The author is an an award winner (twice of the Romantic Novel of the Year for Best Historical Romance) so knows how to put together a classic love story with attractive, sexy lead characters who very soon meet and are destined for romance.

But I might not have moved beyond the somewhat stereotypical descriptions of the men and women (Norse-like blonde-type male archaeologist with rippling muscles or a sweet Welsh Celtic woman taken into slavery by Vikings who wins over the hard exterior of these men) except the author has done some excellent research about her Viking history which when it appears got me reading more.

The dual time plots do run up against each other in mirror themes and the mystical rune foresight and perhaps hint of reincarnation through the contemporary theme add some mystery to the scenes.

Mia Maddox inherits her beloved grandmother’s summer cottage in Sweden, Birch Thorpe, but faces a dilemma over what to do when she visits for the funeral. Her fiance Charles (rugby loving physique but boring) is a bossy accountant who wants her to sell the inherited property so they can move upmarket in London. Mia, who works as a conservator at the British Museum, lives and loves the past and cannot let go of this wonderful place by the lake so easily.

She had already met archaeologist Haakon Berger when he noticed the snake-shaped ring she wore whilst visiting the Stockholm Museum and seeing a replica, so that instant frisson has already been set. When a leading Viking specialist suggests the land around Mia’s cottage might be an important Viking settlement not only does the past come crashing in but so does Haakon when he arrives to lead the archaeological dig.

The second plot involves the story (which of course Mia’s friend nerdy Alun back at the museum has uncovered) around a Welsh noblewoman, Ceri, and the mysterious Viking known as the White Hawk who stole her away from her people in 869 AD.

Both men have a child who is badly treated by their natural mothers and Mia and Ceri step in in both centuries to help, enhancing their position as maternal figures for the men and allowing their view as prospective wife and mother to build.

Unfortunately, some of the scenes are somewhat too conventionally strong as old fashioned, boy meets attractive girl for me, although I do see how the author has tried to give the women strong personalities and positions with which their independence might be allowed.

But historical romance by its nature needs a happy ending. Here you get two! Without the interesting background of life in a Viking settlement using the Norse language and traditions brought in through the lives of the characters I might have abandoned the book much earlier.

The author is half Swedish (so knows her stuff) but when she admits she was influenced by the Thor films all I have in my mind is the rippling torso of Chris Hemsworth pushing aside poor old Hugh Grant… but then perhaps that’s something worth considering!

Not a brilliant personal read but the history aspect kept me going and I guess readers in book groups who love historical romance and maybe know this author will be interested.

Philipa Coughlan 3/3

Echoes of the Runes by Christina Courtenay
Headline Review 9781472268266 pbk Mar 2020