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Gina Conkle is known for her hot and well-written Viking romances. Kept by the Viking, book 1 in a brand new series, is the latest in her growing backlist. Though I had a slow beginning, I really enjoyed the storyline and thought the H and h were absolutely adorable together.
The series titled Forgotten Sons is based on a band of Viking brothers where they’re mainly connected by circumstances, rather than bloodline. But Kept by the Viking largely focuses on the H and h’s relationship and everything surrounding it, rather than building up a backstory for the heroes of the Forgotten Sons, as they call themselves. Then again, there are 6 of them and I’m sure the author will reveal their stories in their own books. All I could gather that they had known each-other since childhood. They share a very strong bond and would do anything for one another. They’re called Forgotten Sons because of some circumstances or the other has made them leave their own home in search of glory, financial stability and, if possible, a home of their own where they can settle.
Kept by the Viking is the story of Rurik, the leader of the Forgotten Sons; a son of Birka, his birthplace. Rurik didn’t have a great childhood, and the aftermaths of that shaped his entire life every way possible. His father, Vlad, was a mean, merciless man whose show of ‘affection’ came with the use of his fist. He had treated Rurik’s mother like the dirt, and at one point, when the young Rurik rebelled against it he was beaten mercilessly. There are more stories of Vlad’s violence, but needless to say, since he left them Rurik or his mother, brother and sisters didn’t shed a single tear for that POS. He hates his father with a passion that rivals his need to possess his own lands.
Rurik and his fellow brothers Bjork, Erik, Gunner, Thorfinn, his brother Thorvald, have followed the path together enough time to know each-other like the back of one’s hand. They selected Rurik as their leader and have the utmost trust in his judgment. Rurik also had a younger brother, Leif, in the team but he sadly died in an attack some years ago; a death that still haunts him every day, breaking his heart anew. You’ll find Rurik reminiscing over the whole thing throughout the story multiple times, feeling guilty of not accompanying his brother on that fateful day to watch over him. There was no question about his love for his family. Not one.
In an outpost where they were staying for a spell to do some business, Rurik saves a thrall or a slave girl, who very brazenly asked for his help when thralls are generally trained to be in the background. This girl with dark, long hair and haughty posture gives him some valuable information to escape her nasty master. She claims she was kidnapped and forced to work here. Rurik could’ve ignored her but something about her held him enthralled since the beginning. She was an attractive girl no doubt and had curves aplenty to entice any man, but Rurik found her erect posture, her haughtiness very uncommon for a thrall. He’d already gathered she was maybe from a well-off family. And maybe he can blackmail her family if he could find out more, then get some money off of the exchange. All’s fair since he has to take care of her in the interim until the time came.
But Safira, who won’t give Rurik much more about her life before her arrival in this miserable outpost, tells him the same thing; that if she’s safely returned to her family big rewards would be waiting for him. All she needs is to be led to a boat bound to Paris. But of course, Rurik had other plans. So even though he tells Safira he’d help, he begins planning on wooing her so she gives up all her secrets. He also had a mind to bed her in exchange of his help, something Safira had gathered already but was hoping she could avoid. Well, it shouldn’t be a problem since both were attracted to each-other on the get go but Safira had heard ridiculously overblown accounts of women’s first times that made her afraid. Also weren’t they virtual strangers? Could she trust this ruggedly handsome Viking that far?
Safira had her own reasons for being so secretive. Even though she had trusted Rurik, she couldn’t dare telling him everything about her life. The fact that she’s one of the daughters of Ruben Alzaud, a famed spice merchant of Paris and led the most lavish life one could possibly live until her kidnapping the year before. Her father is that rich. That she’s also engaged to marry a prince, and for that she needs to keep her virginity intact. In that outpost, living with her nasty ‘master’ and his men, Safira had spread some rumors of being a witch which kept men away from her. But she knew better with someone like Rurik, whom she already found irresistible. Who has promised to see that she gets to Paris. But would he? Safira wasn’t sure where it’s going but she couldn’t seem to help following him wherever he went. Of course, for the time being, she had no other options either. Rurik was indeed keeping her safe.
Rurik informs everyone that they’re going to Hedeby, at Will Longsword’s place. Son of the Great Rollo, Will is now the Jarl and leader and wants to expand his lands. He’s a successful leader on his own who is always looking for able bodied men, warriors to be precise, to help him accomplish that feat. He and his half-brother, Ademar, know Rurik and his interest in fighting for a piece of land. But therein lay the dilemma. Rurik’s men knew they were about to visit the Longsword’s but they had no idea that he planned to leave the Forgotten Sons if he could accomplish this long cherished dream. Rurik had already broken one rule of their brotherhood—no women of any kind in the group— by taking Safira along. His men knew that she belongs to him and respected his decision. And though some of them weren’t happy in the beginning, Safira is well-liked by now because of her resourcefulness. However, would they forgive him for another <i>betrayal</i>, for keeping this a secret from them? Rurik had a lot in his mind no doubt, but most of all, by now he had his visceral need to have Safira all to himself yet no idea how he could make this possible when Longsword, in many words, told him that he must marry a Viking woman if his dream of owning a piece land is to come true.
While staying with Rurik and the other Forgotten Sons, Safira makes allies in Longswords’s place including the Jarl himself. It seemed everyone liked Safira’s haughty but elegant ways despite the fact they knew her to be Rurik’s kept. But their stay wasn’t without danger as it’s proven later on. Then there was the woman chosen by the Jarl, for Rurik, a thorn on Safira’s side. If that wasn’t all, it was also revealed that Rurik was to fight the one man, his arch enemy—whom he’d always wanted to obliterate from the face of the earth—if he’s to make a stake on his land; his own father. There were a lot going on, and yet, none was sure what to do about the budding feeling between them, already so intense that both knew they couldn’t ignore or deny it even if they tried.
After many ups and downs and gripping moments fraught with danger and confrontations, Safira and Rurik finally find their HEA in the story. While I read, the few things that stood out to me were, 1. How sweet Rurik was inside (I bet he’d scoff at my words LOL), as oppose to his tough and ruthless warrior’s visage. How gently he treated Safira throughout despite the fact that at first, his only intention was to make her his mistress. How he hated that Safira had to see his ‘other side’ quite a few times as he fought their enemies. Now, Safira probably would’ve ended up as Rurik’s mistress, and he, with his Viking ways, would think that totally fine... which brings me to 2. Of how I absolutely loved Safira’s stance of ‘all or nothing’ when in many novels the h is happy to have whatever she can get of the H; even if it means being the mistress. Safira gave herself to Rurik because she wanted him, not just to fulfill a bargain. It was one of those inevitable things seeing their sizzling chemistry. Her gift to him. She knew for certain Rurik had feelings for her just as she did, which is also discussed at one point in the story with confirmation. However, he was still unsure because it’d mean giving up his lifelong dream. Safira knew she’d never be happy with sharing Rurik, no matter what. She couldn’t do it so it was either you marry me and make me your wife or fulfill your initial promise and help me go home. She steadfastly wanted Rurik to succeed from the bottom of her heart, even if it meant they couldn’t be together.
But there were other complications coming their way when Safira’s parents suddenly arrive to take her home anyway...
Kept by the Viking very successfully sets the tone of the series, and I must say, after reading about the rest of the Sons I’m very intrigued about their stories. The next book will be of Rurik’s right-hand man Bjorn’s in, Her Viking Warrior. From the little hints I can tell he’s got his own history to tell. Eagerly awaiting! 4 solid stars and recommended.
ARC received from the author, thanks Gina. x :)