My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
I read Norse Jewel, Gina Conkle’s debut novel and thought it was a wonderful read. At that time, I didn’t know it was going to be a series. But the story ended in a way that left some confusions, felt like there were “more”. A year or two later, when the author told me she was going to develop this story into a series, I was super excited. To Find a Viking Treasure is the book 2 of Norse series.
Now, let me tell you that I read book 1 in 2013 so my memory is a bit vague. I do remember the initial storyline, and the characters, H Hakan, a Viking lord and his newly bought Frankish slave, Helena who was the h of the story. Hakan was returning home and bought Helena from a slave trader on the way. Actually he bought some slaves, Helena and her friend Sestra were among them. I remember that Helena came from a good family, but circumstances brought her where she was, while Sestra, in true sense, have always been a thrall.
Hakan was married before but that was over with his nutcase first wife. He had the need of womanly touch in his longhouse. He had a little boy named Erik, whom Astrid won’t even let him visit. But the boy would always find a way to steal away to meet his father when he was back from one conquest or the other. The father-son bond was much stronger than what Astrid could do. Soon Hakan also begins noticing Helena for who she was— a loyal, kind-hearted woman who was also a hard-worker. She was the polar opposite of Astrid; both in looks and in temperament. For Helena, she was apprehensive at first about her treatment, but soon she finds that Hakan is a kind, fair as well as a generous master. She soon begins having feelings for Hakan, though she knew the only thing she can ever be to him is a mistress if there’s anything. But Hakan even wasn’t like that, take pleasure from his slaves or thralls then discard them.
Things weren’t going well in Uppsala with the rebellion fired on by King Olof’s son Anund Jakub. Time were about to get worse. The bond between Helen and Hakan are put to test a few times before they finally begin to realize that they need each-other. Helena knew Hakan would always keep her safe, while Hakan knew Helena won’t break his heart the way Astrid had. What she did left Hakan extremely bitter and disillusioned. Until Helena, he was cold and distant where women were concerned.
Sestra was a secondary character but I didn’t find her so noticeable to have her own book. But there was a sad, heart-breaking story there that would’ve remained undiscovered had the author not given her her own voice. I don’t really remember Brandr much from book 1, if he was even there or not but when I was reading To Find a Viking Treasure (formerly titled “Norse Fire”) that was the only thing that bugged me. Even though Helena and Hakan are seen in this book, and I’d recommend that you read book 1 before as the story is a continuation from how it ended there, To Find a Viking Treasure is a commendable stand-alone because it was more focused on building Brandr and Sestra’s relationship than anything else. Their past and histories are revealed as they bonded as confidences, rather than an actual narration of it.
Norse Jewel was a clean romance as a whole because there weren’t anything but a few kisses between Hakan and Helena. However, don’t make that mistake with To Find a Viking Treasure if you’ve read book 1 already. It’s much hotter, definitely not a clean romance! ;)
When the story begins, King Olof has left after a rebellion by his son Jakub, who wants to bring back the old ways of worshipping the Gods. He has gathered quite a bit of support, yet also has the means to force people who would not agree with his ways. He’s got people working for him, what we’d call outlaws, vicious, murderous Vikings who care for nothing or no one but themselves. Mercenaries too.
Gorm, the villain we saw in the previous book, who was also Astrid’s lover, has taken over the area and Hakan is extremely worried about it. Gorm is supposed to be working for Jakub, while Hakan and his people were serving Olof. Sorry for my vague reference because I don’t really remember a lot about the history and I wouldn’t like to confuse anyone. But as I said, this didn’t hinder my enjoyment since the focal point of this book was Sestra and Brandr’s relationship. They had their own history to share with us.
Enemies finally catch up with Hakan to punish him for not bending to the new law and the leader. With that Helena, Hakan’s new wife, his sister Lady Madred, her husband Lord Madred and their children are now in grave danger. No telling of the thralls and servants since no one really cares for their well-being. Well, most masters apparently don’t. The man who captures Hakan betrayed everyone’s trust. He was also the son of the couple who were holding a celebration of sort where everyone was present. It’s there the hell breaks loose. His dislike for Hakan was apparent but it seemed he wasn’t willing to spill blood right away. He also had no intentions of supporting Gorm, who has been murdering and pillaging throughout the area, burning down houses and killing livestock, looting whatever he and his men could.
