To Sin with a Viking (Harlequin Historical Series #1150)
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To Sin with a Viking (Harlequin Historical Series #1150)

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by Michelle Willingham
     
 

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PLAYING WITH FIRE!

Caragh Ó Brannon defended herself bravely when the enemy landed—only, now she finds herself alone with one very angry Viking….

Styr Hardrata sailed to Ireland intending to trade, never expecting to find himself held captive in chains by a beautiful Irish maiden.

The fiercely handsome warrior both terrifies and allures

Overview

PLAYING WITH FIRE!

Caragh Ó Brannon defended herself bravely when the enemy landed—only, now she finds herself alone with one very angry Viking….

Styr Hardrata sailed to Ireland intending to trade, never expecting to find himself held captive in chains by a beautiful Irish maiden.

The fiercely handsome warrior both terrifies and allures Caragh, but he is forbidden territory. He is the enemy…and he is married. Yet Styr harbors a secret that just might set them both free….

Forbidden Vikings

Resist them if you can!

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Memorable characters and exciting plot twists make this one worth hanging on to." - RT BOOK REVIEWS on TO SIN WITH A VIKING

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780373297504
Publisher:
Harlequin
Publication date:
07/23/2013
Series:
Harlequin Historical Series, #1150
Pages:
282
Product dimensions:
4.44(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Ireland—ad 875.

The tribe was slowly starving to death.

Caragh O'Brannon stared at the grain sack, which was nearly empty. One handful of oats remained, hardly enough for anyone. She closed her eyes, wondering what to do. Her older brothers, Terence and Ronan, had left a fortnight ago to trade for more food. She'd given them a golden brooch that had belonged to their mother, hoping someone would trade sheep or cows for it. But this famine was widespread, making anyone reluctant to give up their animals.

'Is there anything to eat, Caragh?' her younger brother Brendan asked. At seventeen, his appetite was three times her own, and she'd done her best to keep him from growing hungry. But it was now evident that they would run out of food sooner than she'd thought.

Instead of answering, she showed him what was left. He sobered, his thin face hollow from lack of food.

'We haven't caught any fish, either. I'll try again this morning.'

'I can make a pottage,' she offered. 'I'll go and look for wild onions or carrots.' Though she tried to interject a note of hope, both of them knew that the forests and fields had been stripped long ago. There was nothing left, except the dry summer grasses.

Brendan reached out and touched her shoulder. 'Our brothers will come back. And when they do, we'll have plenty to eat.'

In his face, she saw the need to believe it, and she braved a smile she didn't feel. 'I hope so.'

After he went outside with his fishing net, Caragh stared back at the empty hut. Both of their parents had died last winter. Her father had gone out to try to catch fish, and he'd drowned. Her mother had grieved deeply for him and had never recovered from the loss. She'd given her own portion of food to Brendan numerous times, lying that she'd already eaten. When they'd discovered the truth, it had been too late to prevent her death.

So many had succumbed to starvation, and it bled Caragh's conscience to know that both of her parents had died, trying to feed their children.

Hot tears rose up as she stared at her father's forge. He'd been a blacksmith, and she was accustomed to hearing the ring of his hammer, watching the bright glow of hot metal as he shaped it into tools. Her heart was as heavy as the anvil, knowing she would never hear his broad laugh again.

Though his boat remained, she didn't have the courage to face the larger waves. Her brothers knew how to sail, but none of them had ventured out again after his death. It was as if evil spirits lingered, cursing the broken vessel that had returned without their father.

She wished they could leave Gall Tir. This desolate land had nothing left. But they lacked the supplies to travel very far on foot. They should have gone last summer, after the crops had failed to flourish. At least then, they would have had enough to survive the journey. Even if they now travelled by sea, they had not enough food to sustain them beyond a day.

The hand of Death was stretched out over everyone, and Caragh had felt her own weakness changing her. She could hardly walk for long distances without growing faint, and the smallest tasks were overwhelming. Her body had grown so thin, her leine hung upon her, and she could see the thin bones of her knees and wrists.

But she wasn't ready to give up. Like all of them, she was fighting to live.

She picked up her gathering basket and stepped outside in the sunlight. The ringfort was quiet, few people exerting the energy to talk, when there was the greater task of finding food. Her older brothers weren't the only ones who had left to seek supplies. Most of the able-bodied men had gone, especially those with children. None were expected to return.

