I am hard put to define Viking! as a romance novel. It wasn’t romantic. As far as being a novel goes, the only reason it can make that claim is because it (somehow) managed to get published. If you want to read a romance novel, do not read this book. Do not even buy it, as high sales statistics will encourage the publishers to print books of this stripe ahead of readable ones.
Thorne the Viking is struck by lust while witnessing Fiona bathing naked on the Isle of Man. Naturally, she must have placed a spell on him, and in order to remove this magical obsession he has with her, he drags her back to Norway. The rest of the story is an unlikely cocktail of kidnapping, wondering whether or not they are married, a jealous ex-girlfriend, a lecherous competitor, and so on and so forth, which eventually leads to Thorne admitting that his lust really was love.
Romance is escapist literature, and this is one book that reaches escape velocity. You end up with the feeling that the story is in orbit around Jupiter instead of down here with us readers. A good example: After spending days crossing the North Sea during a storm in an open longship, does Thorne call for dry clothes, or a drink, or a hot meal? Does he perhaps drag Fiona to the nearest bed to finally fulfill his incessant lust? Nope, his first words to her when landing in Norway are: “As you can see, the land is rocky and steep. Farming is confined to the coastline.” After calling for a horse, he follows through with this observation: “The landward side of the town is protected by a semicircular rampart constructed of earth and logs.” Thorne the tourist guide strikes again.
The combination of sentences such as those above, a severe case of adjectivitis, author intrusions, and some of the most purple love scenes I’ve ever read explain why just leafing through this book brings a wistful smile to my lips. Please observe that, so far, I have consciously refrained from saying anything about the level of historical accuracy. The best simile for the accuracy level in Viking! would be the portrayal of Native Americans in Hollywood Western movies of the ’40s and ’50s – and that is a generous comparison.
I’ve read a couple of romance novels that would have been better with the intervention of a firm editor. The only thing that possibly could have improved this book would have been simply throwing it out, and beginning again with the scene with Fiona bathing in the spring.
In fact, I found this read so dismally obnoxious, I have a strong suspicion that it was published only to make other, more mediocre, reads look like true bestsellers. Other that that, I can’t see why healthy trees should have been logged to provide the paper for Viking!