Title: Kjartan the Gentle (Tales of Forbidden Love From the Danelaw #3)
Author Name: Catherine L. Byrne
Publication Date & Length: February 1, 2015 – 124pgs
916 A.D. East Anglia under the Danelaw.
In Dark Age Britain, you knew your place and if you didn’t keep to it, you faced the consequences…
Hot-blooded Kjartan, accidental hero, has settled down into married life, with a baby on the way. But when he meets handsome glass maker Lini, their unlawful relationship provokes angry and passionate reactions from their kinfolk.
They have to fight back against the prejudice of Norse culture, and find out who their real friends—and enemies—are. And this conflict leads to murder.
But who is the victim, and who the killer?
Viking Britain was home to people of many different warring races, each people group struggling to keep themselves safe, well fed and comfortable.
Kjartan is a warrior turned farmer while Lini is a glass maker. Both are married with children, but their attraction for each other leads to trouble in their village. Can the men survive the upcoming turmoil with their love, their lives and their family intact?
This is an incredibly well researched book. Byrne has captured Viking Britain in exquisite detail. She understands the social organisation of the community she writes about and she reveals it carefully and clearly to her readers.
But with so much history to explain and explore, the central relationship between Kjartan and Lini becomes lost at times. Neither moves much beyond a stock type. Interestingly, it is Mildrith, Kjartan’s wife who seems to develop as a unique entity, not one of the two men.
This is very much historical fiction. It almost feels that the romance is added only to allow Byrne to explain the Viking justice system and the more fluid system of family and family values in Dark Age Britain.
If you enjoy Viking history, you will enjoy this book and probably learn a great deal while you read it.
Lini then went to the kiln and put the glass blowing rod into it, collecting a blob of molten green glass. He wore gloves, but there were old burns on his arms above the glove cuff. He blew into the cloth mouthpiece of the iron rod carefully, and Kjartan gasped as the bubble expanded. Lini spun it round and held a tool to it, shaping it into a symmetrical bowl shape. When finished, he put it into the low-heated oven so it would cool down slowly and not crack. He then repeated the process a few more times.
By this time, Kjartan had completely forgotten what he was talking about and stood just gazing, mesmerised.
“It’s wholly different to fighting in a battle, yes?” Lini smiled and wiped the sweat from his brow with his arm. “Quite calming.”
Kjartan just nodded, staring at the sweat running down Lini’s tanned back.
“So, the fighting school? You got as far as saying what you were going to teach them.”
“Oh. Yes. I’ll think of something.” It was far too hot in the forge and stopped his mind from working properly.
Catherine L Byrne amused herself writing as a hobby for some years until she had her daughter, but becoming a mum made her realise she now had a purpose and time was limited, so she must get on with writing seriously.
The winter of 2009 was severe and as she and her family live in a small village, they were house bound by unusually deep snow for southern England. So she settled down in her office (i.e. the corner of her bedroom) and began her first book, which was published in 2010.
She hasn’t stopped writing since, generally on the theme of forbidden or unrequited love, and often including erotic scenes.