Lady Meriel de Vere had deceived Adrian, Earl of Shropshire. Standing in the royal forest, her falcon perched on her arm, she boldly claimed to be a Welsh commoner, not a noble Norman. Lord Adrian beheld in wonder her raven-black hair and defiant blue eyes, heard her lies, and felt a dark, primeval passion rob him of all reason.
In one irrevocable move of fate, he ordered this fair beauty locked in his castle’s tower, vowing to entice her into surrendering her kisses with lips as hungry as his own. Never to give in, to die if she must, was Meriel’s vow … until one rash moment of impetuousness swept them both up in the royal battles of kings … and into a dangerous intrigue of sweet caresses … and fiery, all-consuming love.
I’ve read Mary Jo Putney‘s Uncommon Vows several times and have always enjoyed the compelling romance. It’s a passionate medieval bodice ripper about obsessive love.
Lord Adrian was set for a life of priesthood when a family death changes his destiny. Lady Meriel seemed fated for a life in a nunnery. But twists and turns made it, so neither of these things came to pass. Instead, Adrian becomes the Earl of Shropshire and Meriel renounces her calling to live under the protection of her brother, a knight.
One day Adrian comes upon Meriel in a field and believes her to be a commoner. Adrian becomes fixated on Meriel’s stunning beauty. He takes her captive. Meriel, who is half-Welsh, deeply values her freedom and cannot understand how Adrian supposedly loves her if he keeps her prisoner.
She refuses Adrian’s attempts to seduce her so forcefully. Meriel throws herself out a stained-glass window, causing her to lose her memory.
Without all the baggage hanging on, Adrian is able to woo Muriel into loving him. But will her feelings remain the same when her memory returns?
When writing about the Medieval Era, many authors avoid religion. They treat it as a third rail topic. Here, in Uncommon Vows, it’s used uniquely and romantically. Adrian and Muriel cite phrases from the Bible–the Song of Solomon–to each other during their lovemaking. It works beautifully and poetically to enhance this thrilling love story.
Final Analysis of Uncommon Vows
Uncommon Vows is a fantastic battle of wills between a hero who is obsessed with the heroine and will do anything to have her and a heroine who refuses to submit to her enemy. Putney’s writing is at her best here, although maybe it’s because she so often borrows from one of the most poetic books ever written!
PS: I wish Mary Jo Putney had written a sequel about Adrian’s illegitimate brother. Does anyone know if she ever did?
With a shimmering Pino Daeni cover featuring a muscled guy who looks a lot like Fabio embracing a blonde on a Viking ship (spot the horse on the cover!) this could just have been another ho-hum romance.
But it’s not.
This is how the tale begins:
The world was a colder, darker place then. It was an axe age, a wind age, a time when men didn’t dare give mercy, and a time when the powerful exacted what they could and the weak granted what they must.
Ok, that definitely piqued my interest.
The ominous effect is spoiled a bit in the next paragraph with a glaring misspelling, thanks to the ever so diligent Zebra editors (who were so lackadaisical that even I could’ve easily found work there!).
There are several typos to be found, which is a shame, as such a good book deserved more cautious editing. For example, the word hardier is used instead of heartier.
On the other hand, Crenshaw diligently tries to portray the authenticity of the Viking era and sticks to lots of historical facts. This book also borrows heavily from the Icelandic sagas.
The Vikings are portrayed as pitiless warriors. The heroine is a lady, not the clichéd young girl trained by her father as a boy in the arts of war.
The Plot of Edin’s Embrace
The plot of Edin’s Embrace seems like your standard Viking fare. Warriors from the North come to the British Isles. They kill all the men and pillage a castle. Edin, the heroine, sees her family killed and is taken as a slave by the hero, Thoryn.
Ever so slowly, a love story unfolds.
In a typical bodice ripper, sometimes the Viking uses force. Whereas in modern romances, he’s a sensitive toned-down version of what should be a ferocious beast of a man.
Thoryn is more of an in-between type. He starts out a rough sort then steadily transforms into a man willing to search within himself and change his ways if he has to.
Edin’s Embrace: The Love Story
While the genuine Viking atmosphere is a major plus here, the real draw is the love story.
Edin is Thoryn’s thrall. He finds he is enslaved by her.
Thoryn threatens Edin with violence and rape. In actuality, he treats her with care and is eager to satisfy her in bed.
