2 stars

Historical Romance Review: Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson

Tara’s Song, Avon 1978, cover artist unknown

2 stars

Rating: 2 out of 5.

***Spoiler alert***

Tara’s Song by Barbara Ferry Johnson is yet another middling Viking romance that disappoints. Written in the late ’70s at the height of the bodice ripper era, you’d expect this Viking romance to rapacious and fun, but I found it rather ho-hum.

Having been betrayed by love in the past (the heroine is not a virgin, if it matters), the blonde, Irish beauty Tara enters into a convent. Despite what the book burb claims, Tara is actually not a novice, but a full-fledged nun who has taken all her religious vows. Yet for some mysterious reason some of her fellow nuns ensure that Tara studies the pagan Nordic runes. Obviously, the elder sisters knew their convent would be overtaken by a horde of ravenous Vikings and runic readings would come in handy for protection later on.

Tara’s new life begins when she is captured by Rorik. He, of the long, curly reddish-blond hair and two long mustaches that reach past his chin, but no beard. I imagine him as a young metal god, like a cross between Dave Mustaine & James Hetfield, only with lots of muscles. Alas, even though Rorik is a marauder, he’s BORING. As in so many Viking books I‘ve read, the hero is a bad-ass warrior who kills and slays hundreds… But we rarely see Rorik do any of this (as it’s told in a constrictive first-person perspective.)

The first-person POV is really a hindrance here. Tara tells rather than shows and there’s a lot of info-dumping and information overload, some so very inaccurate, like eating potatoes in Norway in the 900’s. (Reminded me of the chocolate-colored eyes of the OW in Johanna Lindsey’s Hearts of Fire. Research people. It’s a basic thing.) The Vikings were also portrayed as dirty and unkempt, never bathed, with un-groomed beards, and wore clichéd two-horned helmets in battle.

Anyway, Rorik doesn’t force himself on Tara as a pillaging Viking would; at first, he romantically seduces her into his bed. Meh. Give me a Viking who’s a pillager first, then learns to be romantic and civilized later on (to a certain extent). Where’s the fun in the FANTASY if the hunky Viking doesn’t take me–er, I mean, the heroine–over his shoulder and have his wickedly erotic way with her on sight? Why does he have to charm her into bed? That’s for Regency rakes, not brutish Vikings.

At least there is a naughty twist: Rorik is a polygamist and he takes Tara home to his harem of wives. That’s right, Rorik has not one but two wives and Tara is number three. As a pious Christian former nun, she resents this. So she prays for the day that Rorik will cast off his other wives, divorce them and be with only her because that would the honorable thing. For her. When Tara won’t give into Rorik’s lust, he just goes to the other wives to satisfy him. But it’s Tara he loves!

Eventually, one of Rorik’s wives plots against them, and Rorik and Tara are kidnapped and separately sold into slavery into the east.

When the hero is boring, and the hero and heroine are parted for a long time in a book, I don’t mind as long as the heroine is up to fun adventures. Regrettably, Tara’s adventures fall a bit flat.

With some of the lesser-known bodice ripper authors, you’re bound to get some amusing exploits… Not in this book! Here Tara’s escapades consist of getting the flu during the worst winter ever or getting her first taste of eating oranges… There’s Tara in Norway shopping; now there’s Tara in Constantinople shopping!

The most interesting character in the book is Olav, an older Viking who has also been captured, as well as castrated, and is Tara’s faithful companion. He could have been a complex character, but alas, Ferry takes his personality, heart, and emotions away with his balls, and his sole devotion to Tara is that of a slavish, dog-like protector, not a man who can ever physically or even emotionally love. It would have been intriguing to see, just for the WTF factor (like Bertrice Small’s Enchantress Mine but no, nothing special in this book.

Actually, that’s not 100% true, as there is one mildly engaging scenario when Tara gets kidnapped, and then is willingly seduced by a handsome and haughty overbearing lord. Although she enjoys his lovemaking, she finds him so arrogant; how dare he lust for her body so! Just days later, she is dismayed to see a sexy young male slave dance his way into her lover’s bed. Guess Tara’s not as hot as she thinks! (Again, a faintly similar situation was portrayed in Enchantress Mine, although in a much more shocking and entertaining fashion–and I wasn’t crazy about EM because I hated the heroine–so to me, Tara’s Song is the lesser book.)

O, ancient gods of the Norse! At times this book was as dry as the turkey from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

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However… It does get good in the last few pages where Rorik once and for all displays his brutal warrior skills, instead of us just being told about it. He cruelly dispatches his enemies in a slaughter, demonstrating his true awesome Nordic might. Too bad; too late. Where was that Rorik 400 pages ago?

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