Heart of Honor
When I first started reading romance ten years ago, I went through a lot of Kat Martin books. I haven’t read one in five years and couldn’t really remember why, so thought I’d try her again. Now I remember. Alpha Jerk Heroes and Feisty, Feisty Heroines. But thankfully, the leads of Heart of Honor weren’t quite as bad as some I now recall and while they had some unusual traits that made them stand out from others, at their core they are still Alpha and Feisty.
Krista Hart and her father run the Heart to Heart Ladies’ Weekly Gazette which was founded by her late mother. While the magazine has the usual women’s features of fashion and gossip, Krista is responsible for the editorials and articles which champion social reforms. Lately she has received anonymous threats which promise violence. She is also the granddaughter of an earl who has received a special writ from the queen for the title to pass on to Krista’s son, so she is under enormous pressure to marry. But while she wouldn’t mind falling in love, most of her passion is reserved for the magazine.
Krista visits a traveling circus, and in the sideshow sees a ragged, dirty man with a long beard wearing only a loincloth in a cage bearing the sign “The Last Barbarian.” The man is raging in an unknown language at the “keeper” who is poking at him through the bars with a stick. But Krista knows the language. It is Old Norse and her father just happens to be a scholar on the era so she learned the supposedly dead language as a child.
Through a combination of bribes and intimidation, Krista and her father purchase the man’s freedom, and it turns out that he is indeed a Viking: Leif of Draugr Island, a legendary island between Greenland and the Orkneys where the last of the Vikings settled in the 16th c. Leif had an overwhelming curiosity to explore and see what was beyond his confined world but wound up shipwrecked, injured and captured in the north of England by the circus owner.
Oddly enough, his experiences haven’t dimmed his curiosity and interest in the English, so he and Mr. Hart agree to teach each other about their respective cultures and languages. He cleans up very well indeed and proves to be a tall, gorgeous, blond Viking God who thinks that Krista is the picture of perfection and vows to have her for his wife.
It took some time for me to warm up to Krista, who is very huffy as well as feisty. While she was appalled at Leif’s treatment at the circus, once he is in her home, she expects him to know English manners, flinging out several “how dare you!”s and declaring him to be “no gentleman.” Well, of course he doesn’t know that a woman should always enter a room before the man – he’s a 16th c.Viking, for goodness’ sake. Cut the man some slack. But soon his “You’re my woman and you belong to me no matter what you may wish” attitude wore on me. When the threats against Krista and the Gazette become more serious, Leif leaps into Viking Warrior mode in ways that are both endearing and annoying.
I liked that Krista had an occupation and a passion in a time when few women worked, and the scenes at the magazine were interesting. I also liked that Leif was kind of Medieval, and I generally like fish-out-of-water storylines. Krista and Leif also have an actual, real conflict to their HEA (besides the “she’s a Victorian Englishwoman and he’s a 16th c. Viking” one) – Leif is the eldest son of the island’s chieftain and must return to take up his duties while Krista has a responsibility to continue her grandfather’s earldom and so cannot leave England – nor does she want to, for she is very committed to her magazine.
But, it takes too long to resolve these problems and I was ready for the book to end long before it did, for we had the obligatory visit to the Island of Draugr which added a good 100 pages to the book right when I was ready for Martin to start wrapping things up. And someone tell me this – why is it, with lost civilizations, that there is no progress? That they do things exactly the same way they did when they became “lost?” They had progressed up until that moment, but now suddenly no one invents anything new? No one ever has any new ideas about farming or industry? In 400 years? I don’t get it.
At any rate, while Heart of Honor has an interesting premise and some intriguing characters, it wasn’t enough. This wasn’t a bad book, but neither was it a good one.