The Flower & the Sword

The Maiden & the Warrior

A Rose at Midnight

The Viking's Heart
by Jacqueline Navin
(Harl. Historical #515, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29115-9
Jacqueline Navin has successfully melded together a tried and true plot with her own unique brand of romance and wit. The Viking's Heart is a beautifully written, warm you to your bones, medieval romance.

Lady Rosamund Clavier has endured a horrific childhood at the hands of a sadistic stepfather. As a result of her upbringing, she is determined never to wed, for she has seen with her own eyes what the state of matrimony did to her now deceased mother both physically and emotionally. Nevertheless, Rosamund's stepfather betroths her in marriage to a lord he meets while at court.

Before the ceremony takes place, however, Rosamund is permitted to have a brief visit with her cousin Lady Alayna of Gastonbury (The Maiden and the Warrior). Rosamund cleverly uses the opportunity to her advantage; while visiting there, she methodically plans out her escape from the clutches of the man she is set to marry. Much to her chagrin, her plans are twice foiled by a knight serving under Lady Alayna's husband. When she and the knight fall in love, however, she finds herself no longer wishing to escape, but to stay and fight for the right to wed the only love she has ever known...

Agravar Hendronson's birth was the result of a Viking raid and rape, a fact for which his English mother never forgives him. Agravar doesn't understand what it feels like to be loved by any woman (even his own mother has never so much as spoken a single word to him) and so Agravar assumes that he will one day die as alone as he has lived. But when Agravar meets and befriends the Lady Rosamund, a woman with a giving heart who shares a similarly scarred past, the most natural thing in the world is for the two of them to fall in love. The problem for Agravar is that Rosamund is betrothed to another man, a union which he is powerless to bring to an end. Or so he thinks. Agravar will discover that nothing is impossible when a man and a woman fall in love...

There is nothing unique about the plot of The Viking's Heart, but that doesn't keep it from being an entertaining and emotional read. The power and eloquence of the story doesn't come from its originality, but from the way Jacqueline Navin tells it. For instance, the development of the characters on a romantic level is superb. So many of today's romances bring together a hero and a heroine who allegedly fall in love and you, as the reader, have no idea exactly why or when it happened. The author just sort of tells you, okay guys, they are now in love. This is not the case with The Viking's Heart. When Rosamund and Agravar fall in love, it's all the more beautiful to read about because you understand exactly why and when it happened. Ms. Navin's timing is simply impeccable. In addition to the romantic development between the characters, their personal developments and motives are also well written. This is merely another way of saying that Jacqueline Navin has penned two people readers will root for and care about. With each flip of the page, you grow to love Rosamund and Agravar more and more. As readers, we are all aware of the fact that in many romance books (perhaps too many), we either tend to care more for the hero than the heroine, or vice versa. Not so with The Viking's Heart. Thankfully, here is a book where your respect can be bestowed equally.

Perhaps the one thing I appreciated the most about The Viking's Heart is that there is no unnecessary conflict between the hero and heroine. All conflict is external to their relationship and revolves around the steps they must take to be together. There are no infuriating misunderstandings between the lead characters that fail to be resolved until the end, no denying their feelings for each other until one of them almost dies of the fever, etc. This is not only a nice, refreshing change of pace for a medieval romance, but Jacqueline Navin also successfully proves that it's possible to write an engaging romance without pitting the hero and heroine against each other in a war of wills.

--Tina Engler

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