Pros: Characters that are very easy to fall in love with; a warm, feel-good story.
Cons: I would have liked to see more interactions between Joy and Liz.
Rating: 4.75 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Penguin Group
While mourning the death of her brother Matthew in Afghanistan, psychology graduate Joy Nelson joins the female counterpart to the SEALS, the WEALS. On her first mission, breaking up a white slave ring, something goes horribly wrong and she finds herself in the past, a thrall in the service of Brandr Igorsson. The deaths of nearly all of his family in a raid have nearly broken him, but now after exacting his vengeance he is attempting to put his household in order before the winter sets in. He finds himself with yet another problem; his new bed-thrall objects mightily to being a slave. The two of them are both determined not to give in to the other, but the rising heat between the two of them could open the door for something wonderful…
I think I’ve read maybe one Viking romance before I picked this book up, but after reading Sandra Hill’s Viking Heat I’m definitely looking forward to more. There’s a certain element of sameness in a lot of time-travel books, and while I have seen some elements of the story before, I was having so much fun with Joy and Brandr that it didn’t matter to me in the least. Joy is determined to convince Brandr that she is not a slave, and that she and her ideas should be respected. Brandr, on the other hand, struggles with trying to give into Joy enough to keep their relationship going without losing face in front of his household. Irresistible force meets immovable object, and there were several moments where I found myself giggling because they are well-matched in stubbornness. I couldn’t help but love Brandr, because although he is a fearsome Viking lord, he is still a bit of a softie, especially when it comes to his surviving family and his little sister Liv. His willingness to put his sister’s needs and feelings before his pride took his at times arrogant manners from aggravating to bluster.
Ms. Hill also has a wonderful knack for making the reader feel as if they are in the world that she is describing. I devoured descriptions of clothing and food, and nearly laughed myself sick at the idea of rough and tumble Vikings falling in love with chicken noodle soup or apple dumplings. The attitudes of the secondary characters also help create a sense of reality, from their skepticism of some of Joy’s ideas to their feelings about the child that Brandr’s sister Liv bore after she was raped. One of the things that I loved most about this book was watching Joy, Brandr, and his people all come to understandings and learn to respect each other and the contributions they could offer. The story is about finding more than love; it’s about finding a place where one feels comfortable and belongs.
There is a wonderful sense of humor running throughout the pages of this book, which also finds its way out in how the Vikings and Joy react to each other. It’s culture shock for all of them, and although there are bumps the differences are worked out. The reader also gets a sense of the wonder and respect that Ms. Hill feels for times and beliefs that shape her characters, but she is not so attached to that love that she can’t poke fun at an attitude or idea.
The one thing that I wish I could have seen more of was the relationship between Liv and Joy. Liv has been traumatized by what she went through at the hands of the men that kidnapped her, and Joy takes it on herself to help the girl heal. We see Liv improving as the book goes on, but she is so traumatized at the beginning that her recovery felt a little rushed.
Another minor issue for me were the mini-chapter headings found throughout the chapters. I found them visually distracting; they pulled me out of the story and foreshadowed coming events. It felt like being presented with a puzzle when I wanted to turn my brain off and go along for the ride. They might not bother everyone, but I found them disruptive.
I absolutely fell in love with this book. The characters are lovable and funny, while the feelings between Brandr and Joy lead to some very steamy scenes between the two. The setting and its details came to life for me, and despite a couple of minor things Ms. Hill has become an author that I will gladly recommend. I can’t wait for her next book, and I’ll probably go pick up some of her backlist to tide me over until then!