I appreciate that there is no other woman for Thoryn (except for a brief encounter with a prostitute), no other great love of his. He is a primal force of a man and love is not part of his mentality.
“What is love?” is a phrase often queried here. Sometimes this book gets philosophical about the nature of man and woman and their bonds together.
Women are a biological need for Thoryn. Yet before Edin came along, they offered little in terms of mental stimulation and affection. With her, he becomes a better man and a better lover.
There is a scene where Thoryn approaches a Viking friend and asks him if women enjoy sex–and if they do, how can men go about pleasing them?
His friend proves to be no expert as he laughs at the idea that women are supposed to enjoy sex.
Despite his friend’s poor advice, Thoryn learns how to pleasure Edin by being an attentive lover. She, in turn, learns to pleases him. For although Edin had been a virgin and Thoryn with more sexual experience, in reality they were both novices at making love.
Their passion for each other soon transcends the carnal growing into a spiritual adoration. But can their love unite such different people?
Edin is gentle and pacific. Thoryn is a brutish man of war. They are two disparate yet complementary individuals drawn together.
A Great Scene
This is the scene that won me over in Edin’s Embrace. It made me realize I was not reading another tame, ho-hum Viking book:
There he held her. She felt the sword point keenly. She became aware of her ribs beneath it, how delicate the bones were, how easily they could be pierced.
“I’m waiting thrall! What say you know?”
She whispered, “I-I am free, a nobleman’s daughter.”
“I’m challenging you—fight me, my lady!”
“I can’t fight you, Viking, as well you know.”
“Aye,” he said slowly, lowering his weapon at last, “as well I know.”
Her gaze lifted again, all the way to his face. “But I will never be your slave,” she said stubbornly.
This time he reacted with immediate anger, the most parlous kind of anger, the kind born of frustration. The jerk of his head told her of his ire, and her breath froze at the cold flare of temper in his eyes. In an instant, he became fearsome, furious mad. His mighty sword swung again, and he closed in. There was an ice storm rampaging in his eyes. The flat of his sword lifted her chin, until she was looking at him down its long gilt and silver length. All he said now was, “Slave or sword point?”
The flames snapped in the fire pit behind her. The cold, steel point pricking her throat never moved the slightest. For an immeasurable extent of time, she stood perfectly still, living in a state of strain. She searched for an answer. And impaled on his gaze, feeling all those wild and hungry eyes on her, something of her pride broke inside her. In the end, she could only whisper: “Slave.”
Final Analysis of Edin’s Embrace
When I read a bodice ripper, I expect juicy, pulpy drama. Despite the riveting opening chapters, there’s more introspection than action here; far more than I usually enjoy. Somehow in Edin’s Embrace, it works.
As a reader of historicals, I have always been searching for that great Viking romance. This might be the best. I still rate Johanna Lindsey’sFires ofWinter a 5-star read because, for me at 13 (and 15 then 18), the book was a 5-star read.
Today I might view that romance through different eyes. But I’m not the kind of reader who decides if a book I once appreciated now somehow displeases me, any negative feeling erases my past pleasure.
However when I look at a new book, I need something different. Something more hardcore. Edin’s Embrace comes close to perfection. It’s not–still, I loved it.
Edin’s Embrace is a fabulous romance worthy of acclaim.
Rating Report Card
WAR HUNGRY VIKING
The crash of a wooden club and the howl of a Norse cur forever shattered innocent Edin’s dreams of marrying her childhood sweetheart. And when the svelte young beauty found herself in the grip of her betrothed’s killer, Edin vowed one day she’d give the devilish invader his due. But as she hardened her heart against him, the gorgeous captive’s body couldn’t shut out his nearness. His broad chest heated her, his strong hands molded her…and Edin was soon longing for the ruthless raider from the North to show her his uncivilized kind of love!
Ever since his father had been murdered by a British bedthrall, fierce Thoryn Kirkynson had sworn vengeance on all the English dogs. The accursed land was for pillaging, its men meant for hard labor, and its women for illicit pleasures. Yet even as the bearded Nordic chieftain swung his axe in slaughter, he could not staunch the rush of tender feelings that flooded him when he saw the enemy princess. Loathing himself for his father’s weakness, Thoryn sought not only to dominate his captive…he yearned for her whispers of love and endless hours of ecstasy in Edin’s Embrace.