REVIEW: A Kingdom to Claim by Sian Anne Bessey

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Aisley lost everything in a Viking attack. Now, working alongside the one man she trusts, she is ready to fight for her people—and for love.

Wessex, AD 878

Aisley’s young life was changed forever when her father accompanied King Alfred into battle and lost his life in a deadly skirmish with the Vikings. Now, almost seven years later, the Vikings are once again rallying on Wessex’s borders, and Aisley fears that her older brother may have treacherous plans to betray the king by aligning himself with the invading Norsemen. But when Aisley encounters a handsome nobleman in the market, she feels the first stirrings of hope. Though they met only once when Aisley was little more than a child, she recognizes him immediately as one of King Alfred’s most trusted men.

It has been years since Brecc has seen Aisley, but when he spots her in the marketplace, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to the copper-haired young lady with a gift for healing. Before his fledgling feelings for her can develop into something more, however, a Viking attack tears them apart. King Alfred is forced into hiding, and in a matter of days, the Saxon nation is brought to its knees. Unwilling to forsake their people, the king and his men embark on secret raids of Viking encampments. But when Aisley joins the fight, Brecc must reconcile his steadfast loyalty to King Alfred with his growing love for the king’s newest warrior.

Dear Ms. Bessey,

It’s been a while since I read a book with Vikings in it but this sounded interesting. After getting started with it, I did a little research on Alfred the Great and was delighted how much the book follows his life and his efforts to free Wessex.

Aisley is that medieval trope of the Saxon healer maiden but this time instead of it being the Normans storming and pillaging everywhere, it’s the Vikings who are here to take what little of (what is now) England is not already under their control. A horrific battle leads to nothing but Saxon death and humiliating payments of treasure to Viking chief Guthrum. Aisley’s father dies in that fight and her brother is seething. In his mind, the casualties could have been avoided by just paying out from the start rather than fighting. He’s also now raising taxes on his people for his own betterment. Seven years later, Aisley encounters a man she met before the battle, a man who takes the time to tell her of her father’s last days.

Then the Vikings strike again sending the King and his loyal thegns into hiding. But when Aisley discovers two things her brother has done, she knows she has to escape and bring the news to the King and to the man she feels she’s falling in love with. Will the Saxons be able to finally overcome their oppressors?

I enjoyed this. There’s a good balance between the parts of the plot that focus on the characters and on the historical facts. The background details are enough to fix the settings, clothes, places, and lifestyle in my mind without becoming entries in an encyclopedia. The romance is given enough time to flourish realistically without taking over the action sequences and feels neither draggy or rushed. The battle sections are described with intensity but little actual gore.

Aisley’s healing skills actually play a large role in the story. I was delighted that so many people recognize her talents and boost her self-esteem after her family have essentially ignored her in favor of her beautiful sister. She is the quiet one who watches and notes things and when the time calls for it, Aisley rises to the occasion. Brecc is a great “tall, dark, and handsome” but also thoughtful hero who sees her worth as well as does lots of strong manly things.

This is an inspie and given the time and the events, it’s natural that the characters are religious. King Alfred was especially known for his deep faith which came into play in real life and in the book as a means of helping to deal with at least one Viking chief.

I hope that there will be a book for Brecc’s best friend Rheged whose sense of humor was a wonderful addition of comic relief to the book. As I said, I haven’t read too many medieval/Dark Ages books recently but this one will have me looking for more. B


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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.

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