Review: Norse Jewel by Gina Conkle

norse jewelReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Not everyone is what they seem. Hakan is a huge and imposing Norse chieftain who has lived and pledged to die by the sword most of his life, but when a Frankish woman, Helena is brought to their camp to become their slave, he hears she wants to live the life of a free woman, and he has something else in mind too – he has always wanted to be a farmer and live free without having to kill people to survive. Even the most hardened warrior has a softer side, and this is certainly true of Hakan.

Review: Gina Conkle starts the story where it should be, with her among other slaves in a slavers market where the Danes come to purchase them as they would cattle or other wares. Rather than elaborate on some past happenings at the beginning, she gets right into the part of the story that is worth reading, the thoughts and feelings of Helena, a captured Frank who dreams of returning to her homeland to be free. Helena catches Hakan’s eye, even though at first he wants an older woman to take care of the home when he decides to become a farmer. He knows his men don’t approve of his yearning for living a different life when they can plunder jewels and other valuables while on their marauding adventures, but he has already tired of his current life and needs more if he can be happy. He sees happiness with a woman who wants to be as free as he, and sees this nature in Helena.

There are a lot of tense moments in this, the first is where Helena tries to get Hakan to take her as his woman, as one of his men who wrestled with her earlier may want his revenge later, and she can’t afford to be around when that happens, or she could be raped, or worse.

How good are the characters?

  •  Helena doesn’t accept her fate, and wants desperately to change it. She acts strong and won’t give in to the Danes no matter if she gets hurt in the process. She is a rare woman who will stand up for what she believes in.
  • Sestra, another slave who was chained with Helena, she accepts her lot in life, unlike Helena and gives her sound advice Helena never takes much notice of.
  • Loved the cover art, it’s a striking pic of a well built man (Hakan no doubt) with some lovely jewel designs on his arm and chest – nice.

Bad bits:

  • None.

Summary: There are a lot of good quotes in this book that I liked a great deal.

  • “Status of birth matters little. It’s how you live each day… that is your true measure.”
  • “A warrior who speaks like a…” She paused, searching for the right word. “a… wise man…’tis rare.”

Helena acts as a strong female role in this story, yet it is also Hakan’s strength of character in this that makes them both perfect for each other.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Norse Jewel (Entangled Scandalous)

Review: The Story of Odette by Anya Howard

Story of OdetteReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: This novel started out life as Wing of the Swan, a short story in the anthology Sexy Beast VI and this acts as the second part of it. Odette is the Swanmaiden’s daughter and was left orphaned from being a young girl when her land was destroyed by cruel enemies. Vanda was supposed to be the one to look after her, but she was as cruel as the men who had laid siege to the land around her, as Vanda grew to envy and hate her. Vanda’s husband takes her away to another land, Athla where she has a much better life out of Vanda’s way. She can’t believe that she is living the life many only dream of, but Vanda has other ideas when she knows where she has been taken and wants Cu’Lugh to take Odette from this sacred place as she wants to use her in a sacrifice to Loki. Cu’Lugh does this knowing nothing of what she wants with Odette, so both are kept in the dark as to her sister’s true motives for wanting her back.

Review: Unlike many erotic novels written by women, that I’ve read, this one starts out with sex right from the offset, which is not a bad thing at all when it shows Rulf and Inga engaging in a bit of healthy bondage in the privacy of their own hut. Regardless of the intense sexual content of this novel, it reads more like a historical piece in many ways; it is interesting, full of historical information about the Saxons and Viking type pagans. Odette finds she is at odds with her being brought up a Christian, and wants to train to become a Priestess of Freyja, but Vanda has other ideas for what she has in store for her.

Final Thoughts: It is worth the read just to find out what kind of pain and heartache Odette goes through in this novel. Odette is the perfect submissive, and that aspect of this novel can tire sometimes, but I think it is part of the story that she should be like that, and in itself in modern literature is unusual. She starts out as a sacrifice, then has to go on her own quest to discover who she really is.

