sure enough..... When the drugs wear off, she is married to her worst enemy and being prepared to consummate their marriage.
Is it crazy to think that these two enemies might find forgiveness, acceptance, and love in each other's arms? Even if they can find some measure of peace with each other, finding peace in Ireland might prove to be the more difficult task.
Review: What a page-turner! After the first few chapters, there wasn't another mild moment in this book until the epilogue. The constant intensity was exhausting! I can't imagine what it would be like to live in a time when death waited around every corner and entire generations had no knowledge of a life without war. Whether they were fighting for their lives, land, vengeance, hate or love, it was all done with unrestrained passion. This is exactly how I like my books. I will forget dozens of other ho-hum books I read this year, but this one will stick with me like a tattoo.
The best part?? Although this book is a work of fiction, it is based on real events, real wars and real people, both Viking and Irish, from the 9th century. Olaf the White was indeed a Viking Sea-King who became King of Dublin in 853. He really did marry the daughter of Aed Finnlaith, although he may have been married to someone else first. Basing this book on the life of a real Viking King was brilliant. It truly blurs the line between fantasy and reality.
Something else I appreciated was the absence of an infidelity-misunderstanding plotline. I know that might sound strange, but I get really tired of reading that same old song and dance in so many romance novels. In this book, there were several threads of betrayal, both real and misunderstood, including one major event that was predicted earlier in the book by the Druid Mergwin. But there was nothing generic about how these storylines played out. Without question, Olaf and Erin had their moments of jealousy, but the author never fell back on the overly-used and totally predictable love triangle. I'd like to send her a thank you note for that. I'd also like to give her a high-five for writing some of the best bedroom scenes I've ever read.
One last note... when a historical romance is set as far back as the Middle Ages, there is a very good chance that it will include some controversial content. A few examples might be: 13 yr old girls married to men more than twice their age, women forced or sold into marriage, men exercising their rights in the marriage bed absent willingness or consent from their wives, torture, abuse, war rape, slavery, etc. Obviously, these concepts in modern times are considered heinous crimes. But whether we like it or not, they were acceptable practices in various cultures throughout world history until tapering off in the last century. So.....why do I bring this up? Because if you are likely to judge the behavior of 9th century book characters based on our 21st century standards of law and human rights, then you might want to skip this book. In order to enjoy a novel like this one, you have to be able to put it into the context of acceptable behavior in that time period. I loved this book, but I don't want to sugar-coat the fact that it does include several of the examples I listed above.
I can't come up with anything negative to say about it. I'd highly recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and/or historical romance. Due to the occasional Druid magic performed by Mergwin, and the constant references to Norse Gods, this book might appeal to fans of Fantasy also. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.