Michelle Willingham’s medievals tend to really work for me. The fact that this short story features a secondary character from last year’s Surrender to an Irish Warrior, a book that landed on my personal Best Of 2010 reading list? Yeah, I was expecting good things. Unfortunately, while competently written, there’s fall-out from the happy-ever-after that didn’t work for me at all.
Auder Ó Reilly has agreed to marry a Norman baron in the hopes of protecting her mother and securing peace for her struggling clan. Besides it being no love match (she’s never met the man!) Auder is concerned she will displease her husband when it comes to martial relations. She dispensed of her virginity ages ago, it naturally wasn’t very good, so she thinks she’s “bad” at s-e-x. She confides this bit of news to Viking warrior and friend, Gunnar Dalrata. Gunnar makes her various girly bits tingle, but he’s currently pitching woo with a widow. Little does she know that Gunnar is finding himself increasingly distracted by her presence as well!
The basic idea behind this story worked pretty well for me, but it’s the inclusion of the widow that Gunnar is currently spending time with that throws a wrench in the entire romance for me. Gunnar comes off as a guy juggling two women, which isn’t exactly an endearing quality in a “hero.” Then there is the fact that in order for our couple to be together, someone has to be thrown under the bus – and guess who that is? Yeah, the widow.
For her part, the author doesn’t fall into the all-too-common (and annoying) trap of making the “other woman” eviiiiiil. Also, there’s a wonderful sense of place and time period here. The widow’s outcome feels authentic, and the author does spin it in a way to suggest that the widow isn’t really getting that screwed over…but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It also leaves me not feeling very “happy” for our romantic couple.
To secure peace for her clan and protection for her mother, chieftain’s daughter Auder Ó Reilly agrees to marry a powerful Norman baron. Though she desperately hopes the alliance will work, Auder worries she won’t be able to please her husband in the marriage bed—a fear she admits to her friend, handsome Viking Gunnar Dalrata. Auder has no difficulty imagining sensual delights with Gunnar, but she doesn’t believe he would ever think of her that way. Until the night of Bealtaine, when Gunnar whisks Auder away to introduce her to the true pleasure of making love….
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