Worth The Hype? If you want a historical style novel with lots of sexy bits in it, this is the book for you.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Story of Odette: The Swanmaiden’s Unveiling

Review: Thrones of Desire by Mitzi Szereto

thrones of desireReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Get ready for fourteen stories of erotic fantasy romance. There’s a queen from a far off lands, the usual array of dragons, unusual kingdoms, sacrifices, saints and heroes. This anthology seems to have been labelled as Game of Thrones style literature, but taken to a sensual extreme, yet these stories by Eric Del Carlo, Nyla Nox, Ashley Lister and Jo Wu are more than just that kind of fantasy, as they have put their own original style and characters into each one.

Characters: Meet Caffax the dragon master who has been kept out of battle for an…indiscretion with a raunchy supply clerk, Gareth who is a knight with a difference, Miar an apprentice and a virgin kept for a master who thinks Miar’s virginity would be his prize, and Caspian who has a wolf’s strength, so much so, something has to be done about him.

Review: One of the things I was most amazed and at the same time impressed at was the Foreward by Piers Anthony, I grew up reading his fiction, so it was a thrilling thing for me to find this as soon as I sat at the computer ready to read this. As he rightly points out, when men write erotic fantasy, it’s about men wanting to bed everything that moves then move onto the next woman, but women write erotic fantasy in a different way; they take their time establishing the characters, and wait a while before pushing the male and female characters in an embrace they hope will last the test of time. It doesn’t always, but that’s half the fun of reading it.

Summary: If you like J RR Tolkien’s work, and also the work of George RR Martin with a lot of eroticism thrown in for good measure, you’ll enjoy this to bits.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire

Review: Lord of Fire and Ice by Connie Mason with Mia Marlowe

LordFireIceCVRReviewed by Sharon S.

After reading the blurb I thought that despite the old school romance cover, it would be a paranormal romance I would enjoy. Who wouldn’t like a Viking Warrior that can wield fire magic? What I got was a quasi-historical romance with very little paranormal-ness. The hero Brendr, who is very sexy, hides his ability to control fire for pretty much the whole book. There are only a handful of pages where he uses magic. There isn’t even an explanation for why or how he could use fire. The authors took the easy way out and said Brendr had no idea how or why he could use fire, he just could. Maybe it is the urban fantasy fan in me, but I need some explanation if I am going to buy into the story. Brandr is too good to be true and with little depth. His only conflict is not feeling like his father loves him.

I also had a problem with the ‘historical’ aspect of the story. One thing I need is characters to act like they are from that time period. Our heroine Katla was an independent woman, running her dead husband’s farm. We are reminded constantly of her strong but cold personality, but her three brothers are able to make her remarry so they can get her dowry.

This is a very cookie cutter book. The romance and plot are very formula and predictable. I didn’t feel connected to the couple or interested in their constant back and forth “I must resist, but I want to give in, but I must resist…etc…” And for every great line like this one:

“She wept in silence. She couldn’t keen and wail. She was too empty to do anything but let her soul seep from her eyes.”

There would be a line like this:

“In that vulnerable position, her sex would be exposed in a yawning pink crevice.”

*headdesk*

Definitely not the book for me, but lots of people love it, so check out other reviews before buying.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Lord of Fire and Ice

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Get into Bed with Mia Marlowe (Author Interview)

Joining us today is Mia Marlowe, Lord of Fire and Ice

Keira: How far has Brandr traveled to earn the designation as Far-Traveled?

Mia Marlowe: Brandr’s been walrus hunting in the Frostlands where the ice never melts and the sky blazes with eerie light.  He’s journeyed to Iceland to secure trading rights for his people.  In the opening of LORD OF FIRE AND ICE (http://miamarlowe.com/books/fire.php) , he’s just returning from a five year sojourn to the distant southern city of Miklagaard (Constantinople).

