A Fragile Trust
In the past I have lamented what I see as a disturbing sort of sameness in recent historical romance releases. Lately I have been craving something a little less light and fluffy, a little more dark or unusual. In Helen Kirkman’s latest romance, I think I have found it. Though parts of the middle of the book dragged for me, the unusual story and rich historical setting made this one a winner for me.
This book is set in the opening years of Alfred the Great’s rule in England as he reigns in Wessex, the one kingdom that has not fallen to the Vikings. Just over the Mercian border from Wessex lives Gemma, orphaned daughter of a goldsmith and now a goldsmith herself. Gemma lives in a tumbledown shack as a virtual prisoner in her town by its Viking rulers. While headed home, Gemma comes across Ash, an English warrior near death. She sneaks him in and tries to nurse him back to health.
Ash is torn between the danger he knows he brings to Gemma and his respect and growing affection for her. The poverty-stricken goldsmith distrusts warriors, but feels compassion for Ash’s condition. Against her will she finds herself forced to trust him and is attracted to him as well. Likewise, Ash is determined to avoid Gemma, but he cannot help but be bound to her by circumstance and drawn to her emotionally.
This book is unusual in that while there are complex forces at work, the plot does advance rather slowly. Rather than moving the story along with quick dialogue and lots of action, the author explores the hearts of her characters. Her writing style is simple and stark in many places – every word, every unspoken gesture is given purpose and the result is a richly emotional tale of love building gradually through a lead couple stronger than many I have encountered. I felt like I could really get into the struggles of Gemma to live in her conquered town, and that the bargains struck between Gemma and Ash as they deal with one another had a significance that might have been lost had the author not chosen her words so wisely.
This is the sort of book one has to be in the right mood to read. Because of the relative lack of dialogue, a reader must pay close attention to the characters and their actions in order to follow the story. However, if one is inclined to invest the time, the emotional story found here is a great payoff. For me, this book dragged in the middle as I hit a few points where I got a little confused about the action, but it quickly picked again.
The author’s use of the historical setting also bears mention. Alfred the Great and the Vikings are not mere wallpaper here. The characters are very much products of their time and the impact of historical events upon their lives really drive this story. Those who love to see history come alive may want to give this book a try.
While this book is probably not for everyone, it is well written and those who like this type of story may well enjoy it. Though not perfect, it is quite good. The rich setting and intriguing style of the author make this one I will not soon forget.