Katrin of Courtenay’s husband is dead-and she doesn’t mourn him. He was cruel and controlling, and she doesn’t need a husband to hold her northern keep. But her vengeful uncle, the King of England, has other ideas: intent on marrying her off, he’s ordered his Viking-bred warrior to return her to court.
On the journey, the Viking captures her interest, and for the first time Katrin understands passion. But her guard is honor-bound to deliver her to the king, and so it is settled-she must wed the mysterious Rafael le Senay, the Baron of Belmaine.
A forced marriage to a stranger slowly becomes something more, and Katrin realizes she is in love with Rafael. But with the shadow of her former lover hanging over her, and Rafael’s powerful brother making dangerous plans, can Katrin negotiate the delicate balance between survival and happiness?
Historically speaking, women have always had a hard time! Young women today, by in large, are unaware of the high price their mothers or their mothers’ contemporaries paid to win a greater share of equality in today’s world, especially here in the United States. In the Medieval Period in which this novel is set, women are throw away human beings with the exception of aristocratic women who become political chattal to fulfill the political and power goals of their male relatives. Such it is with the heroine in this novel–a woman who was given in marriage at the age of 15 years to a man who was a religious bigot, who saw sex as sinful unless one has sex in order to procreate, and who prayed for forgiveness everytime he had sex with his wife. Now Katrin’s cruel and controlling husband is dead and once again she is a valuable commodity on the marriage market. Add in the fact that she is niece of the king–her father was the king’s half-brother, and you have a woman who knows that her life is not her own. Things get complicated when we factor in Katrin’s rebellious spirit and you have the basis for a story that is a love story at its core, but the layers of personal stress, family tension, political and power agendas that float around her make it complicated and, in my view, utterly fascinating.
This story is really an inside look at the heart and soul of a young woman on the verge of her adult life who has already lived through a hell of a marriage and who now is still often unequal to the push-pull of the forces in her life. Even when she thinks she is in love with her Viking warrior guard, she is heart-broken and defeated by his choice of loyalty to the king over his love for her. She also put herself in an even more difficult position by getting pregnant, refusing the king’s amorous advances and being unsuccessful in hiding her deep feeling for her Viking who can never be anything more to her than a passing fancy. Yet this Viking continues to be a factor in Katrin’s life, one that ultimately does her far more harm than good.
It is never easy to walk a path of discovery with someone and even though Katrin is a fictional character, this author has brought her to life so successfully that I had the feeling that I knew her or would like to know her. Not that I would want to live in that time by any means, but she is experiencing many of the insecurities, the lessons of life, and finding ways to meet life’s challenges every woman must face, challenges that are a reality regardless the time period in which a woman lives. This novel has the tension throughout of what is really going to happen to her, will she be able to steer her life successfully through the troubled “waters” of these outside pressures, will she find any kind of personal satisfaction in her relationships, will she find a measure of personal freedom because she has successfully manipulated the external forces around her so that her personal power increases? A novel that asks those questions keeps readers moving forward, hoping to find answers that are consistent with the historical times and with the tone and spirit of the novel as a whole.
This author is new to me but I was impressed with the writing skill she demonstrated, her adept use of the English descriptive language, the consistent development of story line and characters, and the sense of realism that persisted throughout. As a reader who really has always loved the Medieval Period — my first major read was Ivanhoe–I felt that I not only managed to be entertained but I was also educated in this time period that many authors miss, those decades before the invasion of William the Conqueror. When all is said and done, this is a terrific historical romance novel and will be a delight for readers who love books that link the politics, the cultural upheaval, the romance of the Medieval Age.
I give this novel a 4 out of 5 rating.
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.