The Vikings followed two routes to Miklagaard. Some of them sailed along the coast of Europe and through the Strait of Gibraltar into Middle Earth’s great inland sea. This is the way Brandr and his friends traveled. In my first Viking romance MAIDENSONG, my hero and heroine sail down the rivers of Europe, braving the rapids and grueling portages to the Black Sea to reach the great city of the south.

Keira: There are never enough Viking romances. What is your favorite aspect of Viking romances?

MM: I’m fascinated with Nordic culture. Their art, especially the ‘gripping beast’ patterns, has a weirdly contemporary feel. And the way they dealt with their women was far more in line with modern norms that with the other peoples of their times. While the rest of Europe treated their women as chattel, Nordic women could own property, choose their own mates and divorce them if they wished, and older women especially were often consulted on weighty matters.  As Brandr says, “For action, seek a man.  For wisdom, a woman.”

Keira: Is Brandr’s skill with calling fire mystical?

MM: Brandr was born with an affinity for the flames. He doesn’t know why because no one else in his family can call fire from thin air or direct its path with a mere thought. Part of what he was doing in Miklagaard was learning how to control his unusual gift by studying with a Middle-eastern sorcerer.

Keira: In the past when I’ve read Viking romance it is usually the heroine who is the slave, not the hero. How did Brandr get into the mess he’s in now?

MM: Brandr stayed behind at a mead house while his friends returned to their longship. The heroine Katla’s brothers decided to drug his drink when they learned he was the son of Ulf. Because Ulf killed Katla’s husband, they figure she’ll jump at the chance to enslave Ulf’s son.

But there’s a catch. Her brothers will only give Brandr to her if she promises to marry one of the men they choose for her. Since they already have a man in mind who’s promised to split his much larger holding with them, Katla is as caught by the deal as Brandr.

Keira: Katla is cold, but she has cause, doesn’t she?

MM: Katla comes off as cold and hard because she’s a woman forced into a man’s position. She’s the head of a household of over 30 souls, all of whom are dependent upon her for every bite of food in their mouths and every coin in their pockets. She figures she has to be tough lest bad bargains, encroaching warriors or the ever-returning enemy called winter will overcome her people.

But inside where no one can see, Katla is soft and warm. She yearns for “inn matki munr”—the mighty passion. It’s a love so deep, legend says the bonded couple can even speak to each other without voice, and send thoughts to their beloved over many miles. Katla didn’t ever achieve inn matki munr with her dead husband and fears she will never know such mighty passion.

Keira: How does she end up with a Viking in her bed? Is he as skilled as his legend proclaims? *wink*

MM:  She invites him, of course.  Even though she technically owns him, she doesn’t want Brandr to merely render her a service. The passion has to be mutual.  And yes, Brandr is a skilled lover, but even he is blindsided by the difference in the experience when lovemaking is about more than pleasure. It’s a connection on a deeper level than just physical, a mingling of souls that knits two hearts together so irrevocably they can’t be sundered.

And as far as skill goes, Katla holds her own. *wink right back*

Keira: Do you feel there’s any extra steps in writing a romance that involves slavery?

MM: When the topic of slavery comes up, we usually think of our country’s own sad past. However, slavery is an ugly truth throughout much of human history. In the ancient Roman world, one person in every three was a slave. In feudal times, serfs were slaves in all but name. They were chained to the land and the lord who owned it.  Sad to say, human trafficking is still going on in some parts of the world today.  It’s a hideous blight on mankind, a denial of what it is to be human.

However, I write historicals so I have to be true to the times. The Vikings did keep thralls, their word for slaves. However, in Nordic society, thralls could be freed at any time or even earn their freedom.  Even after the iron collar was struck off, their place in society was still low. A freed thrall owed his former master loyalty and it took two generations for the stigma to be fully lifted. Since this means Brandr owes Katla even more loyalty than most husbands show their wives, I’m good with that.

