|Sandra Hill's novels are known for containing a high degree of camp, and The Norse King's Daughter is no exception. Too bad the heroine is an unlikable twit for much of the story. Even campy romances need characters worth rooting for.
Sidroc Guntersson is the third son of a powerful Viking jarl. Sidroc's wife died in childbirth, leaving him with an infant daughter that his father plans to murder if Sidroc does not choose a wife within six weeks. Princess Drifa of Stoneheim is available, and Sidroc reluctantly heads off to seduce himself a bride.
It's surprisingly easy at first. Drifa is quite taken with the handsome Viking, and the two fall into mutual lust. Then she overhears him discussing his predicament - and his plan - and Drifa takes action, bashing Sidroc over the head with a pot. He falls into a coma, and when he awakens six weeks later, Drifa is gone. Apparently she took her longship and went shopping (you read that correctly.) Enraged, and believing his father must by now have killed the child, Sidroc leaves.
Drifa actually went to rescue the baby, and when she returns after abducting the child, Sidroc is gone. Drifa names the child Runa and becomes her foster mother, and much is mentioned about how devoted she is to the child. Yet five years later, Drifa leaves Runa in the care of her family and journeys to Byzantium to learn how to draw plants. Who does she run into immediately? Why, Sidroc, of course, and he exacts revenge for his daughter's supposed death by demanding that Drifa share his bed for six weeks - the same amount of time that he lost in a coma due to her treachery.
The rest of the novel is filled with lots of sex and Drifa almost telling Sidroc that his daughter is alive and well, but chickening out at the last possible moments. Her reasoning? Sidroc might take Runa away from her! Never mind that a) it's his daughter, you idiot, b) he's obviously anguished at her supposed death, and c) Drifa "cared" so much about the kid that she was willing to abandon her for several years in order to make a pleasure trip to see some famous gardens. Not impressive parenting.
Sidroc was a decent hero; he's a typical oversexed alpha type, but one can hardly blame him for wanting to exact his revenge. The setup is a transparent ploy to include lots of steamy bedroom scenes, so the book doesn't have much depth. I could have enjoyed it as simply a light read if Drifa hadn't been such a self-centered nitwit. Eventually she does tell Sidroc the truth, but it came rather late for me. Then there's the issue of these characters spouting dialogue such as "Oh, please, spare me the nonsense" and "Where do I come up with this stuff?". Good question. One minute it's all "betimes" and "mayhap", then the next, it's modern-day sitcom.
There are plenty of humorous moments, and a running gag about Sidroc's treatment by Drifa's father when he was in a coma. Seems King Thorvald's healer drilled a hole in Sidroc's skull, and now he has huge erections because of it. Thorvald would like to make a business of this, in fact. Some of the best moments in the story involve Sidroc's sidekick, Finn, and his ex-mistress, Ianthe, who take a dislike to one another but end up having to combine forces.
The Norse King's Daughter is campy, all right, and has enough wisecracking characters to make it entertaining. If you've enjoyed Sandra Hill's previous Viking books, this one continues in the same vein.