Dream of Me

 
Believe in Me by Josie Litton
(Bantam, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-58436-7
***
Believe in Me is the second book in Josie Litton’s Viking trilogy, and fittingly enough, it’s the story of Hawk of Essex from Dream of Me. Hawk, brother of Lady Cymbra, seeks to deepen the alliance between the Norse and the Saxons against their common enemy, the Danes. To that end, he has agreed to an arranged marriage to Lady Krysta of Vestfold, a bride chosen by Cymbra’s husband, Wolf. But Lady Krysta is long overdue. Only her three servants have arrived: a thickset man called Thorgold, a dark woman named Raven, and a servant girl.

Hawk is inexplicably drawn to the servant girl. This bodes well for his marriage, for this is no servant, but Krysta herself. Krysta is determined to have a happy marriage and be loved by her husband, as few have loved her so far. In order to attain this, she needs to know what pleases him, what kind of a man he is. What better way than to observe him from a distance? If only she had known how handsome Lord Hawk was…

Krysta and Hawk strike up a tentative friendship of sorts, and Hawk goes so far as to kiss her in the stable one day. Krysta’s exuberant response to that kiss takes them both by surprise. It isn’t long before Krysta’s deception is unmasked. Hawk, after an initial fit of anger, reluctantly acknowledges that Krysta had a point in trying to find out about her intended before marrying. Now Hawk and Krysta must try to know each other as a betrothed couple.

Krysta’s dubious parentage as the daughter of a shape-shifting woman will become a force to drive them apart, as will several characters who want Hawk’s holdings for their own. In this story, it will be Krysta who cannot believe in love once she’s found it. Hawk will have his hands full convincing her that she’s the perfect woman for him.

The novel started out strong and fairly innovative, but descended into three-heart territory about halfway through. The Big Separation is brought about by Krysta’s decision that she can’t marry Hawk after all, now that he knows about her mother. Since she’d had no qualms up until this point, it seemed to send a message that it was okay to marry Hawk as long as she could keep her parentage quiet and deceive him. Once it’s out in the open, however, Krysta succumbs to an attack of “I Know What’s Best For You, and It’s Not Me” and pushes Hawk away. Then extraneous events barge in and start directing the story. Kidnappings, evil machinations, and the arrival of the King and Queen shove the story along. All this because our heretofore-strong-and-intelligent heroine doesn’t know what to do with love once she finds it.

Hawk, however, is delightful. Strong-willed and forceful, he’s nevertheless kindhearted. And when he falls for Krysta, it’s like a ton of bricks. Nothing’s going to stop him once he decides it’s Krysta he wants.

The writing is smooth and flows nicely from once plot point to another. The secondary characters come as no big surprise; there’s the jealous sister, the evil villain disguised as something else, the helpful servants. Raven and Thorgold, who are actually a shape-shifter and a troll, are the most vivid of these and have several key scenes in which their talents figure prominently.

Believe in Me is an entertaining historical romance with a great deal of charm. Even as I was irritated with Krysta, I quite liked her. Hawk’s determination to win his ladylove is endearing, and the sexual tension between them is plenty hot. All in all, it’s a decent story for a cool fall night. And the third installment is right around the corner.

--Cathy Sova


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