King Alfred the Great has thwarted the Viking threat against his kingdom of Wessex. Signing a treaty with the formidable Danish King Guthrum, he succeeds in pushing the heathen army back to the rolling fens of East Anglia.
An uneasy peace holds sway: The King establishes a standing army under Lord Richard, who takes command of the citadel at Wareham.
Richard and his army are accompanied by his daughter, Gwyneth, an impetuous and reckless young woman – at once striking, intellectually gifted, but dangerously vain and imprudent.
While Richard broods on the Viking threat, Gwyneth falls in love with an enemy prince - only to discover that she has been betrothed to a Saxon warrior twice her age.
Refusing to countenance her grim fate, she flees the fortress, but is soon kidnapped by a Viking warrior and taken to the camp of King Guthrum while Saxon search parties scour the land.
In captivity, a hostage to fortune, and the focus of political intrigue, Gwyneth is submerged in a world of expediency, betrayal and black treachery. Slowly, she realizes the truth is suspect, nothing is what it appears and her reality cannot be trusted.
And all the time, against this background, she desires nothing more than to be reunited with her dashing Danish prince.
“Do you not see the men and women who seek the protection and safety of these walls? Do you not see their fear? Does this not prove that the Norsemen are raiding again?”
It was only a matter of time before the Norseman once again began to raid the rich and fertile land of Britannia. However, such things, were of no concern to Gwyneth of Wareham as she listened to the sea crash upon the shore. However, that fateful night, which hinted not at the events that were to unfold, would change the course of her life forever.
When Gwyneth saw a shadowy figure stumbling towards the surf, she felt compelled to follow him — instantly dismissing any danger she might have found herself in. When this mystery man collapses in front of her, Gwyneth feels compelled to help. It was only then that Gwyneth saw the arrow sticking out of his shoulder.
Who was this stranger? What had he done? What did he intend to do? As Gwyneth nursed the warrior back to health, there was only one thing that she knew for sure — she could fall in love with a man like this.
Alas, this was a man’s world, and Gwyneth was her father’s daughter. She must marry where he tells her, even if her heart does belong to someone else.
Erik of Esbjerg had not expected to fall for his would-be rescuer, but he did, and now he has to fight if he wants to keep her. It is that, or watch her marry a man that is not him.
With a sweeping elegance, I soon found myself utterly enchanted with The Briton and the Dane by Mary Ann Bernal. Gwyneth was a character that I immediately loved. She is young, feisty, and something of a free spirit. She cannot be tamed. Her wilfulness, often bordering on defiance made her a fascinating protagonist and one I enjoyed reading about, although I did feel sorry for the monks, whose patience Gwyneth put to the test on more than one occasion! Gwyneth’s story was also a lovely reminder of the joyful experience of first love.
The Briton and the Dane has a large cast of characters. There is not one but three romance stories within the cover of this book. Gwyneth’s brothers, the lovable David and the serious Stephen all have rather complicated love interests — David in particular! I thoroughly enjoyed learning about these supporting characters, and they helped to give the story depth. I especially enjoyed Stephen and Elizabeth’s story.
Bernal has a very engaging narrative and style, which held my attention throughout the course of this book. The political intrigue and the threat of war between King Guthrum and King Alfred (later to be known as The Great) gave this novel a sense of urgency. Peace was fragile, and war was on the horizon, add to that the complicated romance plot of our young intrepid protagonists, made The Briton and the Dane unputdownable.
I have read three books in The Briton and the Dane saga, and I have enjoyed them all. Bernal is a natural storyteller and writes fabulous escapism fiction.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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