There is nothing quite as tragic as unrequited love; when one person yearns for another and circumstances invariably end up keeping them apart. In Michelle Willingham’s recent Forbidden Vikings duet (To Sin with a Viking and To Tempt a Viking), she took the idea of an arranged marriage that was miserable and slowly dying. Eventually the couple realizes that this relationship is no good, a reality that must be acknowledged after they land in Ireland and are separately kidnapped.
The husband ends up falling in love with an Irish peasant (in To Sin with a Viking). After he is reunited with his wife, Elena, they try to start over, but it is too late. While he has not said anything, and is determined to do the honorable thing by staying true to his vows, Elena knows the truth: their marriage is over. She sets her husband free, which is the right thing to do, but it does not make her feel like any less of a failure. She was terribly unhappy in the union as well, but it doesn’t change the fact that, in her mind, her inability to be the wife her husband needed and wanted is a black mark on her soul.
Waiting in the wings is Ragnar, her husband’s trusted right-hand man. He has known Elena since they were children and loved her just as long. However they are from vastly different stations and a union never would have been considered between the two. This means when Elena and her husband are betrothed, there is nothing Ragnar can do but stand on the sidelines. Elena is too good for the likes of him, of which is more than adequately aware. When she is kidnapped, Ragnar gives chase, protects and rescues her (in To Tempt a Viking). He watches as she is reunited with her husband, and he watches as their marriage finally disintegrates. Yet he does not step in. Yes, he loves Elena, but he’s still not good enough, not worthy enough. Even after she welcomes him into her bed, opens her eyes, and realizes that the man for her, the perfect man, has been standing right in front of her all along.
Ragnar deals with his feelings of inadequacy by keeping his distance and earning money by street fighting. Elena is horrified by this brutality, and fears for his safety. Finally, confronting him that this madness must stop, Ragnar lays everything out in the open.
“You tormented me every day of the past five years when I watched you go to his bed. And after you shared mine, I’ve thought of nothing else since.” She averted her gaze and he murmured in her ear, “Every night I sleep away from you because if I don’t, I won’t be able to keep my hands off you. You’re a hunger I’ll never be able to sate. And fighting takes the edge off.”
Ragnar needs to realize, on his own, that he is worthy, and he is good enough. He deserves to love and be loved in return. Elena wants to be that person for him, but has her own feelings of inadequacy left over from a marriage that died a slow, painful death. The question is will they both come to their senses before it’s too late? Will they both stop fighting and take their chance at true happiness? The answer, of course, is yes.
Wendy the Super Librarian also blogs at WendyTheSuperLibrarian.blogspot.com. So dig that library card out of your pocket and head for the stacks.