Tempted by Her Viking Enemy
Terri Brisbin’s books usually hit the spot, and while not my favorite by her, Tempted by Her Viking Enemy actually did come close. Even though it’s the last book in the Sons of Sigurd series, it works quite well as a standalone. I had issues with some of the revelations in the suspense plot, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t entertained at times.
Set in ninth century Scotland, this story focuses mostly on the goings on in the household of Thorfinn, a Norseman whose late first wife was one of the local Scottish women. The author sets the stage quickly, and it’s apparent that all is not well in Thorfinn’s household. For reasons that remain unclear, he has remarried Kolga, a Viking widow who apparently has a fair amount of land and power in her own right. The marriage is clearly a cause for tension between Thorfinn and his adult daughter, Katla.
As the story opens, a man mysteriously shows up and issues a challenge. Following a fierce fight, the injured prisoner is placed in the dungeon but Thorfinn mystifies his men by insisting the captive be kept alive to face justice before the king. It is revealed that Thorfinn owes this man his life, but he keeps the details to himself.
Thorfinn sends his widowed daughter Katla to tend to the prisoner, and there she learns that Brandt is himself the son of a Viking leader, Sigurd. Brandt and his brothers were cast off as outlaws after their father was declared a traitor and the brothers have been working to unravel the plot that led to false charges against their father and a massacre at the wedding of one of the brothers.
The setting in this book is almost claustrophobic since most of it takes place in the dungeon where Brandt is kept. However, that works fairly well given the storyline, because both of the leads spend a great deal of the story working through issues internally. The setting provides the space needed to advance the emotional side of the story, and there’s just enough external action to keep the suspense plot moving.
In terms of emotion, we learn two big things about Brandt: (1) His drive to avenge his father and his family have provided motivation for him for so long that he hasn’t really considered life outside that goal and (2) he dearly loved his late wife. His experiences in Thorfinn’s household and his interactions with Katla cause him to actually think deeply, and his character arc as he considers the possibility of life beyond revenge is really quite hopeful. I also really liked that he can see the differences between Katla and his first wife and that he clearly appreciates both women for who they were and are.
Katla, on the other hand, had a much less positive first marriage, and after it ended, she came home to find her father much changed. She has been so focused on protecting herself and her younger sister and staying out of her father’s way that she has not had time to consider what has changed her home so much. However, as she and Brandt work together to find a way out of the dangers looming over them, she starts to think through what has been happening in her family.
The love story between Katla and Brandt is tender and lovely; I very much enjoyed that part of the story. However, the suspense plot is less successful. On the one hand, I figured out bits and pieces of what was happening fairly early in the story and I enjoyed seeing the puzzle pieces click into place. On the other, the ultimate resolution of the story frustrated me for two reasons. Firstly, the ultimate villain is over the top eeeevil and really doesn’t need to be in order for the story to work. Without giving too much away, I think it’s fair to say that the villain is motivated by a lust for power and status, something that could be made clear without all the extra details thrown in. After all, if you create an unsubtle character with absolutely no redeeming features, then it does make one wonder why anyone in their right mind would have had any reason to put up with them.
My other, much larger, issue with the suspense plot is that one character who behaved abusively toward others gets redeemed far too easily. There are explanations for this character’s behavior and they are shown trying to make amends. However, given the nature of what goes on in the story, there really could have been more of that. I enjoyed the romance in this book quite a bit, but the suspense plot wobbled a bit on the landing.
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I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.