This man wants to “work” with Hakan, if he can find the gold and the looted stash Gorm has hidden away somewhere. He’s willing to set Hakan free, for a price. Hakan and Lady Madred’s longhouse and everything else have to be burned and destroyed to show Gorm that he’s working with him. In exchange Hakan and his family and servants would be able to escape with their lives. At that point, Hakan had no other option but to accede to this man’s demand. He needed to save his loved ones first. Revenge can come later.
Sestra and Brandr were present at that celebration. In fact, Sestra was residing with that man’s family and been working there to help out. She has made a few good friends too. Helena’s station in life elevated greatly for her to call her a “friend”, though Helena herself doesn’t mind at all. But the reality was, Sestra was still a thrall and she would have to be sold to a new master soon. In the beginning of the story, she even gets the news that she’d indeed been sold and would be soon going to her new master, whoever he was.
Sestra had known Brandr for a while now and had a strong crush on him. Keep in mind, being a thrall, she often had to sleep with men, most of the times against her wish, to “comfort” or “entertain” them as asked by whoever she was working for. Her previous masters were like that; she’s still forced to do it. Though Sestra has gotten used to with her station and this lifestyle, she didn’t like it by any means. Brandr wasn’t one of those men though. He’s one odd looking Viking with dark hair, instead of platinum blonde. He also seemed foreign, almost exotic for some reason. There were stories and secrets Brandr hid, Setra was pretty sure of it but no one really knew of his origin. He had been working for Hakan for a long time now and that’s all he liked others to know.
For all their banters and easy flirtations with sometimes playfully biting remarks, Brandr has never made a move on Sestra, a truth that stung her a lot. He would’ve been someone she would’ve given herself to unconditionally. But why had he never done so when so many men had in the past? It was apparent that the chemistry was there… Maybe he doesn’t really want her, who knows. After all, she’s nothing but a thrall without any hope of ever being freed, no matter how much she pined for freedom. Brandr didn’t seem particularly wealthy, so there was no way he could afford buying her either. Those were the questions that would haunt Sestra, though she tried her best to show she didn’t care at all.
On this way, it seemed Brandr was paying a lot of attentions to her. Either his eyes were tracking her or she’d find him waiting when she was expecting him the least. His dark, rugged good-looks and that almost imperceptible flicker of smile would set Sestra’s heart racing. And she’s no green girl on her first crush. Well, for all intents and purpose, Brandr probably was her first crush; someone she craved desperately but had no idea what would come from this craving. Besides who says he feels the same?
When the trouble begins and Gorm’s gold is being sought, Sestra steps up even knowing this was a dangerous path. She had come across a place such as they were describing on one of her excursions, which is in a close by island. But Sestra wanted to help Hakan and Helena in any way she could.
Even though Brandr had other plans, he would’ve fought and helped Hakan in anyway. He was leaving for Gotland, never to look back. His service to Hakan has ended, and now he’s determined to do something on his own. Even though Sestra has tempted him since the day he’s set his eyes on her, his feelings for her weren’t that of simple lust. Brandr had deeper feelings for the beautiful, red-headed thrall but he had nothing to offer her. He didn’t have much, no way to even buy her to be with her permanently. So he’d decided to move on in hopes that someday he can start anew.
But things weren’t that simple or even easy. At first, Brandr couldn’t leave Hakan in these dangerous times. His ship was waiting to leave the next day, yet he couldn’t. Hakan has become more of a friend than his master in the long years he’d served him. Then, when Sestra offers herself up to help on this quest, he couldn’t imagine letting her go with someone else. He also offers to help, escorting Sestra to that island and search for that illusive looted stash of Gorm and his men.
Sestra and Brandr sail for the island all by themselves. But this journey to proverbial unknown becomes one of the most important journeys of their lives. It wasn’t just about finding gold or even buying freedom. When they’re stuck on that island for a few days with danger dogging their steps, both are willing to open up about themselves; about their past, present… and what future may hold for them with or without the gold. To one, the much needed freedom and a life with the love of her life, and to the other the woman he craved but thought he couldn’t have. It wasn’t just about discovering each-other once again; it was also a journey of self-discovery. But the best discovery was to learn that they’d loved each-other all along, only circumstances weren’t on their side.
I really enjoyed To Find a Viking Treasure and now, interested for the upcoming installments. It hinted at some new characters and from the blurb of the next book, I can see whose it’s going to be. Really excited to find out more! 4 solid stars and highly recommended.
Complimentary copy received from the author in exchange of an honest review... thanks Ms. Conkle! x Review posted as a part of To Find a Viking Treasure review tour hosted by Goddess Fish Promotions, December 2016.