Really, Harlequin? I'm SHOCKED. SHOCKED, I say!
I read THE VIKING'S RUNAWAY CONCUBINE in less than twenty-four hours. Despite the cheesy cover, it is one of the most beautiful, angsty love stories I've read in a while. Eithne is an Irish woman who lived in Dublin before it was taken by vikings (I'm suspecting this is set in, like, 800 CE). To spare himself, her brother sold her as a slave, and she was picked up from the block by a man named Ulfric.
I pictured Ulfric as looking like Henry Cavill or Charlie Hunnam, but the dynamic between him and Eithne is a lot like the one between Khal Drogo and Daenerys. He's a big warrior dude with braids who was attracted to the tranquility of the girl he saw as much as he was by the defiant fire in his eyes. And rather than ill-use her, he gradually acclimated her to his preferred style of love-making, which involves ropes and canes and other things. The author really goes into the psychology of why he and Eithne do what they do and it was both fascinating and sensual.
But then Eithne slashes his face with a knife to get away, and when the story begins, Eithne is enjoying her waning days of freedom before Ulfric reclaims her as his captive once more. The story moves forward from there, with her being forced to confront her feelings about being attracted to a man who holds total and complete power over her life, and Ulfric wondering how he can be so happy and furious with her, and still feel like something is missing. The past of their relationship is woven in between these present scenes in a really masterful way that never feels like an info dump, and by the end of the story, I was fully convinced that these two were truly perfect for each other.
It's a complaint of mine that in this age of marketing books by trope and buzzwordy concepts, that a lot of the more important things like emotional connection and character development are sometimes sacrificed to get the two characters together as fast as possible. But this story didn't do that at all. I found myself tearing up at several parts, especially towards the end, and despite the unequal power dynamics and the consensual non-consent, I felt like Eithne and Ulfric really were equals-- at least, when it came to one another. I can't wait to read her other viking book. It's about the hero's brother, Thorbrand. If it's half as good as this one, I will be well pleased.
If you are a fan of Nadine Crenshaw's EDIN'S EMBRACE, I think you'll love this, too.
5 out of 5 stars