A few of the elderly women nodded to her in greeting, with baskets of their own. Caragh thought of her earlier promise, to find vegetables, but she knew there was nothing out there. Even if there was, the others would likely find it first. Instead, she made her way towards the coast, hoping to find shellfish or seaweed.

She stopped to rest several times when her vision clouded and dizziness came over her. The water was nearly black this morn, the waves still and silent. Her brother was standing along the shoreline with his net, casting it out into the waves. He waved his hand in greeting.

But it was the sight of the longship on the horizon that evoked fear within both of them. The vessel was large, a curved boat that could hold over a dozen men. A massive striped sail billowed from the mast, and a single row of white and red shields hung over the side. In the morning sun, a bronze weathervane gleamed upon the masthead and a carved dragon head rested at the prow. As soon as she spied it, her heartbeat quickened.

'Is it the Lochlannach?' she cried out to her brother. So many tales she'd heard, of the barbaric Vikings of the Norse lands who ravaged the homes of innocent people. If their ship was here, they had less than an hour before the nightmare began. Gooseflesh prickled upon her skin at the thought of being taken by one of them. Or worse, being burned alive if they attempted to seize her home by force.

'Go back to our house,' Brendan commanded. 'Stay inside, Caragh, and for God's sake, don't let anyone in.' He pulled in his fishing net and hurried back towards the ringfort.

'What are you going to do?' She caught up to him, afraid he was about to do something foolish.

Her brother's grey eyes turned cold. 'They have supplies, don't they? And food.'

She was horrified at his sudden thoughts. 'No. You can't try to steal from them.' The Norsemen were ruthless warriors who would murder her brother without a second thought.

'They'll try to raid the fort. They'll be gone while I take what's on board their ship.'

'And what about the rest of us?' she demanded. 'If we're fighting for our lives, we might all be dead by the time you return. If you return,' she added. 'No, you can't do this.'

Her brother entered their father's hut, searching for a sword among the blacksmith tools. 'If you'd rather, go and hide in the forest. Climb one of the trees as high as you can and wait until it's over.'

'I can't abandon the tribe.' There were elderly folk remaining, who were too weak to fight. Though her own strength was waning, she couldn't turn her back on their kinsmen.

Her hands were trembling, the fear rising up from inside. Brendan took her hand and squeezed it. 'If we don't take their supplies, we'll die anyway. Either today or a fortnight from now. We both know it.'

She did. But she didn't like stealing. Though she'd lost nearly every possession they'd owned, she still had honour. And that meant something.

'We could ask,' she said. 'If they see how little we have, they may share with us.'

Her brother's expression darkened. 'Since when do the Lochlannach possess mercy?' He belted the sword at his waist. 'Gather the others and take them from here, if you wish. Leave the ringfort unprotected, and perhaps they'll take what they want without hurting anyone.'

She stared at him, her thoughts caught in a tangled web of fear. 'Don't go, Brendan. The risk is too great.'

'Don't be afraid, a deirfiur.' He bent down and kissed her forehead. 'I'd rather die in battle than die the way our parents did.'

She could see that no argument would influence him. But perhaps she could speak to his friends. He might listen to them, though he paid no heed to her warnings.

All she could do was try.

No man ever wanted to admit his marriage was dying.

Styr Hardrata stared out at the grey waters cloaked with mist, watching over his wife Elena. She stood with her hands upon the bow of the ship, her long red-gold hair streaming behind her in the wind. She was beautiful and strong, and he'd always been fascinated by her.

But that strength had now become a coldness between them, an invisible wall that kept them apart. She blamed herself for their childlessness, and he didn't know what to say. He'd tried everything until now, she grew sad every time he tried to touch her. Lovemaking had become a duty, not an act of passion.

Though he'd tried to ignore her growing reluctance, he was tired of her flinching whenever he tried to pull her near. Or worse, feigning pleasure when he knew she no longer wanted his touch.

The slow burn of frustration coiled inside him. This was a war he didn't know how to fight, a battle he couldn't win. Styr approached the front of the boat and stood behind her. He said nothing, staring out at the grey waves that sloshed against the boat.

'I know you're there,' she said after a time. But she didn't turn around to look at him. There was no smile of welcome, nothing except the quiet acceptance she wore like armour.

