SHE'S TESTING HIS RESOLVE!
Warrior Viking Ragnar Olafsson stood by as his best friend claimed the woman he desired the most. There was only one way to quench the deep darkness within him -- become merciless in battle.
When Elena is taken captive, fearless Ragnar risks everything to save her. Now they are stranded with only each other for company. Suddenly every longing, every look, every touch is forbidden. Elena could tempt a saint -- and sinner Ragnar knows he won't be able to hold out for long!
Very good book with several unusual issues for a historical romance - biggest is that not all arranged marriages work out and the way it has affected four people. Also a large part is the effect that child abuse has on the adult's life, infertility, and a child with special needs. I loved the depth of emotion as both Elena and Ragnar have to deal with the twists and turns of their lives. This is the sequel to To Sin With a Viking, in which Elena's husband Styr was captured by an Irish woman and fell in love with her even though he was not free to do so. Now we get the story of Elena and Ragnar, Styr's best friend and the man who has always loved her. The first part of the book runs parallel to Sin, as we find out what happened to Ragnar and Elena when they were taken. Ragnar had promised Styr he would protect Elena, which he would have anyway. When he found a way for them to escape, he took it, getting injured in the process. With the two of them alone together the strain on Ragnar's honor is greater than it's ever been before.
I really liked Ragnar. He has been in love with Elena since they were young, but always knew that he wasn't good enough for her. His father was a drunk and abusive and Elena's father is the leader of their band. He is also Styr's best friend and Styr is the one who marries her. Over the years of their marriage, Ragnar has always behaved honorably. He has also continued his friendship with Elena, hurting for her because of her unhappiness in her marriage. When he is the one to save her after they are captured it puts a terrible strain him. After they are rescued by Styr, he has to watch as they attempt to save their marriage, even though Styr is in love with another woman. He is relieved for her sake when Elena and Styr split, but he still feels that he is not good enough for her. Because of his size, his background and his training he feels that fighting is all he is good for and that he would be dangerous for her to be around. Even when Elena shows him that she wants him, he thinks its only a reaction to the end of her marriage. I loved his fierce protectiveness, but I also liked the way that he was always a good friend to her. He was always happy to listen to anything she wanted to tell him and liked her just as she was. I loved his support of her when she adopted the young boy (likely autistic). It took a great deal of effort for Elena to finally break down his walls, but when she does it opens a whole new world for him.
Elena had been friends with Ragnar most of her life. She was aware of what his home life was like and often tried to help. She also found it very easy to talk to him and share her hopes and dreams. She knew she was supposed to marry Styr and that was okay with her, she loved him. Once they were married things weren't all that great. She never got any of those feelings that other women talked about and felt that it was something lacking in her. As the months and years went on, things got more strained between them. She was sure a baby would help, but that didn't happen either until it got to the point that she didn't even want to try any more. She felt her marriage falling apart and she didn't know what to do. She even tried changing her whole personality to try to be what she thought Styr would want. When she and Ragnar were captured while in Ireland, she feared that Styr was dead but held out hope that he would escape his captors and find them. I loved her strength when she and Ragnar escaped and she had to take care of him after he was wounded. She had a great deal of ingenuity that she used to build their shelter and heal him. She was also quick witted enough to find a way to save them from some raiders - loved the whole curse idea! While she was worrying about her husband, she also noticed that she was feeling things around Ragnar that she had never felt before. This disturbed her quite a bit. When they were found by Styr she was happy because she thought she was finally pregnant, but then found out that he had fallen in love with someone else. She was hurt but still tried to make their marriage work, even though she could tell he didn't care anymore. When she realized there was no baby, she cared enough about him to set him free, but that left her with no one. She wanted to continue her friendship with Ragnar but quickly discovered that even that was changing. Over the next few weeks she came to realize that she had never felt for Styr was she was now feeling for Ragnar, but she didn't know how to show him that. I really liked the way that she had always seen the good in him and didn't treat him the way that others had. I also loved her compassionate nature. Because she had wanted a child for so long, she noticed the orphaned children in the streets. Her rescue of the little boy who was probably autistic was just what she needed at that time. It also brought her and Ragnar a little closer together and did some great things for her own self confidence. I loved where that confidence took her when she finally decided to go after Ragnar. Her method of getting him to listen was fantastic!