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I stumbled upon Renee Vincent quite by accident online, and after discovering she was a fellow Kentucky gal AND wrote historical romance, I had to purchase the first two books in her Emerald Isle Trilogy. It took a while for me to finally get to Book One in my reading list, and I'm so glad I did.
It had been a while since I'd read a historical romance, especially one set in 10th century Ireland. I can't claim to be a history buff, but every detail, from Viking customs to speech patterns rang true. The writing is exquisite, and the characters grew on me, even most of the support cast, whose numbers weren't scanty.
The story begins with young Mara, an Irish princess who has caught the eye of Daegan Raeliksen, son of a Nordic king. It's love at first sight for Daegan, but not for Mara, who believes that all of his kind are murderous and cruel. He saves her from a horde of his fellow Northmen, whisking her as far from them (and consequently her home) as possible, and deciding that on the way, he'll convince her to fall in love with him and make her his wife.
Their journey together is one of extreme peril, betrayal, and war in the midst of their compelling and heart-wrenching romance. You can't read this book and NOT be rooting for this couple to find peace at last. The love scenes between them were simply beautiful, becoming bolder as the two of them explored their shared passions.
Daegan was wonderfully cast as both hardened warrior and tender lover when it came to Mara. Even though she was young and naive, she brought out the best in him. Especially endearing to me was how she encouraged him to finally embrace the faith of her God and let go of the violent nature of his pagan gods. As any man worth respecting, he was also devoted to his family, particularly his mother and younger brother. I got pretty teary-eyed on a few scenes he shared with them.
The only issues I had with the book were pretty minor. Within some scenes, the point-of-view changed from one character to the next abruptly, which was a little jarring until I got used to it. Also, at the very beginning, I wished Daegan had more incentive to fall for Mara other than her just being young and pretty while she rode her horse by the River Shannon. She did grow from naive princess to a strong woman by the time the story was over, which pleased me greatly.
I have to say, there were points that I ranted and raved, laughed, cried, and pounded my fist on the table. But, I won't offer spoilers, because you just have to experience Raeliksen for yourself. I'll be reading the next two in the series, MacLiam and The Fall of Rain as soon as I can.
I highly recommend this book for any historical romance fans out there, particularly if you enjoy Irish/Nordic settings. It won't disappoint!