He didn't know how to respond to her coolness but said the only thing he could think of. 'It won't be long now before we arrive.' And thank the gods for it. Their ship had been plagued by storms, and he hadn't slept in three days. None of them had, after the strong winds had threatened to sink the vessel. His mind was blurred with the need to find a pallet and sink into oblivion.

In fact, the moment his feet touched ground, he was tempted to lie there and sleep for the next two days.

'I'll be glad to reach land,' she admitted. 'I'm tired of travelling.'

He reached out to touch her shoulder, but she didn't turn to embrace him. She held herself motionless, staring out at the water. In time, he lowered his hand, suppressing the disappointment.

In truth, Elena had startled him when she'd agreed to leave Hordafylke and journey with him to eire, for a new beginning. Though their marital troubles had worsened over the past year, he wanted to believe that she wasn't ready to give up yet. He held on to the hope that somehow they could rekindle what they'd lost.

Styr waited for her to speak, to share with him the thoughts inside, but she offered nothing. He considered a thousand different things to say to her, questions about what sort of house she wanted to build. Whether she would want a new weaving loom or perhaps a dog to keep her company when he was fishing at sea. She loved animals. 'Do you—?'

'I'd rather not talk just now,' she said quietly. 'I've not been feeling well.'

The words severed any further conversation attempts, and he stiffened. 'So be it.' He went to the opposite end of the boat, needing to be away from her before he said something he would later regret.

Disappointment shifted into anger. What in the name of Thor did she want from him? He wasn't going to lower himself and beg for her affections. He'd done everything in his power to make her happy, and it was never enough.

Frustration surged inside him, though he knew it was unwarranted. She was tired from the journey, that was all. Once they built a new home and started over, things might change.

The shores of eire emerged on the horizon, and he stared at the desolate, sun-darkened grasses. Though he'd heard tales of how green the land was, from this distance, it appeared that they were suffering from a drought.

His friend Ragnar stepped past the men rowing and stood beside him. 'I still don't know why you wanted to settle here, instead of in Dubh Linn,' he remarked, pointing towards the east. 'The settlements there are a hundred years old. You'd find more of our kin.'

'I don't want Elena surrounded by so many people,' Styr admitted. 'We'd rather begin anew, somewhere less crowded.' As they drew nearer, he thought he glimpsed a small settlement further inland.

Ragnar sat across from him and picked up an oar. Styr joined him, for the familiar rowing motion gave him a means of releasing physical frustration. He was glad his friend had decided to journey with them, along with a dozen of their friends and kin from Hordafylke. It made it easier to leave behind his home, when his closest friends were here. He'd known Ragnar since he was a boy, and he considered the man like a brother.

'Has she said anything to you about this journey?' Styr asked, nodding towards Elena. She, too, had known Ragnar since childhood. It was possible that she might confide her thoughts in someone else.

Ragnar sobered. 'Elena hasn't spoken much at all. But she's afraid—that, I can tell you.'

Styr pulled hard on the oar, his arms straining as the wooden blades cut through the waves. Afraid of what? He would protect her from any harm, and he was more than able to provide for her.

'What else do you know?' he demanded.

'The men are tired. They need rest and food,' Rag-nar said. His friend's face mirrored his own exhaustion, after they'd been awake for so long.

'I wasn't talking about the men.'

Ragnar rested the oars for a moment, sympathy on his face. 'Just talk to Elena, my friend. She's hurting.'

He knew that was the obvious answer. But Elena rarely spoke to him any more, never telling him what she was thinking. He couldn't guess what was going on inside her head, and when he demanded answers, she only closed up more.

He didn't understand women. One moment, he would be talking to her, and the next, she'd be silently weeping and he had no idea why. It made him feel utterly helpless.

As their boat drifted closer, he eyed Ragnar. 'I've been saving a gift for her. Something to make her smile.' He'd bought the ivory comb in Hordafylke, and the image of Freya was carved upon it. When he showed it to his friend, Ragnar shrugged.

'It's a nice gift, but it's not what she wants.'

Though his friend was only being honest, it wasn't what Styr wanted to hear. 'Do you think I don't know that? Do you think we wanted to be childless all these years?' His temper broke out, and his words lashed out louder than he'd intended. Elena was holding on to her waist, and she didn't glance back at either of them. He didn't doubt his wife had overheard their argument. But as cool-headed as she was, she'd never confront him.

