Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri is a bodice-ripper Viking romance with a resilient heroine. While it also has some troubling, problematic plot elements, it ultimately deserves a five-star rating.
This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, Sweet Savage Flame earns a small percentage from qualifying purchases.Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri
Imprint or Line: Zebra Lovegram
Book Series: Viking Trilogy #1
Published by: Kensington
Genres: Historical Romance, Bodice Ripper, Medieval Romance, Viking Romance
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Blue Falcon
TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠
After deliberation, I decided to give Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri five stars, although I do so reluctantly. The explanation of why follows below.
Part One: Freya and Alaric, Their Beginnings
Sea Jewel begins with the book’s hero, Freya Jorgenson, being born. Her father, Thorfast, is a warring Viking who wanted a son. He orders his man, Sven, to kill Freya. Sven, however, being a kind soul, chooses not to and, with the help of a captured English slave, raises Freya as his daughter.
Earlier, Sven did a similar thing. Years earlier, when Thorfast and his men went a-Viking–i.e., murdering, pillaging, and raping–they sacked an English village, killing all the males and raping the females.
One of the women, Wilone, wife of the head of the earldom whom Thorfast killed, offered herself as a sexual slave to Thorfast in exchange for sparing her life and the life of her unborn child. Thorfast raped Wilone and ordered Sven to kill her and her child, which he did not do.
Wilone gave birth to twin boys. One, Farant, was a studious, bookish, quiet individual. The other, Alaric, the “hero” of this book, was more warlike after finding out what happened to his mother. Alaric vowed revenge on Thorfast and all Danes. He would get his chance many years later.
Part Two: Alaric and Freya, Master and Slave
The book fast-forwards. Freya is now the head of her hall, and she, like her sire, pillages English villages. She decides to pillage the same village Thorfast did many years ago, against the advice and admonition of Sven, who is a psychic and envisions, correctly, that the raid Freya is planning will have grave consequences for her. What Freya doesn’t know is that there is a traitor who informs the English that an attack is coming.
When Freya and her men attack, many are killed, and Alaric captures Freya. When he finds out who she is, he decides to exact his revenge on her father through her by raping and dishonoring her the same way her father did his mother.
Alaric rapes Freya, although she fights him, and even though he is her master and she his slave, they eventually fall in love!
This relationship draws the ire of two people in particular: Alaric’s sister-in-law and former lover Kendra, who wants Alaric both for his sexual prowess and money and power. Kendra accuses Freya of two murders that Kendra herself committed.
The first time, Kendra has to withdraw her charge after being caught committing adultery. The second time, Kendra kills Farant, and Freya mistakenly believes that Alaric was killed. Freya runs away and faces various perils.
The second person who disapproves of their relationship is Alaric’s uncle, Ordway, who hates all Danes for what Thorfast did to Wilone, who, after seeing her husband and other children killed and being raped, becomes mentally unstable and now lives out her life in a religious abbey.
Part Three: Freya, Wife of Olaf
After Freya escapes, she finds out that she is pregnant. She faces various perils as she makes her way from England to Denmark. Freya eventually returns to Denmark, where she meets again with her childhood friend, Olaf. Olaf is in love with her, so they get married.
Freya, however, doesn’t tell Olaf that she’s not in love with him. Nor does she tell him she is pregnant with Alaric’s child. This truth, however, eventually comes out. Freya gives birth to twins: a son and a daughter. She and Olaf have a pleasant, if not totally loving, marriage. Olaf accepts her children as his own, despite their not being his by blood.
However, the specter of Freya’s love for Alaric—who she believes to be dead—hangs over their marriage. Olaf later learns Alaric is not dead, although he doesn’t tell Freya this. He only tells the truth after being mortally wounded in another Viking raid on England.
Part Four: Freya and Alaric, Together at Last
Freya chooses to go back to England to be with Alaric, regardless of their relationship status. She often faces peril during her journey, necessitating Alaric’s intervention to save her.
They ultimately get married. Freya converts to Christianity and changes her name to Marissa—the Roman name meaning “of the sea.”
Ordway, however, is incensed that Alaric and Freya are marrying. He kidnaps the twins and tries to kill them. Ultimately, he dies in a fire at the abbey, but the children survive, thanks to Wilone. She saves them like she saved Alaric and Farant when they were babies.
And they all live happily ever after.
As with all of Penelope Neri’s books, the heroine is the main positive. Freya is a strong, warlike, capable heroine. She never accepts being enslaved, fighting every step of the way, although Alaric overpowers her both physically and sexually.
Freya faces many difficulties but survives and prospers. I always appreciate the strength that Ms. Neri’s heroines have.
The biggest negative is that Freya is raped by two men—including the hero, of course. It is unsettling that Frey falls in love with one of the men, Alaric. Since this book was set in the 9th century, the term “Stockholm Syndrome” wasn’t invented. Even so, that’s exactly what this is.
I have a big issue with this plot point. I’m uncomfortable when a heroine falls in love with the individual who rapes her. This, sadly, was a rather common thing in romance novels of the past.
As much as I care for Ms. Neri’s heroines, I never feel the same caring for her “heroes.” Primarily because Ms. Neri’s heroes are just slightly above vermin.
There are lots of sex scenes in Sew Jewel.
While they are not overly graphic, there are many of them. That’s enough to make this a sensual Zebra historical romance, although, on the warmer side, not too erotic.
There are scenes of mildly graphic violence.
Bottom Line on Sea Jewel
There are parts I wish would have been changed in this book. Nevertheless, that doesn’t completely diminish the positives of Sea Jewel by Penelope Neri. If one likes medieval romance, this book may be a good one to have.
Sea Jewel a 5-Star Read, Albeit a Rating I Give Reluctantly
In the past, I have stated that I would never give a book where the heroine is raped by the “hero” a positive grade. Yet I am doing so with Sea Jewel.
I will briefly explain why. My views have somewhat evolved. I feel now that it is important to view novels in their complete context, not solely based on one act.
This is a very good book.
|Rating Report Card|
TEMPEST OF FURY
When arms of steel trapped her slender waist and hungry lips branded her lustrous skin, Freya’s rage exploded. How dare her enemy ignore her noble birth and treat her like any other female captured in battle! But even as the wild-haired beauty vowed eternal revenge, the spark of ecstasy was kindled deep inside her, and her supple body betrayed her. Then she couldn’t help but swear allegiance to the man who made her vibrate with passion and beg for satisfaction…
WINDSTORM OF LUSTSea Jewel by Penelope Neri
Hot- tempered Alaric had long planned the humiliation of his hated foe’s daughter. Finally he clasped her hard against him and made free with her ample womanly charms… but the ruthless prince never expected her musky feminine scent to intoxicate him, her full provocative curves to drive him wild. Alaric had thought only of making the wench from across the ocean his lowly bedchamber slave; he’d never accept that now she was mistress of his heart, his treasured, beloved SEA JEWEL