To Sin With a Viking
Willingham revisits familiar territory with the sexy new release, To Sin With a Viking. She has written a number of other Viking romances, some full length and some novellas, so readers may already familiar with her treatment of these pillaging, alpha males. Readers will not be disappointed by Caragh and Styr’s story, which is steamy yet sweet.
You have to admire Willingham’s attempt to try something that is unusual to the romance genre. As is explained in the author’s note, she wanted to explore the idea of a couple that is really not meant to be together finding love with other people. Styr Hardrata has been married for five years to his somewhat cold wife, Elena. Infertility had wrecked havoc on their previously amicable marriage and left them unhappy and distanced from each other. Nevertheless, Styr is devoted to his marriage and protecting his wife. When the couple sails to Ireland in hopes of settling, Elena and Styr are both taken captive and separated. Elena is taken away in the Viking’s ship by young Irishmen and Styr is rendered unconscious and trapped by a beautiful woman.
Caragh O’Brannon acts impulsively when she knocks out the Viking and has him bound up in her home. She thought only to protect her brother, who had taken Elena hostage and was nearly attacked by Styr. Now, she has a too handsome Viking chained up in her home and isn’t sure what to do with him.
Admittedly, I thought that Styr’s reaction to his failing marriage and capture by Caragh were both fairly modernized. I doubt that an actual Viking would have been so concerned with his wife’s feelings, or discussed them with his shipmates. His attitude about preserving their marriage and working through their issues was much more what you’d expect from a man of the 21st century, not someone from a group of people known for raiding, pillaging, and raping. I also thought he would have responded to being chained up by Caragh with more anger. However, in spite of the slight anachronism of his gentle nature, I enjoyed it. His connection to Caragh was almost instant and you could feel his affection for her build from anger, to protectiveness, to lust, and finally to love.
Caragh is the epitome of sweet and caring. She is forever stepping between two of the testosterone drenched males to break up a fight. She was incredibly giving and, to Willingham’s credit, the author showed this trait through Caragh’s actions several times, rather than simply telling the reader. Caragh has been at the brink of starvation due to a famine in her village, so meeting Styr, who teaches her to fish, practically saves her life. I liked the contrast between Caragh’s soft innocence and Styr’s harder nature.
I am, by no means, a historian so I cannot speak to the historical accuracy of To Sin With a Viking . I didn’t notice anything that stood out to me as blaring inaccuracies. There were some things in the narrative that definitely wouldn’t have been said in the time period but, since it wasn’t character dialogue, it wasn’t enough to detract from the story or take you out of the moment.
Inevitably, there will be someone who will not be able to enjoy this story because of the tricky subject matter. I can understand someone being put off by the fact that Styr is married when he meets and falls for Caragh. However, I think that it is very believable for a marriage to fall apart, especially one that was arranged to begin with. There was never passionate romance between Styr and Elena and time has only driven a wedge between them. It makes sense that he could fall for someone else. I do think it made me feel better about the situation knowing that Elena will be getting her own happily-ever-after in the second Forbidden Vikings book, To Tempt a Viking, which comes out in February of 2014.
Although Willingham’s author note says that Styr and Elena don’t stray into the realm of adultery during his marriage, I don’t think most wives would have been happy with his behavior. He and Caragh kiss a number of times and share one very hot night of mutual, albeit solo, pleasure. If that is something you know you’ll be bothered by, this is not the book for you. Personally, I look forward to reading about Elena and Ragnar Olafsson’s side of the story in the next book.
While To Sin With a Viking is not the perfect historical romance, I appreciated that it wasn’t at all predictable. I’m a fan of Viking romances and I’m used to reading about the poor innocent maid being taken captive by the sexy yet stony Viking. This flips that idea around and puts Styr at the lady’s mercy. Also, as I was reading, there were several times when I thought I had accurately guessed how the rest of the tale was going to go; yet it never did. I greatly enjoyed the pair’s journey to find Elena and Caragh’s brother. It was obvious that Caragh had developed feelings for Styr, yet was prepared to do the right thing and give him up.
If you’re like me and you love a good Viking romance, To Sin With a Viking will be a fast, sultry read. I finished the whole book in a day, even though I set it down several times with plans to accomplish something else. Although this may not be anything groundbreaking in its originality, it’s very sweet and won’t waste your time. This definitely encouraged me to find some of Willingham’s other Viking stories and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for To Tempt a Viking next year.