Desert Isle Keeper
First things first – don’t judge this book by its cover. From the official cover, I was expecting something a bit childish – definitely with Vikings, but still childish. This is the author’s first work, after all, and it’s unusual to read a first romance that fully moves the reader. Well, consider me moved. Our heroine fell through a virtual world into the past, and I was hooked.
Imagine a world where you could live out whatever time period and culture was your favorite, where it is the norm to steep yourself in the past to the point of fanaticism. This is the future world Larissa Brown has created for Beautiful Wreck, and it is fascinating. Jen works for a company focused on creating the perfect virtual world, specializing in Viking-era history and language, but when testing out a specific scene, she somehow literally falls into the past, waking up, freezing, on an icy black beach. When she is rescued by some men, including the chief, of a nearby farm/village, she starts to realize what has happened, and, claiming amnesia, does her best to fit in to the rest of the group, adopting the name Ginn as her own.
Her preoccupation with the chief, Heirik, does not go unnoticed, however, and as the two grow closer, their problems begin. Heirik was born with a blood-mark (birthmark) covering much of his face and upper-body – an ill omen – and it was decided long ago that he would never know a wife. He is as obsessed with her as she is with him, but will not risk her well-being, her very life, for his happiness.
I could go on for ages about our hero and heroine, but will try to restrain myself. Ginn was an interesting character. She has spent much of her life as the fairly useless romantic in the corner – she’s not good with her hands, isn’t able to pick up much in the way of practical skills, but fell in love with an era where those were the things that were prized. She works hard, though, wanting to fit in and be of use, and it is interesting to watch as she grows into a more mature adult from beginning to end. Heirik was also multi-dimensional, which you discover more of as Ginn learns more about the world she has been thrust into. At first, Ginn believes Heirik to be shy, not knowing what to do with a woman, and while she isn’t wrong, she doesn’t have the whole story. Yes, Heirik is shy, but he also is strong, cunning, knows strategy and is a skilled fighter. There are moments early on in the story that seem sweet, but as you get further on, you find out they have further meanings. He was a truly fascinating character.
I am not normally a fan of first-person narration in romance novels – it just fails too easily. But having read this book, I can’t imagine it being anything but told from Ginn’s point-of-view. This entire story is so lyrical and so personal that it literally stole my breath more than once – it wasn’t anything in particular that was happening, it was simply the writing itself. I could open up to any page and quote something beautiful, but here’s some of my favorites:
We had a spa at the lab, a floating, melted space inside the heart of the glacier, but none like this. I’d never seen a pool that sat like a tiny bowl under a peach and moss-colored sky. I tilted my head back and an immense weight of openness – a sky unbroken by steel and glass – pressed down on me like a heavy blanket. (p.38)
Scents of cold dirt and musty wool wafted out of the mudroom door, smelling like comfort. (p.84)
“Woman, listen well.” Her whisper was grave. “He is chieftain. Everyone will always care what he does. If you succeed, they will care what you do, too. They’ll watch you move and eat and breath. They’ll watch you carry your blood-cursed raven’s children, and you will learn to guard your back, and shield your eyes and heart.” (p.167)
Honestly, if I had any complaints at all, it would be that the whole story reads like this – it is beautiful, but it can be overwhelming at times. Luckily, the actual storyline, while it does move forward, and things happen, feels almost serene and dreamlike – it fits well with the style.
But be warned – if you want to read something undemanding and easy, this book is not for you. However, if you are tired of how Vikings are portrayed in romance novels, if you want something that feels real, that feels personal, then you should pick this up. It is a romance, no doubt, but reads like literature, like historical fiction and poetry. Ms. Brown has obviously put a lot of time and effort into including the language and the culture of the people she writes about, and it shows. I have no idea where the author will be going after this novel, but I will definitely be looking for it.