Having complained at length about superficially historical romance, I would like to be able to strongly support an effort as clearly serious as this one. Shannon Drake has worked hard to re-create a tangled bit of British history: the violent melding of differences in heritage and political interests that produced the present day people of Scotland and England.
Through the story of Waryk de Graham, champion of King David of Scotland, and Mellyora, daughter of a Viking raider, she illustrates the complicated issues of loyalty and assimilation that plague both the conqueror and the conquered. Their forced marriage, engineered by King David to reward a faithful vassal and protect a valuable property, becomes a metaphor for the difficult survival choices faced by the indigenous people of the British Isles as they struggled to cope with wave after wave of invading forces. This is a praiseworthy attempt; I wish it had been more successful.
The author has obviously done a lot of homework. The settings are realistic; plenty of period detail has been included. There is even a timeline in the back of the book to give the interested reader some perspective regarding the real characters - like King David - who are used in the book, and the events that precede and follow the time in which the story takes place. Unfortunately, I too often felt like I was reading homework. I found myself noticing descriptions and facts that intruded on the narrative rather than supporting it; as though lists of items had been included only to establish historical authenticity.
Most disappointing, however, was the character of the heroine, Mellyora. She seemed to be hopelessly out of touch with 12th century reality. Although her naiveté is explained as the result of an overprotected and idyllic childhood, it didn't ring true - especially given the realism evident throughout the rest of the story. In her deluded belief that she can force a powerful king to change his plans to accommodate her preferences, she tries to escape, is caught by her somewhat reluctant intended, escapes again, is captured by bad guys, rescued, and captured again.
Her final rescue and the demise of the bad guy at the hands of the hero finally end the story. Did I fail to mention that she did marry the guy, discovered she loved him, became jealous of his previous lover, provoked his mistrust and became pregnant with a child he might think was not his?
If this gal had spent half as much time figuring out how to live with her fate as she spent trying to outrun it, it would have made for a much more compelling read.
In short, this is an adventure story more than a relationship story. If you like this kind of story and can sympathize with a heroine who stubbornly believes that her petite self can outrun and outface large armored warriors, maybe this one's for you. The writing is reasonably good, the tone is serious, and the time and setting are unusual.
Although I applaud the author's intentions, the characters don't do enough thinking to sustain my interest - but that might be a big plus for another reader. Much as I would like to support this kind of effort, I can't in conscience recommend that any reader pay $22.00 for a book that has more potential than punch.