To Tempt a Viking
Harlequin Historical / January 21, 2014 (print), February 1, 2014 (digital)/ $6.50 print, $5.99 digital
Warrior Viking Ragnar Olafsson stood by as his best friend claimed the woman he desired the most. There was only one way to quench the deep darkness within him—become merciless in battle.
When Elena is taken captive, fearless Ragnar risks everything to save her. Now they are stranded with only each other for company. Suddenly every longing, every look, every touch is forbidden. Elena could tempt a saint—and sinner Ragnar knows he won’t be able to hold out for long!
Michelle Willingham's To Tempt a Viking is a good, old-fashioned angst-fest with not one, but two, forbidden love stories. It is set during the Dark Ages and a band of Vikings are about to go ashore in hostile Ireland. Among them are Styr, his wife, Elena, and their mutual best friend, Ragnar. Poor Ragnar.
There was nothing worse than being in love with your best friend's wife. Ragnar Olafsson tightened his fists over the oars, pulling hard against the waves of the sea. He shouldn't have gone with them to Eire. But when Styr had asked him to come, he'd agreed in a weak moment. Though he'd buried all traces of his obsession with Elena, the idea of never seeing her again was worse than the torment of seeing her with her husband. Never once had he let either of them know of his fascination. No one knew of the raw frustration gnawing within him when he watched Styr take the women he loved into his hut. It was a dark torture, seeing them together.
Ooh, great beginning!
There is a battle with the Irish when they make land and Styr is taken captive while Ragnar and Elena escape only to face many perils. But an equal peril is the one Elena is facing in her heart. Her marriage to Styr is troubled. Elena has been unable to conceive and that pain has eaten away at her, causing them both misery. During the journey to find and rescue Styr, Elena believes she may finally be pregnant, and while she is thrilled, the timing is inconvenient as she has started to look at Ragnar in a different light.
She couldn't deny that the past week had altered their friendship. Ragnar had always been there, but being alone with him only forced her to compare him to her husband. Both were handsome and strong . . but the touch of his hands upon her evoked a restless yearning she didn't want to face.
Both know that nothing can come of their yearnings, that they both love Styr too much to betray him.
“I'm sorry I was avoiding you these past few days,” she admitted.
“Why did you?” He kept his gaze fixed upon the flames as if he didn't know the answer.
Her pulse quickened, but she wanted to remain honest.
“Because I was. . . afraid of being too close to you.”
Ever since she'd dreamed of lying with him, she no longer trusted herself. She didn't know the woman she was becoming, one ruled by desire instead of honour. But she needed him to know the truth, for that would keep him at a distance.
Her face flamed with embarrassment. “You made me feel things I haven't felt in a long time.”
Ragnar let out a slow breath. “You wouldn't have betrayed Styr. Nor would I.” He tossed a stick on to the fire and admitted, “I wanted to marry you, years ago. But I never dared to ask, after the arrangement your parents made.”
His confession startled her, for she'd not expected this. She drew her knees up and looked at him. In his eyes, the stark longing set all her defences on edge.
“I'm not telling you this to make you uncomfortable. Nor would I do anything to take you away from Styr. He's a good man and you deserve to be together.”
Eventually they all come together again, though each almost believed the other was dead. Elena sees Styr first but he is not alone.
Styr had come up behind the Irishwoman, resting his hands on her shoulders. The gentleness of the gesture and his caring posture were a dull blade twisted into her heart. Elena could see their profiles and while the woman's face held misery, her husband's held longing.
He was in love with the woman. She could see it in his bearing, in the way he turned her to face him and embraced her hard. They were holding on to another as if no one else existed.
Oh dear. But wait, it gets wonderfully worse. Elena tells Styr that she is pregnant and he has a choice to make. A short while later, Elena spies her husband and the Irishwoman on the shore.
The woman was crying and Elena watched while her husband wiped away her tears and embraced her hard again.
And when she walked to the water's edge, waiting for the fishing boat to approach, Elena realized that the woman wasn't going to stay. She was sailing away, while Styr had chosen to remain with her.
But never before had she seen such desolation on her husband's face.
Oh, yes, there is plenty of angst to go around here. Delicious Despair, I love it! But it never feels heavy-handed or melodramatic, only real and heartfelt. And finding a Happily Ever After out of all this anguish is quite a journey.
Learn more or order a copy of To Tempt a Viking by Michelle Willingham, available in print on January 21, 2014, and in digital on February 1, 2014:
Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com.