This was one that caused a few blinks of surprise in the beginning because I had certain expectations going in. I read the first book in the series, liked it, and so I picked this one up without reading the blurb. Yeah, that might have helped me see that setting, character backgrounds, etc were going to be vastly different. First book focused on a military special forces guy who is really an Immortal Viking because you know- what better career would an Immortal Viking excel at? Well…how about a professional thief and long-con guy with a conscience and a heart. Yep, pretty different story path there already. I had to peek once to see if I accidentally made a mistake thinking this was part of the same series. No mistake, but hey, I went with it and a good time was had by all.
The first book was pretty hard to top for excitement, danger and high-octane thrills and this one didn’t try. It offered a lot of those things, but had its own panache. No cookie cutter stories here. I loved how it took a whole new approach while still maintaining continuity with the series. I always enjoyed those classic cat burglar and long con capers like To Catch a Thief, How to Steal a Million, The Hustler, Mission Impossible, Entrapment etc so to see the latest Immortal Viking, Stig, running a con and partnered with a beautiful woman with secrets of her own then having to go on the run together because it seems everyone once a piece of them for one reason or another, I was all sorts of tickled to death and settled in for some good entertaining stuff. Probably a good idea to read them in order because lots of the trouble starts in the previous book, but the reader would do alright getting them out of order too.
Story opens with wine seller Christina Alvarez Mancini arriving in London for a wine auction planning to upset the plans of a fake who is using her company to do his scam. She created a persona of a business partner when she opened her business because the wealthy wine lovers won’t put their trust in a lone woman hence the creation of a fake male boss while she goes around pretending to work for him and follow his instructions. However, she is shocked to learn that someone is now pretending to be her boss and is selling off quantities of rare wine that doesn’t exist all in the name of her business. She knows that she must be careful because even a whiff of scandal will make her persona non grata in the international wine community. Her first encounter with the imposter leaves her gaping. If she hadn’t known better even she would believe him because he is just that good, attractive, and oh yes, associated with some seriously dangerous people who snatch them both on the orders of someone else.
Stig was named a thief when his connection with the other Vikings began over a thousand years ago. One of the Vikings acts as surety for him so he isn’t punished for the crime in exchange he is indebted to serve the man for a few years- that stretch into eternity when their group are changed into Immortals on one fatal venture. He became the butt of their derision when he proved to be reticent about fighting and battle. He lives by his charm and wits. He is heartsore and guilt-ridden over a human woman that he could not save and now the monument commemorating her death is in danger of being removed. He needs money fast to preserve this last bit of Nora’s memory hence his scheme to lighten a few wealthy pockets. All is going well until the one weak point of his scheme shows up ready to expose him as a fake. He admires the fiery Christina and enjoys the game of toying with her until his past catches up and puts her in mortal danger because of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with him. He can’t afford to let her loose with all she knows and the fact that others know she is close to him and would use that so he drags her on the run with him. Along the way, they both learn a lot about each other and themselves. In the end, Stig’s life comes full circle. He is confronted with a fiercesome terrifying situation and he can either run to safety or prove he has honor in him.
The story takes some time setting things up even while providing some thrilling escape sequences. It seems to have little connection with the series story arc until well past the mid-way point, but then it ties in neatly. I found the distinct differences in this one that matched the new Viking hero really cool on the author’s part and I appreciated the vastly different hero personality and background too. Wulf was this huge, larger than life character in the first book and I had no trouble believing in his Viking-ness (it’s a word Scrabble people, swear!), but Stig is someone else entirely. He has charm, wit, a degree of macho and all that, but under these layers he sees himself as a timid man lacking in honor. Not a warrior like the others. He doesn’t believe in the brunt, direct approach if slipping around in the shadows will work just as well and keep his skin intact. But this story shows Stig that he doesn’t know himself as well as he thinks. I loved that Wulf recognized the strength in him and never looks down on Stig like some of the other Vikings do. I have a feeling that more will come out in future in regard to the truth of Stig’s past so the others will see how they’ve wronged him.
Now the heroine is different too, but very likeable and one I could cheer for. Christina is a hardworking woman with plans. She has a few secrets that keep her from fulfilling all her dreams and keep her from outing Stig in the beginning like she wants. At first, she smugly sees herself as better than Stig because the ends justify the means, but then she realizes that his motives aren’t simple greed. She also discounts Stigs honesty especially when he tells her fantastic things about himself because she likes to keep things and people neatly categorized. Stig wiggles out of each pigeon hole she puts him in, but then she surprises him too. Their escape adventure is not just a geographical one, but one of self-discovery too.
Oh and the passion that sparks! The sexual tension ratchets up to the same degree as the danger element. I was ready when they finally came together. Stig knew how to work Christina into a lather and she figured out real fast how to torment him too. That Paris restaurant scene was fun, but then so was the incident on the sports car’s hood (bonnet for you Brits).
The ending was explosive and the confrontation between the two Immortal Viking groups who approach their immortality differently built up the turmoil even tighter. A few surprises were revealed and I look forward to seeing where things will go next in the quest for the artifacts and with a new Viking getting his story. The presence of Wulf and his lady doctor and a few others from the first book was a welcome sight.
All in all, strong continuation of the series and a really good story all in its own right. The caper-style story with its danger, twists, passion, strong characters and variety of settings was fantastic. This is a paranormal romance, but I would also recommend it to romantic suspense lovers too because of the tone of the story.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.