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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Norse King’s Daughter by Sandra Hill

The Norse King’s Daughter by Sandra Hill
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (236 pgs)
Heat Level: hot
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Princess Scorned!

Princess Drifa can certainly see why Sidroc Guntersson is a living legend— on battlefield and in bedchamber both. But the King of Stoneheim’s willful daughter pitches a royal fit when she learns of the true reason for the virile Viking’s passionate attentions. A third-born son with no hope of inheriting the family jarldom, scheming Sidroc must marry and is interested in Drifa only for her father’s land and money. The barbarian is lucky she just cracks him on his fool head with a pottery pitcher!

Five years later, Drifa needs Sidroc’s protection— in Byzantium, no less!—though revenge holds more appeal for this man she left for dead. ’Tis a pity two such perfect enemies match each other so well, passion for passion. So much so that the bold Viking berserker is soon thinking marriage again . . . only this time it will be on his terms!

An arrogant lout and an independent princess cross words and pots which set the stage for a long and roundabout romance plagued with mishaps, kidnappings, lustsome thoughts and naughty shenanigans.

Such is the final story of the last unmarried princess in King Thorvald’s household, Drifa. She’s a woman of quick temper, deep passions and has a fanatic enthusiasm for all plants green, flowered and tall. That small hobby of hers gets her into more trouble than she believed possible. Because Drifa has been allowed to make her own decisions and get her way at home, it’s given her a false sense of security and safety. She comes across as a woman who knows what’s going on but even when she’s hit by the figurative wall of bricks, she remains inured from the thought of possible harm to her. She’s a king’s daughter, what could possibly happen? She accepts the need to be cautious in name only and goes off to do what she wants to do anyway. I knew she was going to lead the hero on a merry chase and I was right.

The hero, Sidroc, at first doesn’t seem like a hero at all, but a manipulative jerk. Only as I read did I find out this man has undiscovered emotional depths hidden behind a veneer of lust – for both war and women. He’s not what he seems at all but the conflict comes from Drifa overhearing a conversation that was meant for another man’s ears only. What a man does when he thinks all is lost shows his inner character. Sidroc is not a quitter, nor a shallow man. He is a man of loyalty, valor and integrity, even when he doesn’t want to be. He also has a liking for adventurous sex and he uses that as a clever ploy to get Drifa to do what he wants her to do. The fun part comes when the tables are turned and the heroine ends up getting him to do what she wants. The best part, he doesn’t even know it. If that sounds ambiguous, it is. Only by experiencing the book will a reader understand just how twisted that gets.

Ms. Hill is known for her knee-slapping humor and clever play on words during the telling of her romance tales. Readers will find that the asides of inner dialogue used in juxtaposition with what’s actually being said or done is still an effective and fun technique that the author used to good effect. However, the loud guffaws never came. I chortled a few times, giggled at others but my knees were in no danger of being tormented this time around. The final book seemed to have treated the characters in a gentler fashion. I liked and enjoyed the book, but didn’t fall in love with it. Alas, all the loving is between Sidroc and Drifa.

As much as I liked Drifa, she annoyed me too. She blithely ignored the battle-seasoned warriors at her side when they warned her, repeatedly. I understand she had a passion for plants, verging on obsessive, but that tunnel vision of hers that she persisted in indulging in drove me nuts. Frankly, there were a few moments where I’d classify her character as too stupid to live. Of course, if she wasn’t, then a lot of the plot conflict would have disappeared and I wouldn’t have been treated to the interesting encounter in the Arab lands. The information that she came back with was put to good use by leading Sidroc around by his hormones. Ms. Hill certainly explored some creative use of scarves and marble.

The story included a tableau of secondary characters that interacted well with the hero and heroine. Many were from past books and a few were special to this book alone. I can assure readers that The Norse King’s Daughter is a complete standalone book. The story focuses completely on the hero and heroine and all the other characters either affect them or support them. Runa is a cutie. She shows up at strategic points in the story that showcased the best in the heroine and hero. However, Sidroc’s father is a mean old skunk and the hero finally got to stand up to him, with a little help from his friends. Considering what I learned about that man and his household, it was a wonderful little scene to read. King Thorvald is still a riot of a character and I always giggle when he refers to the benefit of head drilling. He’s a fun guy, if a bit bloodthirsty. A perfect father for Drifa.

The Norse King’s Daughter is a vastly entertaining and light- hearted read. It has a smattering of suspenseful drama to spice up the conflict and the dialogue was always true to character. The fast paced verbal exchanges between Drifa and Sidroc were usually amusing and always interesting. The happily ever after, when it finally happened, was very sweet, adorable and had me believing that their marriage was going to be a strong and happy one – camel dung notwithstanding. I’m glad I got to read this story and Ms. Hill remains one of my favorite authors.