Our reviewer Em gave an A- to Lucy Morris’s previous Viking book, The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance. I found it closer to a B, but it was still an enjoyable book. I hoped I’d find something here that was at least as good, but I emphatically didn’t.
Aimée Évreux, heiress to the Évreux estate, is in a convent, not because she is devout but because her parents’ awful relationship makes her fear marriage. Still a novice, she is shocked when Jorund Jötunnson literally batters down the door of her convent with an order that she marry him, an order approved by her father. Together, they return to Évreux, where they start to forge a life together. I would say they are hampered by his PTSD and her fears, but honestly, their biggest obstacles are assumptions and the inability to have a five minute conversation to resolve them. Here are some such obstacles:
- Jorund can’t read. Amée reads in the scroll sent by her father that if she doesn’t have a child within two winters, the land of Évreux (which Jorund married Amée for) reverts to her father. She doesn’t tell Jorund.
- Jorund sets aside the best room in Amée’s childhood home for her – one with a view of the apple tree where, unbeknownst to him, Amée’s mother hanged herself. Amée hates this room and its view, but won’t tell Jorund (even to say she wants another room without explaining the suicide).
- Jorund has nightmares from his time as a pillaging Viking. He doesn’t explain to Amée that this is why he won’t share a bed with her, so she takes it personally.
- Someone tries to kill Amée, and anybody with a brain cell will know who it has to be. Jorund not only won’t tell Amée his suspicions, but he actively lies to her that the attempted hit was just random raiders, so she resents and tries to ditch the bodyguard he seems to have given her for no reason.
- Most annoyingly, Amée is utterly convinced that Valda, a female Viking warrior, is Jorund’s mistress. Yes, eventually, she has some misleading evidence, but her suspicions begin long before she has that evidence and causes a pointlessly long estrangement.
The prose and values are modern, as when Amée admonishes herself “to be more open-minded about their differences”, or gets insights about restoring the estate from “some key families”, as though she’s a Dark Ages political consultant. Amée’s story of her mother’s mental health reads too clearly as bipolar disorder. Of course bipolar disorder existed at the time, but Amée’s description of it sounds like it’s written from a web article – a clear differential diagnosis, and entirely absent of any religious interpretation. Jorund’s PTSD is the same, and I was quite irritated that the author concurred with Amée that Jorund would never hurt her in the throes of a night terror because he loves her. That is 100% not how PTSD works.
I had some issues with the setting, but I don’t think any of these were problems that would jar a reader who isn’t a major history nerd. To give an example, Amée casually pulls a Bible out of the bag she brought with her from the convent. A Gutenberg Bible, made five hundred years later with more advanced technology, came in two volumes (each the size of a flagstone), cost somewhere in the range of $200,000 modern dollars, and weighed 14 pounds. A Bible just isn’t the sort of thing a novice nun slung around in a suitcase in 914 AD. Still, I acknowledge that most people won’t notice or care about this. I did appreciate the way Princess Gisla laughs off Amée’s concerns about a mistress, because mistresses are to be expected.
One unexpected win here? The epilogue, with twin babies, complete with exhaustion for Amée and a feeling that nursing makes her “more of a prize cow than a wife.” Oh, I felt that, and laughed. That epilogue alone, and the high note it left me on, probably lifted this book from the D range.
I’m sorry to say that after a strong first Viking romance, Lucy Morris is going in the wrong direction with A Nun for the Viking Warrior. I hope she can get it together for future books.
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