Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Adventure and romance

Dark Pool-Banners of Alba Sequel

Dark Pool by Jen Black, published by Cambridge Books.

Eba of Bundalloch finds her brother's cattle raid on neighboring territory has repercussions that take her from  medieval Scotland to medieval Ireland.  Thinking herself quite grown up, she craves adventure and suitors, but soons finds herself longing for the security of home. The customs of the hardy Vikings of Dublin disturb her, and when she is betrothed, against her will, to a vicious young man she realises just how naive she has been.

The newly crowned king of Alba, Finlay, feels constrained to rescue her, but comes up against the wily old Viking king, Stiric, who denies her existence. Jealousies and feuds erupt, and when Dublin goes up in flames, Finlay thinks he will never find the girl.

"As a romance, this tale is a bit too harsh to handle, but as a historical and a believable portrayal of the ancient times of transition where Celts, Gaels, Picts, and Vikings lived together in the isles I give this book a 100 percent. The snapshot of life in those unsettled times, especially the life of an unprotected young maid makes for a great read. An informative and interesting tale set in a troubled time in history."
Reviewed by Raakhee Suryaprakash for The Road to Romance 
Click for a link to Amazon

Eba stirred in a brief, incoherent way and then woke with a jerk. She was naked beneath the wool blanket and a man she did not know stood within the cubicle; thankfully his back was to her, but he was so close she could have touched him. Beyond him, a crowd of men laughed and talked round the long hearth out in the open hall.

Her wet clothes hung from a peg in the wall, well out of her reach. The man ran a wad of straw gently up and down the blade of his sword, stripping it of dried mud, and took no notice of her. With her gaze fixed on his broad back, Eba gripped the edge of the blanket, pulled it tight around her and shuffled cautiously across the bed platform until she got her back against the wall. The straw mattress squeaked and rustled beneath her, but his own work masked the sound and he did not turn.

Eba curled her knees in close to her belly and looked at the man. He was tall and broad across the shoulders. A memory of his rain drenched, mud splattered face filled her mind, and she remembered he had dragged her to a ruined shed of some kind. He would have raped her if she had not fainted. Her heart leapt in her chest, and the air vanished from her lungs as the thought struck her that he would probably do it now.

He hung the sword belt on a convenient wall peg, jerked a rough leather curtain across the front of the cubicle and laughed softly when the simple act provoked a roar of outrage from men deprived of their entertainment. The sickening realization struck Eba that most likely they had already had a fine view of her when he had removed her clothes.

She watched him hitch his sodden linen tunic up and over his head and toss it onto a small wooden chest. He toweled his hair, face and throat, and Eba's gaze flicked nervously over the shadowed ridges of his chest and stomach. He half turned, noticed she was awake and smiled. He tossed the rough cloth to her.

Eba ignored it, and huddled so far back into the corner of the bed space that the wattle wall pressed into her back. Fear rose through her in spiralling waves. Torquil had captured her, but he had commanded his crew and kept them away from her. He had kept her safe until she met Kimi. Even then, Annikki and Conn had kept a careful eye on her. Now there was no one at all. She was alone in a hall filled with rough men.

Fear magnified her senses. She registered the rumble of conversation outside in the big hall, and the mixed and jumbled smells of pine, wet wool and smoke in the air around her head. She thought she might be sick. The curtain twitched to one side and admitted a pair of large and dirty hands offering two steaming wooden bowls between curtain and wall.

"You wanted to feed the lassie, Aralt. Here's broth for you."


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