My Fair Viking
My Fair Viking is the kind of book I hate to review. Although I didn’t like it, I have a sneaking suspicion that there are readers who would enjoy it very much.
Adam the Healer has not practiced his healing arts for more than two years out of grief over his sister’s death. He is living somewhat contentedly in his keep in Northumbria when Tyra of Stoneheim comes invading.
Tyra’s father, King Thorvald, is ailing due to a whack on the head and, having been told of Adam’s healing prowess, she decides he must be the man to help her father. When he balks at her invitation to visit her father’s distant kingdom, she kidnaps him and takes him there via longship. Her plan is to make sure her father recovers so that she can tell him she is disinheriting herself and going off to seek her fortune in Byzantium as a female warrior. Since by tradition she, the eldest daughter, must marry before any of her sisters can, and she has no desire to marry, she sees this disowning as the only way her sisters can themselves be happy. She never intends to fall in love with her handsome healer.
Tyra is one of my least favorite heroine types: the heroine who longs to be the hero. I’ve no real fondness for tomboys, and in historicals this type of heroine always seems to be rather misplaced. It is perhaps possible that a Viking woman could have trained to be a warrior, dressed as a man, and courted a man’s vices, but somehow the whole thing just seems terribly unlikely.
Adam is a likable guy, so likable, in fact, that it is unclear why he loves Tyra and puts up with so many of her shenanigans. In addition, the one-joke secondary characters are pretty cardboardy. There’s the untalented skald that constantly makes up unfunny ballads and sagas based on whatever problems Adam or Tyra are confronting at the time. Then there are the too-cute orphan children who latch on to Adam as if he were their personal messiah. Rashid, Adam’s Eastern-born assistant blathers on about the importance of harems and spouts numerous Arabic proverbs. And Tyra’s Vikings don’t act much like warriors, but are instead far more concerned with Adam’s love life.
The history in My Fair Viking feels quite wallpapery. Viking life is described and rulers from this time period make appearances, but Adam and Tyra use words and phrases like “ego” and “sex life.” And many characters, male and female, know how to write and have writing utensils handy whenever necessary.
Finally, the plot meanders. At first Thorvald’s sickly condition adds urgency to the story, but then after Adam arrives at Stoneheim, settles in, and begins to fall in love with Tyra, the conflict between them begins to seem pointless and silly. And towards the end, Tyra’s reasons for avoiding a relationship with Adam seem absurd. A little communication between them would have gone a long way toward authenticating their feelings for each other, though it would have shortened the book a good seventy pages.
All the above problems notwithstanding, I do think this book will have an audience; humor being as subjective as it is, things that didn’t tickle my funny bone are things others may find out and out hilarious. That said, my editor at AAR, Ellen Micheletti, is also AAR‘s biggest Sandra Hill fan and the humor in this book fell flat for her as well. And while the appearance of a blissfully happy hero and heroine from a previous book in the series shows that an HEA was possible in 962, for those who haven’t read the earlier books, their appearance is extraneous.
Although My Fair Viking failed to capture my interest, it did move along at a brisk pace. That’s about the best I can say for it. If you’re a stalwart Sandra Hill fan, you may enjoy it more than I did, but consider Ellen’s comments too: “Sandra Hill can be very, very funny like in The Last Viking, but this one didn’t do a thing for me.”