In this historical novel, set in the eighth century, a Viking mercenary kidnaps a wealthy woman for profit before they unexpectedly develop romantic feelings for each other.
Lord Cecil Allard hires Norseman Einar Herjolfsson to charge into his upcoming wedding ceremony and kill his fiancee. He pays the Viking half of his fee in advance and says that he can get the rest by stealing silver and gold from the cathedral. But when Einar and his men arrive at the ceremony, there are no riches to be found, so the Viking decides to take the bride, Seraphina, and two of her friends, Iohannes and Hadley, as captives for ransom or later sale. Seraphina turns out to be the daughter of a wealthy landowner with powerful political connections, which presents even greater opportunities for her captors. As a result, Einar must protect her from his cohorts, including his rapacious stepbrother, Gunnar, who bitterly feels that Einar’s introduction into the family by marriage has unjustly deprived him of his own “firstborn-son status.” To complicate matters further, Einar finds himself “intrigued” by Seraphina’s combination of beauty and courage from the first moment that he sees her, and his feelings only deepen over time. Eventually, Seraphina begins to return Einar’s affections, and she turns against her fiance completely when she learns of his treacherous plan. Gabel (Making Friends, 2016, etc.) stirringly depicts the fragility of moral principles during a time of violent lawlessness. The attraction between Einar and Seraphina is jarringly implausible on its face, but this only makes it more impressive when the author makes it not only seem credible, but also touching. Also, she powerfully contrasts Einar’s rough-hewn honor and Cecil’s “well-groomed sophistication,” as when the former remarks to Seraphina, “Has he proven himself in battle? Does he treat others fairly? Does he honor his word? I think not.” Overall, Gabel has constructed a work of historical fiction that’s both faithful to the period and dramatically captivating.
An affecting romance told with intelligence and nuance.