The Reluctant Viking
Although my lips curled in annoyance a lot when reading The Reluctant Viking, I smiled almost as often. At first, I was reluctant to grade this book as low as you see above, but there are reasons to do so. At least two very major reasons and a couple of minor ones.
Ruby Jordan’s husband, Jack, has just walked out on her. Sitting down and closing her eyes, Ruby begins to listen to one of Jack’s self-motivation tapes. When she opens her eyes, she in Jorvik, or York, in 925 AD, staring straight at her husband. Only, his name isn’t Jack, it is Thork, and he certainly isn’t married to Ruby, this mad thrall who might be an enemy spy to boot. King Sigtrygg puts Ruby into Thork’s custody, since she, scrambling desperately for answers, claims to be related to Rolf the Marcher, the Viking who conquered Normandy. So begins the dance of recognition and desire. Ruby causes amusing difficulties among the women of Jorvik, and is made to live with Thork’s grandparents. Then Ruby tries the most amazing antics to get Jack’s (Thork’s) love – but will she be allowed to stay with him if she succeeds?
Thork is a Jormsviking, a member of a martial order, and he is due to go serve with his brothers once again. He distances himself from women and his two sons, as any show of affection could bring his loved ones to his enemies’ attention. He can neither make head-nor-tail of the obstinate and strange woman he is set to care for. And while she does have a bony arse, those silk and lace things she sews covers it very nicely.
Ruby is an expert of blowing hot and cold. First she treats Thork as Jack, and talks about their sons; the next second he cannot be Jack since he is harsh with her for endangering herself and others. One minute she is all over him; the next, he has to marry her to get a taste at the goodies in her deluxe wrapping. Ruby does quite a lot of introspection, trying to find out what went wrong with her marriage of the future, when she isn’t blithely introducing 20th century amenities like lingerie and tasseled condoms.
Ruby’s constant uncertainty of whether Thork was himself or Jack was one of the major difficulties with this read. Not knowing who the hero actually was made the romance became highly unbelievable. Is she in the 10th century, loving Thork? Is she having a nice daydream about the way life with Jack should have been? It was next to impossible to believe in a long-term love between Ruby and Thork/Jack, since she can’t make her mind up just who she loves.
I may be an oddball romance reader since I do not demand a happily-ever-after ending. But what I do demand is a good ending, even if it makes me cry enough to make Kleenex sales skyrocket. A good ending grows from the story itself and is not introduced out of thin air. Technically speaking, The Reluctant Viking may be said contain a happy ending. Fine. It does not, by any stretch of the word, contain a good ending, and that was the final straw for me.
I thought I would be as furious at this book as I have been at other Viking romances for abusing the setting but I have to admit that Ms. Hill did a good job with weaving her research into the story. She comes up with possible solutions for un-researched problems, such as toilet paper. We all hope they used something, don’t we? The only thing worth discussing that I have with the setting is the problem of Ruby’s status as thrall or a free woman. A thrall has a legal owner and is in essence a slave – it is not a state you slip in and out of as suits the author’s plotting. The consistent use of this shortcut detracted from the otherwise acceptable setting.
So, my enjoyment of the light and humorous romance suffered from Ruby’s inconsistency and uncertainty. When topped by an ending that solved nothing, I cannot in all fairness recommend this read, in spite of the well-done setting and the humor.