'I've made offerings to the gods,' he admitted, dropping his voice lower. 'I've been a good husband to her. But this curse is wearing on both of us. It has to end.'

Ragnar stood, preparing to lower the sail. 'And if it doesn't?'

Styr stared at his hands, not knowing the answer to that. But he strongly suspected that there was nothing he could do to make his wife happy again. He stole a last look at her, and at that moment she turned back. Her pale face was shadowed, her eyes holding such pain, he didn't know how to heal it.

In the end, he busied himself with the ship, unable to bridge the growing distance between them.

Meet the Author

RITA ® Award Finalist and Kindle bestselling author Michelle Willingham has written over thirty historical romances, novellas, and short stories. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her husband and children. When she's not writing, Michelle enjoys reading, baking, and avoiding exercise at all costs. Visit her website at: www.michellewillingham.com.

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To Sin with a Viking 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read but what else can we expect from Willingham
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this story.  Styr’s struggle between his honor and his desire for Caragh is well written.  I can’t wait to read Ragnar and Elena’s story.
Readinginpajamas-Donna More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed how this story began and how she managed to weave the story around a married man. The author managed to deal with the subject so that it was heartfelt, believable and the outcome gratifying. Caragh was a strong and yet tender woman set up against Styr, a strong warrior who has his own tender side. A perfect match. Right away you knew who they were and began to care about what happens to them. The story itself had enough action to keep the pages turned and blended nicely with the budding romance. The heat was a little slow in coming but was satisfying when we got there. Overall, I enjoyed this book. ***ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Mindy14 More than 1 year ago
I LOVED THE ADVENTURE THEY TOOK!! A great story of forbidden love of Caragh and her Viking Styr. Styr is married so means he is honor bound to protect and be faithful to his wife Elana, who has been taken captive by his own brother.  This story really moved me, and was a breath of fresh air in which i had been reading some stale books as of late. I could not Put this down and read in one sitting!!! Michelle Willingham does it again and i can say without a doubt i will read anything she writes!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loved the book. very entertaining, spicey, exciting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read.Felt like I was part of the story.First time I read about that period of history.
SusanMarySC More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read by Willingham and I am impressed. A great story that held my attention throughout the book it does not disappoint. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
MyBookAddictionandMore More than 1 year ago
TO SIN WITH A VIKING by Michelle Willingham is an exciting Medieval Viking Historical Romance set in Ireland-ad 875. Fast paced, steamy story of an Irish Lady,Lady Caragh Ó Brannon, and a Norseman, Styr Hardrata. Both playing with fire neither, wishing to get burned,but..... One,Styr, is in a loveless,childless marriage, the other,Lady Caragh, starving to death,literally and carving not only food but love. Styr brings his wife,and men to Ireland seeking a fresh start to his loveless marriage,he,his men and his wife is kidnapped. Styr by a starving Lady Caragh, and the others by her youngest brother. Than.....the trouble begins, for the others are again kidnapped and sold into slavery. Except Styr's wife and his first in command who jump overboard during the second kidnapping. Styr is determined to find his wife and friends. Lady Caragh is determined to make sure Styr does not follow through on this threat to kill her beloved brother. While passion sparks, Styr is an honorable man and refuses his impulses to have Lady Caragh in his bed. Well written with interesting characters who are engaging as well as determined. An intriguing plot as well. Ms. Willingham is a constant storyteller who holds your attention as well as grips at your heart. I cried,and cursed the unfairness of a loveless marriage and the determination Styr had to not commit adultery. Oh but when they do...watch the sparks fly....A great read! If you enjoy Medieval,Vikings,early Ireland, and a great romance,than "To Sin With a Viking" is the story for you to read,you will not regret it. Received for an honest review from the publisher and Net Galley. RATING: 4.5 HEAT RATING: STEAMY REVIEWED BY: AprilR, Review courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
Bewitching_Bibliophile More than 1 year ago