If an author really digs into whatever time period she’s writing about, she’ll probably come across some type of slavery. I wonder if I’ll ever see a Regency romance where the debutant realizes the lovely little bonnet she just bought was paid for by the slave labor on her father’s Caribbean sugar plantation. And what would she do about that realization?

Keira: The coolest Viking fact you found in research is ___________.

MM: I really loved researching the myths of the gods of Asgard. It’s a fascinating, detailed collection of stories that rivals the Greco-Roman system and even has an “end of the world” scenario. There was reputedly a temple in Uppsala with three huge statues of the major gods—Odin, Thor and Frey. Frey, the god of increase, is always depicted with a gigantic erect male member. Kind of makes you wonder why they chose Thor to be part of The Avengers movie, huh?

Keira: Will you write another romance together?

MM: Yes! Connie Mason and I are working on a trio of Regency-set stories called The Royal Rakes series. The Royal Rakes is loosely based on the very real “Hymen Race Terrific.” After Princess Charlotte died in 1817, the Prince Regent’s unmarried brothers realized they have an opportunity to wed, bed, and breed in order to present George III with a legitimate grandchild who will one day wear the crown. But not everyone wanted the royal dukes to succeed. And what better way to stop them than to make sure a dedicated rake comes between them and their intendeds?

Look for Waking Up With a Rake in January 2013. For more info, please visit http://www.miaamarlowe.com . You can also find me on Facebook http://facebook.com/MiaMarloweFanPage and Twitter http://twitter.com/Mia_Marlowe . I look forward to connecting with YOU.

LORD OF FIRE AND ICE

BY CONNIE MASON AND MIA MARLOWE – IN STORES JULY 2012

LordFireIceCVR

His Duty is to Fulfill Her Every Desire…

Brandr the Far–Traveled has seen the world and a good many of the beautiful women in it. His bed skills are the stuff of steamy legend, his sword sings death, and he can call up fire from thin air. No one ever thought he could be enslaved through trickery and forced to wear the iron collar of a thrall—least of all him.

 

Until All She Desires is Him…

Katla the Black isn’t just called so for her dark, silky hair. His new mistress has a temper as fierce as a warrior’s and a heart as icy as the frozen North. But inch by delicious inch, Brandr means to make her melt…

Buy: Lord of Fire and Ice

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Connie Mason is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 novels. She was named Storyteller of the Year in 1990 and received a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times in 1994. She currently lives in Florida. Mia Marlowe is a highly acclaimed new voice in romance whose debut novel released in Spring 2011 from Kensington. She lives in Boston, MA. Together, they are working on a new Regency romance series for Sourcebooks Casablanca, the first of which will be in stores in January 2013. For more information, please visit http://www.conniemason.com/, http://miamarlowe.com/ and follow Mia on Twitter @Mia_Marlowe.

GIVEAWAY: 1 print copy of Lord of Fire and Ice. Open to US and Canada only. Enter by leaving a comment and/or asking Mia a question! :D Last day to enter is July 20, 2012.

Review: A Twist in Time by Susan Squires

Warning: This post contains gushing… and a lot of it. :)

Susan Squires has written without a single doubt a masterpiece of romantic fiction in A Twist in Time. It far outstrips the time travel romances—I’ve so far had the pleasure to read—that the story is in a class of its own. Or should I say time?

A Twist in Time is exceptionally researched and rich with details that just blew me away! It is well thought out and deals with issues such as language barriers and cultural differences. (e.g. Evil men sticking needles into his body and covering his face with something that emitted noxious gas or How can she be so much like a wealthy woman in manner, coloring, and softness and yet wear clothes of a prostitute? or the very basic question of What the heck do I do with a Viking?) I very much enjoyed the old English, Danish and Latin that was sprinkled throughout the dialogue as Lucy and Galen tried to communicate with varying degrees of success.

