Set in classical Greece, the plot of this novella is fairly straightforward: upper class woman who is Not Like The Other Girls is intrigued by the beauty and defiance of an exotic (in this case, Norse) slave and purchases her in order to tame her and (as we eventually find out) with the goal of some sort of interpersonal relationship. After a period of power play, assorted hurt-comfort scenes, and jealous pining, the slave runs away because...well, because, and her retrieval results in a rescue, a joyous reunion, and her being freed, concluded by a HEA with her former owner. I don’t recall there being any explicit sex scenes, though there is one attempted rape.
I was a little hesitant about this book because the blurb implied the trope of “slavery as a context for romance”, which is really tricky to do well. As it happened, I didn’t really get to the point of evaluating how well or badly the slavery aspect was handled because I simply found the story too clumsily written to enjoy.
The prose is awkward and full of info-dumps. Point of view is handled sloppily and shifts from head to head constantly, sometimes multiple times on a page. There is an excessive use of referring to people by roles and characteristics “the Spartan woman”, “the scraggly slave”, “her owner.” And there is a lot of misuse of vocabulary--choosing the wrong homophone or using the wrong grammatical form of a word--which, along with an inconsistent wavering between a formal historical style and the use of modern slang made it hard for me to immerse myself in the story.
I would like to praise the author for the depth and detail of historic research included in this book. Although I might quibble on the interpretation of certain details and found the incorporation of the world-building both info-dumpy and opaque, the author clearly took the challenge of historical fiction seriously and did her ground work.
I received a review copy of this work.