The Viking's Stolen Princess
Oh, friends. It’s been a long time since I penned a full-length review. Life. Amiright? As many of you know, I like Viking romances. A lot. I like to read about marauding men and women who travel the sea. I like the descriptions of body tattoos and crazy shaved hairstyles. Braids. I’m here for longboats and longhouses and beautiful carved woodwork. Cold weather. Steamy baths. All of it. So when my editor tempted me back to AAR with a Viking romance, I started reading it right away. And then I put it down. For reasons. Tried again. Put it down. Tried again. You see where this is going, right?
I’m not here for formulaic stories that transpose those Viking essentials into the ordinary and totally un-extraordinary, and unfortunately, because it’s both, I can’t recommend The Viking’s Stolen Princess to you. TVSP features an unlikeable, underdeveloped heroine paired with a Viking warrior/leader who doesn’t seem to do much except pant after a woman he’s taken as a prisoner in a complicated revenge scheme. A woman he’s lusted after since a brief, chance meeting when she was just a young girl and she interrupted a loathsome bully nearly beating him to death. The writing is clunky and sometimes ridiculous – reader, I highlighted so many passages that my kindle copy is a sea of red – and unfortunately, the story is predictable and boring, too.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re still up for trying a debut author giving the Viking world a go. Saxon princess Lady Anne of Termarth was raised by her father, King Eallesborough, after her sad and lonely mother died when Anne was a young girl. She’s good to the people in the kingdom – a saint, really – but neglected by her powerful father. Anne dreams of a true love to sweep her away from her oh-so-sad life as a princess in a castle (um). When the story begins, she discovers she’s finally leaving – but not in the way she’s hoped. In a last ditch attempt to protect his kingdom from a possible invasion by Northmen (also sometimes referred to as Danish warriors and Danish barbarians), King Eallesborough brokered a marriage between her and Ealdorman Lord Crowe of Calhourn in exchange for an army of men. But Lady Anne doesn’t love him! Friends, she doesn’t even like him! She thinks he’s a toad. She fears she’s destined for an unhappy marriage like her mother’s and her only solace is that the union would bring the people more security from the Northern clans. Oh, you sweet rich princess. You’re the best.
A distraught Anne heads for the ramparts of Termarth Castle to have a good cry only to discover she isn’t alone! Nope, there’s a man! And he knows her name. . . As he stepped into the moonlight, lowering the hood of his woollen cloak, Anne found herself staring across the passageway into the wild blue gaze of the most fearsome and fascinating man she had ever seen. . . This was the face of a man who had seen many battles. He epitomised the meaning of danger. Our dangerous stranger introduces himself as Brand Ivarrson of Kald – one of her father’s deadliest enemies! Brand the Barbarian! OH NO! He tells Anne she’s coming with him, she says she isn’t, this goes on for a bit and then Anne tries to throw herself off the castle wall. He stops her, chastises her, and then Brand carries her off and she doesn’t fight him. Yet. (Keep waiting for that, friend. It never happens).
A long time ago, a young Brand was beaten to a bloody mess by a teenage Lord Crowe of Calhourn and his friends. But he never forgot the young girl who found him and tenderly wiped the blood from his face before running away again when she heard footsteps approaching. Crowe then went on to do some more awful stuff to Brand’s family (he’s the villain!), and Brand HAS FINALLY HAD ENOUGH. He’s stealing Anne away from Crowe – take that Crowe! – and plans to use her in a complicated revenge scheme. Anne doesn’t know Crowe was the man who beat Brand to a bloody pulp. In fact, she doesn’t remember him either! But Brand remembers her, and unfortunately for him, she’s just as beautiful as he remembers. The epitome of elegance, he’d recognised her glossy dark brown hair, worn in two thick, long plaits. THAT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE.
TVSP chronicles the adventures of Brand and Anne as Brand spirits Anne away on his faithful steed (reader, that’s how the horse is described!) to make her a prisoner of Kald. He spends most of his time fighting to keep his sea serpent from soaring whenever she’s near, and she tries to resist his deep, dulcet voice and sexy body and hair and tattoos, non-stop lust, and his kindness as she reluctantly plots to get away. They bicker and argue, too! And sometimes his warriors try to hook up with her and Brand loses his everloving mind fending them off. They also FALL IN LOVE but don’t admit it to each other. That’s not the done thing in enemies-to-lovers romances. This ridiculous road trip leads them eventually to Kald, and once they’re there… not much happens. When Rodi finally brings this farce of a story to a close in a totally underwhelming, sticky sweet, completely unsurprising and they all lived happily ever after ending and epilogue, I was happy to be done with it.
Reader, I wanted to get on board Brand’s faithful steed and just enjoy this story but I couldn’t. These two are in lust/love from the get-go, and the story just goes nowhere. I hoped Crowe would at least feature in a particularly nasty revenge scene, but even that was a disappointment. I love a good enemies-to-lovers romance and I love Vikings. I don’t love this story. I didn’t even like it. I can’t recommend it. The good news? This is only Rodi’s debut. I won’t be reading her next book – or even probably the one after that. But maybe you will. And you’ll tell me to try her Viking love stories again. We’ll see.