Reviewed by Tori
“In our fathers’ day, you could have tossed her in your ship and be halfway to Tronscar by now.”
“Our forefathers had all the fun.”
Married and widowed in a two month span, Lida returns to her family’s home. Eight years later, happily raising her daughter on her own, she inadvertently captures the attention of a powerful viking warlord who will do anything to make her his wife. Before she knows it, she’s wedded, bedded, and placed on a ship headed to her new home.
Jarl Magnus has already buried one wife and now seeks another. Wanting a strong woman who can survive the harsh conditions of his homeland and bear him many sons, he is pleased by his new wife’s beauty and spirit but is quite unprepared to find himself actually liking her and his new stepdaughter.
As Lida and Magnus strive to set aside their ingrained prejudices towards one another, dissent begins to reign within their home. As the lies and distrust push Lida and Magnus further apart, an enemy’s need for revenge will either unite them as one or separate them forever.
Sandra Lake’s debut, The Warlord’s Wife is a historical romance based on a favorite trope of mine – reluctant bride and pushy groom. Set in the 12th century Sweden, this heavily character driven novel combines old skool dramatics and misunderstandings with modern sensibilities creating an engaging romance with some bursts of predictable angst, drama, and laughter. Fast pacing and a solid plotline gives readers the setup and background information needed without over burdening. The romance is strong, offset with a bit of mystery and suspense.
Lida was married at a very young age to the man of her dreams. He coerced her into sleeping with him before they tied the knot, marking her as a whore in her in-laws eyes when she is further along in her pregnancy then she should be. Her in-laws send her back to her parents, barring her return. Luckily for Lida, her parents are more open minded than most and accept her and her child with open arms. Happy in her widowhood with no plans on re-marrying, she is shocked and dismayed when she told the Jarl wants to marry her. Not one to hold her tongue, she tells him no, despite being told she should be grateful for this honor.
Why is it the most strikingly attractive men are always the most cantankerous?
Jarl Magnus is a gorgeous, rich, arrogant, grumpy man who is not used to be told no by anyone. Powerful in both strength and politics (his cousin is the King of Sweden) he is in Turku to find a new wife and solidify alliances. Already irritated by having to remain in Turku for too long, he sees Lida and instantly wants her. When she denies him, he uses blackmail her into accepting his suit.
“You will learn I possess nothing that has been given. What I have has been forged or earned. Be wise and make your counter offer, before I finalize the contract with your brother.”
Lida resents Magnus’s maneuvers but agrees to the marriage if only to ensure her daughter will have a chance at a decent life. Lida’s stubbornness and Magnus’s cluelessness was amusing at times. They both come into the marriage with preconceived notions. Lida doesn’t love Magnus and knowing he doesn’t love her, she fears she will be nothing more than a body to warm his bed and a womb to birth his children. She is strong, intelligent, and a very diplomatic strategist, knowing when to push and when to back off.
Magnus is a 12th century man whose father warned him time and time again to never fall in love, that women have only one job and that to service men. He is the alpha ruler of all he sees and makes sure no one forgets it. Lida confuses him. He wants her gratitude for a marriage she didn’t want and for the gifts that she never asked for and can’t understand why she refuses to give it to him. Though crabby and quick to accuse, Magnus is in general a kind man who doesn’t purposely treat Lida or her daughter unkindly.
“I am not your jarl in here, Lida. I am Magnus, your husband.”
As Lida and Magnus get to know one another, the sparks fly and the chemistry heats up. Despite their antagonistic beginnings, Lida and Magnus have a strong physical attraction to one another which is alluded to but very little is shown on scene. Luckily, both POVs are shown, enabling readers an intimate view of their thoughts and feelings. While Lake stays well within the boundaries of this time, the subtle power plays invoked by all are fun to watch, adding wit to their banter and personalities.
“I fear I will never understand the Jarl.”
“Shall I enlighten you? Suppose you are an idiot, then suppose you are a man. But I repeat myself.”
A well developed cast of characters add delight and depth to the story. Tero, Magnus’s stewart, offers advice and tries to calm the pathway to love between his mistress and master. Katia, Lida’s daughter, steals the show and is the perfect plot device to soften Magnus’s prickly nature. A vengeful villain sows seeds of malcontent, playing on Magnus’s jealous nature and the feelings he has for his wife. This is where the predictability comes in. The usual accusations come into play, attempting to destroy the bonds that are developing between Magnus and Lida but Lake brings in a character who helps to take the blinders off their eyes. I hope he gets his story soon.
The mystery reveals itself early on but the path to resolution is action packed with lots of dramatic demands for vengeance and revenge. There were some scenes that resolved off page, diminishing their impact, and I felt overall this weakened the storyline at certain points. Regardless, Lake’s debut historical romance is sure to appeal to those who enjoy spirited heroines, grumpy alpha heroes, and a slow sweet journey to everlasting love. I look forward to book two of the series, The Iron Princess, which is set to release June 16, 2015 by Intermix. I have a feeling Katia’s story will be very amusing considering her father’s (Magnus) attitude towards men and his daughter.