When sitting down to write this review, I sincerely wished someone else could have done it in my place. I’m terribly sensitive regarding Viking romances, and the book just might have fared a little better in the hands of another reviewer, someone not Scandinavian.
The King of Meath has captured Brand, a Viking spy. For reasons of her own, his daughter, Deirdre, releases the prisoner who returns the favor when the Vikings invade Meath. Brand brings Deirdre to the Danelaw and to Norway as his slave, or his woman, in his quest to defeat his enemies. Not only are the enemies more powerful than he expected, Brand’s fiancée, Erica, doesn’t take kindly to competition, and sends Deirdre into danger. Eventually the rightful king is restored, through the revealing of dark secrets and with the help of unexpected allies.
Deirdre is feisty, vocal, and quite clever. She knows the medicine of the Infidels, but very little else, and hungers for knowledge. She quickly switches from arrogant princess to defiant captive to pliant and loyal lover. When introduced to skiing and skating, she rapidly becomes an expert, as well as learning Norse at an amazing speed.
Brand is a prince, son of King Jarls, and has given himself as hostage to a warlord in exchange for his father’s life. He is noble and balanced to his fingertips, while still being a ruthless and cunning warrior. As much as possible, he acts with honor, even to the point of turning down a kingship. Did I mention he is blond and gorgeous, too?
Defiant Captive is geographically varied, which I tend to enjoy. The story moves from Ireland to the Danelaw to Wessex to Norway. There are also a number of multi-dimensional supporting characters, which we are allowed to see in the pursuit of their own romances. While this may be seen as moving the focus from the main romance, it allows the supporting cast to contribute more to the story as a whole.
From a certain perspective, I did enjoy this book. I read the worst glitches aloud to my husband, sharing the fun. As a romance novel, read for its entertainment value, it failed its purpose totally for me. There was plenty of action and interaction, but a bit more work could have gone into making Brand and Deirdre life-size, not to mention getting a feel for the culture in which the romance is set.
Facts are not everything, and here they feel more like stage props than contributing to the story. An example is the use of the terms Viking and Scandinavia. A Viking is a Norse member of a raiding party, and to use Viking to denote the ethnic culture of Scandinavia is slipshod, even though it certainly happens. Scandinavia includes Finland, which isn’t Norse, and technically excludes Iceland. Considering that the nations of today were still forming during this period, introducing a King of Scandinavia is, to my mind, sloppy plotting.
This is an action-packed read with a lightly described setting, but with little consistency in terms of character development. If I hadn’t been so laughingly annoyed by all the mistakes, I would have been bored silly. Defiant Captive might be more tolerable for a reader who won’t be bothered by the setting. Then again, that might mean that there would nothing at all to be entertained by.