Stolen by marauding Danes, Helena’s desperate to escape their camp. She wants to return home, but the wolf-eyed Viking who bought her has his own plans. Wearied of the sword, Hakan wants a quiet farmer’s life, yet peace eludes the chieftain. His once tranquil homeland’s in turmoil, and his new Frankish thrall vexes him for her freedom. Even worse, the fair maid lures him with laughter and smiles. Betrayal has left the warrior cold to other women, but one hot summer changes everything. Hakan’s icy heart thaws to his clever thrall. Helena weaves happiness into his hard life, and she soon questions her own desires. But, shadows of deceit spread across the kingdom, reaching Hakan’s farm. Old loyalties call on the Viking to wield his sword again, but at what cost? Before summer ends, master and thrall must answer the hardest question…How much would you pay for love?
Review: A beautifully crafted work of historical fiction which held me spellbound. This is surely what good historical writing should be – a simplicity of style and a sense of authenticity which just begged to be read – I was lost the minute I started to picked it up.
The plot was routine enough – Helena (I thought it should be Helene with accents, really), a young village woman from a place just outside Paris, is carried off by the Danes when her village is raided. Horrified at the thought of leaving her parents and her fiancé, a man of learning, she fights fiercely, angering her captors. At the slave market, she takes to heart another slave’s warning that it is imperative to be purchased by a buyer that very day, because if the man she fought with earlier ends up getting his hands on her during the night, it could lead to untold problems. A Viking (Swedish) chieftain, Lord Hakan arrives at the slave market . A magnificent man with a quiet and gentle personality, Helena is instinctively drawn to him on some level and somehow catches his eye, persuading him to purchase her to work for him. After Lord Hakan purchases Helena, there follows a long sea voyage to Sweden (Svea) where Helena learns to live among the Swedes (or ‘Norse’ as they then were) and learns their ways. Lord Hakan, it transpires, had been divorced by his wife and no longer wishes to marry. Gallant and gentle, more farmer than warrior, the man fascinates Helena.
The growing relationship between Helena and Hakan is a delight to read. When it comes to romance, I’m firmly with the ‘less is more’ brigade. The master and slave’s slow discovery of their growing awareness of and feelings for each other makes delightful reading.
However, Helena, a skilled weaver and dyer, dreams of her Frankish village and longs to return to it. Getting involved in the struggle with Hakan’s former wife to get the custody of their son for Lord Hakan results in Helena’s earning a boon from him. She chooses to return to her village, dreaming of a loving reunion with her fiancé. One feels one’s heart soar as Helena sets sail for the land of Frankia (France) with her dreams of seeing her loved ones again. Lord Hakan’s heart is heavy at the thought of parting with his Frankish slave, the woman who has changed his life. One cannot,however, but wonder if all will be as Helena hopes when she reaches her native place.
A fascinating work with a ring of authenticity about it. I learnt some surprising facts. Such as the fact that while the rest of Europe took an annual bath, whether dirty or not, the Vikings had already taken the bath to the next level and enjoyed regular saunas. Well I never!
This work is highly recommended for lovers of sweet romance and historical fiction, readers who have ancestral ties with France or Sweden (even with my native Dublin – that’s a Viking city!) and for anyone who enjoys good, old fashioned romance writing. A high five to this one!
Favorite Quote: “A flush of warmth poured through Helena, alert to his attention. She stiffened and couldn’t look higher than the chieftain’s silver armbands, where a blood-eyed beast, carved in silver, winked at her, a trick of the morning light’s reflection.”