Conveniently Wed to the Viking
I want to find a Viking romance that immerses me in the setting and blows me away. Conveniently Wed to the Viking is competent, which makes it stand out in this subgenre, but not exceptional.
Sandulf Sigurdsson is on the trail of the assassin who murdered his sister-in-law, whose death led his widowed elder brother to banish him from their homeland. The trail, to the monastery of Nrurim, overlaps with the path Ceanna of Dun Olleigh is trying to take. She hopes her aunt, the abbess, will give her refuge as she flees an arranged marriage to her stepmother’s lover (and the death the two are plotting for her immediately after the wedding). So we have a road, or rather, a wilderness, romance, as the two link up to head to the monastery. But the path is perilous, as it seems Ceanna’s family may be one step ahead of them with their plotting and contingency plans. Ceanna and Sigurd become closer as they travel, and by the time they arrive at the monastery, the titular “convenient” marriage has become an actively appetizing prospect.
A novel set in Scotland in 879 during the age of the Picts was exciting for me as a reader. I enjoyed the history the author worked in, and I appreciated the seamlessness with which the setting became part of the plot. Interesting examples include the assassination of King Aed of the Picts in 878 and the accurate characterization of monasteries as feudal lords in their own right, containing villages and having political power to stand against a territory. Religion is present, both Sandulf’s Norse gods and Ceanna’s Christianity. However, while I don’t need my dialogue written in actual Pictish, I do prefer not to see phrases like “Why are you both so jumpy?” or “Funny you should mention him.”
How do I feel about the characters? Sigurd had such potential to be interesting, but the author doesn’t take the issues where she could have. As I mentioned, Sigurd was thrown out of his home in Norway by his eldest brother, for failing to save his sister-in-law’s life during a major assault. But that wasn’t the first time Sigurd’s brothers came down on the youngest of their foursome. The way their past together is described is toxic. Sigurd doesn’t even seem to fully understand how skewed his perspective is. His lifelong quest to be “worthy of being their brother” could be heartbreaking in the face of mistreatment, and I was excited for a reckoning in the final third of the book. Unfortunately, because it’s part of a series where the brothers are the other heroes, the author must, at the last minute, completely drop this plot thread and wave everything away. After all, the other books can’t possibly star ex-bullies!
Ceanna avoids the worst excesses of ‘headstrong’ heroines, and on the few occasions when she insists on defying Sigurd, she’s usually justified – she DOES know the people they need to win over; they DO need more information before they act, etc. At the same time, she’s not particularly memorable, and never came across to me as grounded in her time. I also didn’t get a strong sense of her and Sigurd as being ‘in love’. They could have easily been platonic friends on the road.
I enjoyed the political plot centered around Ceanna’s family. The revelations were well-timed and I liked the way that the author understood that power too often gets to set its own rules. Ultimately, though, the outcomes for the villains are too quick and convenient.
Conveniently Wed to the Viking is a perfectly good Viking romance, and we don’t have enough of those. If you like Vikings, you’ll be pleased to find a solid and competent story in this subgenre. However, you will still, like me, be waiting for a story you can truly marvel at.