Galen Valgarssen is a truly remarkable hero and has earned a place amongst my top ten favorite romance heroes. He’s a advisor to his king. He’s proud, honorable, steadfast, valiant, and bold. As a half Dane and half Saxon he’s used to being of two worlds and not exactly a part of either. This background will serve him well as he fights to overcome obstacles that keep him from understanding the new time.

Did I mention that Galen is one of my favorite names for a man? And in case you forgot he’s a hunky Viking warrior – who will trade, plunder, and pillage… (looks around for the sign-up sheet ;))

Lucy Rossano is a woman still dealing with the loss of her father. Magic seems to have gone out of her life and she wants it back. An extremely precious and old book written by Leonardo da Vinci holds the key. It leads her to reveal its existence to her friend Brad who excitedly informs her that the machine diagrammed in its pages is real and he’s working on it!

A disastrous trip into the pass brings Galen (seriously wounded) into her life, but it also puts them in great danger as the machine did not quite do what it was supposed to do. It’s a good thing he followed her or he’d be dead on the battle field instead of recuperating with the aid of modern help. How does one hide a Viking in present-day San Francisco while on the run from both friend and foe?

If you’re looking for a unique experience and a book to devour I highly suggest you try for yourself A Twist in Time.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: A Twist In Time

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Review: Viking Warrior by Connie Mason

bookreview

His world was shattered two summers ago when on a trading voyage his farmstead was ransacked by Danes. His wife and unborn child were slaughtered. When the news reached him Wulf’s heart vowed to make the Danish rue the day they ever dared to set foot on his soil. His quest was a tidy package of vengeance, justice, and revenge. He did not separate the murderers that wronged him from the rest of the Danish people. He became known as Wulf the Ruthless far and wide. It was said he was a cold, cruel man without a heart and that compassion was a word he did know.

She was stolen from her farmland in the last of Wulf the Ruthless’ raiding campaigns. The heartless Viking destroyed her life and sold her to a slave trader. By some twisted hand of fate she winds up being purchased two years later by his brother and gifted to Wulf to be his thrall and bed slave. Reyna was horrified to learn that the man who raped her and forgot her would become her master. But there was one thing the Norseman did not take into account; that Reyna had spirit. She would never submit and he would rue the day he ever stepped onto her father’s land!

Sounds amazing right? It was okay. There were a lot of turgid and quivering members and heaving bosoms. Instead of plowing there was spearing. Reyna was too good to be true as a heroine who had been raped and then sold into slavery to a harem in the Byzantine. She could fight, heal, make passionate love as a near virgin, and talk back to the scary Norse warrior that she thought raped her.

Reyna saved Wulf three times from the same situation. The only difference between each time was the place and the names of those fighting. She saved him once fighting the Finnish as one crept up behind him and then again from the Danish on her home turf and lastly on his home turf again but I can’t remember the country… probably Swedes. Honestly how does Wulf survive in battle to earn the name Wulf the Ruthless, if a girl is always saving his tushy from cowardly warriors who come from behind? (There’s got to be a good joke in there.) He’d be Wulf the Dead and Doesn’t Appear in This Book that’s who.

The book flowed pretty well and overall it wasn’t so bad, but it certainly wasn’t one of my all time favorites.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Viking Warrior

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Let’s Go a Viking in Romance

genre


Who were the Vikings?

Vikings were warrior men from the Scandinavia region of the world including specifically Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Viking is linked to naval expeditions or naval raids. A member of such a trip is called a Viking. Typically it is thought that the Viking period began as early as 700 A.D. and ended somewhere in 1100 A.D. Women warriors were known as Valkyries. At the peak of their influence Vikings reached as far east as the Byzantine Empire and as far west as Iceland and Greenland.

Warring or to ‘Go a Viking:’

Viking expeditions were one of two things. Firstly, Viking could be referring to a mercantile seafarer dealing in commerce and trade. Secondly and most commonly referred to today when brought up, Viking relates to warriors seeking vengeance or urged into the act by need/greed to find slaves and other worldly goods. The term to ‘go a Viking’ specifically relates to warring or act of raiding and pillaging.

