One extraordinary Saxon noblewoman and one fearless Viking warrior find passion and danger in this dazzling and sensuous debut.
Marissa Campbell’s debut novel is a winning combination of romance, history, and adventure sure to appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon.
It is 869. For eighteen years, Avelynn, the beautiful and secretly pagan daughter of the Eadlorman of Somerset has lived in an environment of love and acceptance. She hasn’t yet found a man to make her heart race, but her father has not pressured her to get married. Until now. With whispers of war threatening their land, her father forces Avelynn into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status. The dreaded marriage looming, she turns to her faith, searching for answers in an ancient ritual along the coast, only to find Alrik the Blood-Axe and sixty Viking berserkers have landed.
Alrik is unlike any man she has ever known, strong and intriguing. Likewise, he instantly falls for her beauty and courage. The two stumble into a passionate love affair, but it’s more than just a greedy suitor who will try to keep them apart.
As the Saxons and Vikings go to war, Avelynn and Alrik find themselves caught in the throes of fate. Can they be true to their people as well as to each other?.
A coarse, bloodcurdling shout reverberated through the mist. The drum silenced. I froze. My heart took up a thunderous beat as if a thousand starlings’ wings beat in my chest. Something was terribly wrong. I turned my gaze to the sea, frantically scanning the swirling, ebbing mass of gray, willing the mist to lift.
Shades and shadows melted away. The outline of a Viking ship materialized before my eyes. A blood-red sail pierced the gloom, a black bird emblazed upon the fabric. A beast of a man ran toward me, a painted shield in one hand, an axe in the other. He stepped over the circle and grabbed my arms. I could smell the fetid reek of his breath, the unwashed sweat and sea spray on his filthy clothes. I screamed. He snarled, covered my mouth, and thrust me to the ground. I kicked and thrashed as he fumbled one-handed with the drawstring on his trousers.
Then he stopped, a look of surprise etched in his wide eyes. Blood sputtered out of his mouth, and he fell sideways.
I scrambled back as his body twitched, my breath ragged. An axe was stuck fast in his spine.
I screamed again as another Viking appeared before me. Taller than Glastonbury Tor, he wore a silver helmet with nose and cheek guards and full mail. The same black bird as on the ship’s sail stretched its wings across the battered wooden surface of his shield. A sword and a knife, cradled in their scabbards, hung from a leather belt on his waist. He grabbed one of the dead Viking’s feet and hauled him out of the circle. He jerked the axe free of the body and tucked the weapon into a sling that hung on his back.
I found my feet, spinning to discover the extent of my trouble. Were there more invaders? Did the Viking know I was alone with no chance of aid? Were his men scoping the surrounding area even now? Did they find our campsite with only two horses and two bedrolls? Where was Bertram?
The Viking looked down at the circle drawn in the sand and bowed. With his body still bent, he raised his head, blue eyes regarding me. “I apologize for the disruption to your ritual, Seiðkana,” he said, speaking in the Norse tongue.
I narrowed my eyes at him. Seiðkana? I wasn’t sure of the translation of the word, but I thought it meant witch.
“Who are you?” I asked in Norse, earning a look of shock.
“I am Alrik the Bloodaxe, your servant.”
Publisher and Release Date: St. Martin’s Press, September 2015
Time and Setting: 869, England
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Jill
There was no future for us. He was a Viking, I was a Saxon.
At seventeen, Avelynn is almost past her time for marriage. She has been waiting for a love match, similar to that of her mother and father. But with the threat of an imminent invasion by Viking hordes, her father wants to see her safe, and arranges a betrothal to the wealthy Demas of Wareham.
In a land that has been Christianised for generations, Avelynn is a pagan, a secret worshipper of the Goddess, like her mother before her. Unimpressed and suspicious of Demas, Avelynn travels to a mystical place on the west coast of Somerset to celebrate the equinox, and to ask the Goddess’s blessing and guidance. There on the shores of the sea she comes face-to-face with Alrik, the Bloodaxe.
Set in England 869AD, this is Marissa Campbell’s debut and overall it’s a pretty fine read. The strength here might be the descriptions of the era, setting and culture of the 9th century. Well-paced, with a flowing narrative, she captures the spirit and life of the times when England had been invaded by the Great Heathen Army. The historical details combine deftly with the romance.
Narrated in first person from Avelynn’s point-of-view, we don’t get to see a lot of pillaging by these Vikings, unfortunately. With the story viewed through Avelynn’s eyes, we do get to see her view of life in Britain at the time, and the mysticism and supernatural world of the pagan. Avelynn has been given a fair amount of freedom by her father, the Earl of Somerset. But with the spread of Christianity, with women made subservient to men and women’s rights diminished, she bristles at not being allowed to choose her own husband, own her own land, and to be respected.
Despite being a Viking, Alrik is not quite the bloodthirsty Norseman that one normally reads about, at least with Avelynn. He is a considered warrior-lite compared to his brothers, Ivan, Ubbe and Halfdan. Under Ivan’s leadership the Vikings had marched into East Anglia more than four years before. With a cruel and mostly absent father, Alrik was raised by his mother and a Christian priest who educated him in languages, mathematics and morality, but he was also taught to fight by his father.
My only real complaint here, is that the romance between Alrik and Avelynn leans towards the insta-love kind. Although it took Avelynn a little longer, it didn’t take too long for Alrik to fall for her.
In all, Avelynn is a very strong début. And one that would suit fans of both romantic historical fiction and Viking romances, rather than readers of straight historical fiction.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Look for her debut historical fiction Avelynn coming September 8th, 2015, from St. Martin’s Press. Currently, hard at work on the second book in the Avelynn series, she is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America, Writer’s Community of Durham Region, and local critique group B7.
When she is not writing, she is busy looking after her wonderful children, spending time with her fantastic husband, hanging out with her awesome friends, teaching yoga, dancing, laughing, and having fun!