A Great Start to this Duo: Originally Reviewed On Bewitching Bibliophile Sooo about that cover though?? Yeah no, I'm so terrified, and not at all turned on, but the rest of the story?? Yeah liking it, I've got the second book and I can't wait to dive in and finish this series. I found the idea of what happens when an arranged marriage doesn't work, and was totally on board to see how Michelle would work a way to give these two characters the love they needed. Would they come back together I was intrigued by the backstory of how Michelle came to write this and wanted to read as son as I got the book in my hand, I'm looking forward to reading Ragnar's story only because I love his name, Styr wanted to save his marriage because well everything was going wrong, and for such a crazy reason. I understood his wife Elena's struggle, she didn't want to fail her husband, and of course the families were also counting on her, but along the way she did what so many other women did wrong, she forgot that this is about her and her husband as well, not just about the future. And Styr didn't help by letting her know he wanted her for her, and not just because their marriage had been arranged. As the story progressed and we got to see both Styr and Caragh's life, and how they intersected, I was really intrigued on how he was going to walk the line without breaking it. There were some seriously close times not always because they wanted to but because circumstances conspired against them and even a few where Caragh's decision made it clear that Styr wasn't her only choice. I loved Caragh because once she realized Styr's heart wasn't hers to have she tried hard to maintain a distance. I found myself kinda hoping that things would work out for them and when we got to the crux of the problem, I totally loved the ending we were being given. I will say after watching Vikings on tv, I'm not sure they would have the same sense of 'honor' that Styr had, it wouldn't be considered dishonoring your wife. Personally I think having emotional attachments are worse than physical cheating, one you never have to do again, but the other?? Your emotions are involved, I'm going to lose no matter what. I loved the story we were given, it was sweet, haunting at times and still a story that kept me intrigued and turning the pages. ★★★1/2☆☆ Happy Reading
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3.5 Stars I was getting aggravated because over the first half of the book Styr and Caragh just lusted after each other, but he was being faithful to his wife. The last half was Excellent and very exciting and unpredictable!!!!! Highly Recommend!!!
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Adequate cut and dry romance with an underdeveloped plot device that could've been expanded to create more intrigue and drama and add dimension to the characters. Tepid.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TH_GRANDMA More than 1 year ago
This was a good book, I couldn't put it down - the character challenges are different than the typical romance novel, you could feel their personal struggles. I love a story that moves me emotionally, and this book had me in tears and then wanting to throw it across the room. I cried for their heartache and the personal struggles they were dealing with, the hopelessness of their situation. There were a few bumps in the book where I would have to go back and figure out how they got to that spot, almost as if I blinked and missed soemthing. I really wished the ending would have evolved more from that point into the future, but maybe that's for a future novel around the other characters in the book. I would recommend this one to my friends who love to immerse themselves into a good story.
scottishhighlander More than 1 year ago
To Sin with a Viking A great story of forbidden attraction of Irish maiden Caragh and her Viking captive Styr.    Styr is married and honor bound to protect and remain faithful to his wife Elana, who has been taken captive by Caragh’s brother.   I loved the story of the  forbidden attraction and the adventure they take.  Highly recommend everyone to read and tag along on the adventure.  Great job Michelle Willingham Harlequin is going to put the e-book version of this title on sale for $1.99, starting July 16th  for a limited  time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very few romances seem to break the mold of the standard “hero meets heroine and they reluctantly fall in love.” But this one does in an unexpected way. Viking warrior Styr Hardrata arrives on the shores of Ireland along with his wife, Elena, but is ambushed. Taken captive and separated from his wife, he’s forced to depend on Caragh, the Irish woman who’d captured him. Intrigued by Caragh’s kindness and determination, he grows to care for her, and when given the opportunity to leave her to starve on the barren Irish island, he chooses to aid her instead. Together Styr and Caragh work together to rescue Elena as they confront their intense passion for each other. To Sin With a Viking was the first Viking story I’ve read in a number of years, and it didn’t disappoint. After I began reading, I found that Ms. Willingham’s writing even exceeded my expectations with a hero and heroine I grew to care about. I loved the depth of the Styr’s character, watching how he struggled to rescue his wife and fought his attraction to Caragh. I never felt awkward for his emotions, because this story was about so much more than lust. Styr tried very hard to save his marriage. His relationship problems with his spouse were poignant and just as meaningful then as they would be for a modern couple today. I liked the author’s well-executed exploration of this conflict, and I expect we’ll be seeing more stories like this in the future.