Ships:

Longships, or dragon ships, are the warring vessel. They had sails and room for oarsmen so they could battle and move without interference from the wind. Longships are shallow and narrow, and this design aids in Viking expeditions by making it easy to land and deploy troops.

A knarr vessel was roomier and could hold far more cargo than a longship. It did not have room for oarsmen. This ship was specifically used in trade and commerce.

Horned Helmets:

Horned helmets were never a part of Viking apparel. Sorry to say, the idea of a horned helmet being Viking is merely a myth. It was dreamt up as part of the romanticism revival to associate them with Classical antiquity. A horned helmet would be too unmanageable in battle because of the ungainly weight of the horns.

Cleanliness:

Steam-houses (saunas), dips into geothermic pools, and regular bathing occurred in Viking culture. It is thought they bathed every Saturday as it is referred to as the washing day still in Scandinavian countries. As part of their ablutions Vikings washed hands and faces every morning. They also had a wide diversity in grooming items including soap. The soap was used to clean their hair as well as strip it of color to make it blond. Vikings are not the unclean barbarians we imagine them to be, perhaps however they were blonder.

Classes:

There were three classes of men in Viking civilization.

  • The Thrall – an unfree servant whose status was marked by a collar around the neck and short hair
  • The Jarl – a member of the aristocracy or nobility, was a man of high birth and includes kings
  • The Bondi - included farmers, craftsmen, landowners, and other freeborn people


Women’s Rights:

A girl or woman had no right to choose her husband. However, if she was under her brother’s protection and rule she could declare rights to marry the third suitor to seek for her hand.

A free woman in Viking culture owned her children and could divorce without stigmatism associated with other cultures of the time a man who was a bad husband. All she had to do was declare herself so at the door to their home and at their martial bed.

The gravest insult for a woman is a slap to the face done in public. The insult goes beyond her and impugns on the family’s honor.

Viking Weddings and Romance:

Vikings would marry on Friday or Frigg Day. Frigg was the name of their goddess for marriage, thus explaining the tradition.

Courtship was frowned upon and poetry expressly forbidden as it was thought that the wording could enthrall a woman. Only the goddess Freyja could be given poetry.

Women were expected to be unsullied or virginal before marriage and after display fidelity within her marriage.

The ring a man gave to a woman was highly important as it was indicative of the respect and esteem he held for her.

Weddings were rarely conducted for lovers. Typically a marriage was arranged between the groom and her family or between both families. Occasionally a marriage was served as a ‘peace-pledge,’ which means the marriage is a sign of cease fire between feuding families.

The wedding ritual consisted of exchanging swords between man and wife. The groom gave his sword to his bride as a legacy to be passed down to their first born son. The bride then gave a sword that represented their union and future family to the groom. It was then his duty to take care of the sword as he would take care of her and their children. Vows were then said over the groom’s new sword to cement the union.

The Wedding Night and Morning:

The bride wore a bridal crown and it was in their bedroom chamber that this crown was removed by her husband as a symbol of their sexual union. After this symbolic removal the wedding witnesses would leave the couple alone to consummate the vows.

The morning after, once again before witnesses, the groom gave his wife a gift. This gift marked that the marriage was complete. He then would give her the keys to his home and all the buildings he owned. The keys represented her dominion over his holdings and declared her as his lady.

Vikings in Romance Novels:

Nearly always Viking romance novels contain references to the mythology and religion of the time period. They take place in the Scandinavian region, sometimes including the regions within the wide reach of the Vikings. Without fail Viking romance novels include a Viking warrior. He is strong, robust, and very masculine. You could say he is the epitome of alpha males. Standard themes of Viking romance include bride stealing, kidnapping, slavery to freedom archetypes, enemies to lovers, and strong women. Rape also comes up in Viking romances whether or not it actually occurs due to the nature and background of the culture. Viking romances are easily recognizable by their titles which usually include the word Viking.

Viking Love on Youtube: