Book 1 in the Heart Trilogy
Lief Draugr is a Viking. After leaving his home island in search of new and glorious places to explore, his ship breaks and he is left stranded, half-dead. The shepherd who nurses him to health sells the large, blond, ‘wild man’ to a traveling circus, where Lief is enslaved for nearly a year (the scenes Martin writes of his feelings and thoughts while he is in captivity are really heartbreaking – I felt like crying). Krista Hart is the publisher of a ladies’ gazette in London, Heart to Heart, which publishes very unpopular articles on things such as social reform. When visiting the circus, she discovers Lief in chains and demands his release. After that, the pair, along with Krista’s father, work to teach Lief how to be a gentleman while Krista faces threats on her life due to her newspaper’s outspoken views. At one point, Lief leaves with Krista's father for their country estate to work on his English and manners. When he comes back, the romance really begins.
What did I love about this book? Pretty much everything. So we’re going to start with the things I didn’t like, and get them out of the way so I can rave about how much I did like this book! First, the book was a little too long – like, 30 to 40 pages. It dragged a little at the end, and the length made me lose some of the anticipatory feel I should’ve had. Second, I disliked how long it took Lief to realize that he should stay in England for good. My HEA was far too delayed for my liking. Third, some events in the book were a little implausible – however not so implausible it wrecked my read. I’ve heard a lot of people say how annoyed they were that Lief learned English so quickly, but honestly it doesn’t surprise me (much, at least). Earlier this year, I went to Spain with two years of high-school Spanish backing me - nothing else. By the time I left my host family’s house three days later for France, I was talking rapidly and thinking more in Spanish than English. The human mind adapts amazingly well when no one around you speaks your language and everyone else speaks another one. Also, if Lief is as determined as he sounded, he would've spent every waking moment learning English and would've been far more successful than most readers seem to think he would be. I didn't find it annoyingly unbelievable at all.
Onto what I loved. I loved how funny this book was. Honestly, the first half of the book had me laughing at least fifteen times. I was having hysterics over Lief’s boldness. I also loved how beautifully Martin wrote Lief’s scenes of captivity – and later Krista’s ‘captivity’ as Lief drags her away to his island (it’s not as bad as it sounds, ladies. You’ll still love him). In the case of Lief’s captivity, every time I read about him in those early chapters my heart broke. Again and again. It was that powerful, and that sealed the book for me. I also loved how well I connected with Krista and Lief’s characters. I could feel and understand their motivation, their drive. I loved how Martin kept me with them every step of the way. I could feel their pain, their fear, their anguish. I was thoroughly involved in this story - completely invested in every scene and every move made by each character.
I also loved the unique premise of this book. In most Historicals, the male saves the female. However, in this case, Krista comes to Lief’s rescue before he comes to hers. It made them seem more like equals. I, for the most part, really enjoyed the plot. It was exciting, intriguing, and very distinctive. I have read books where you ‘turn the beast into a gentleman’ (The Making of a Gentleman by Shana Galen, anyone?) but none as well done as this one. Every time a doubt rose in my mind about something, Martin put my mind at ease, which is an incredible talent. She didn’t leave a single loop hole. I felt the pace was good throughout most of the book as well.
I, unlike others, liked that Lief didn’t remain chaste upon his freedom from his cage. Back where he came from, his old island, he was very used to having women all around him (the quintessential rake, but in a more barbaric and less refined fashion). It wasn’t part of his culture for him to be monogamous especially before even entering into a romantic relationship with Krista, and I liked that he was honest with her about his escapade with a maid while he was at her father’s estate learning to be an English gentleman. I liked that she didn’t make a big deal about it because, again, they weren’t in a relationship of any kind. I think that was my favorite thing, how true Lief was to his barbaric, Viking culture in the beginning. I really enjoyed watching him transform throughout the book, still retaining part of his wildness. It gave us some really great protective warrior scenes too – that fencing scene was delectable. Or maybe I just like the image of men waving around their swords…
“I hope you are pleased with what you see, lady. You can see how much you please me.” (Lief)
The moment he set the plate on the table, he picked up his knife, stuck it into a hunk of meat and shoved the meat into his mouth.
Krista’s eyes widened as he grinned in pleasure and wiped away a trickle of grease with the back of his hand.
“This is very good,” he said.
A corner of Lief’s mouth faintly curved. “If you wish these new clothes to fit, lady, you will not stare at that particular place.”
“Sexy”ness rating: Hot, hot, hot!
Overall Rating: A
Bottom Line: This book is funny, heart-wrenching, sexy and charming – it’s an all-in-one package deal! Pick this up on your next trip to the bookstore and enjoy!
Published: January 1, 2007