Sunday, October 7, 2012


My romance about Vikings in Ireland, The Eagle's Woman, has gotten 5-star reviews from both readers and professional reviewers since it was released on August 2.  Recently I returned from a trip to Ireland where I did research for Book Two, The Eagle's Lady.  I was expecting horrendous weather, but actually we had only one day when a gale was blowing.  Of course it was the one when I visited the Cliffs of Moher, towering 300 feet above the Atlantic Ocean!  I have stood on those cliffs on calm days, but no way was I going out in an 80-km. gale, so I lived to write my sequel.  :)

Cliffs of Moher

My research into the first book of The Eagle series was mostly set against the stark, cold coast of Norway.

   I had had the plot in the back of my mind for quite some time, but what did I know about Vikings?  I was amazed and a little intimidated when I realized just how much work bringing about that back-of-my-mind dream was going to entail.  I knew about the Viking longships, the Berserkers…I even had a notion about how their concept of trial by judge would filter down into English Common Law via the Norman invasion to become our modern trial-by-jury. 
But I didn’t know much about the private code of conduct so integral to Viking life.  Viking society was permeated by the notion of honor, or drengskapr, and shame, or nior.  In stark contrast to our present-day image of heated Berserker frenzy in battle, the Viking in his private life was valued for self control, bravery, generosity, sense of fair play and respect for the right way of doing things.  A stoic and imperturbable manner was considered highly honorable.  Cowardice, treachery, kin-killing and oath-breaking constituted dishonorable, shameful behavior that could even result in temporary or permanent banishment.  Taunts issued through—of all things—poetry could get you outlawed (the Irish bards were pretty vicious, too), and accusing another man of effeminate behavior was signing your own death warrant.  Viking law allowed for lethal reprisal.
Matters of honor were often settled by duel with swords, spears and axes. 

 This took place before witnesses in the context of a carefully orchestrated ritual.  In Iceland, men were required to duel within the area which could be covered by a cloak, often on a small island in a river, which prevented retreat or interference.  The first man to become disarmed was the loser.  If his opponent then cut him down, he could be outlawed, which meant he was banished and was essentially free game to anyone who wished to kill him, and someone usually did.  Quite a difference from our image of the out-of-control raider decimating peaceful villages, isn’t it? 
           That wasn't the only surprise I found and you will see some of these illustrated in the character of Ari Bjornsson, second son of an impoverished, dying jarl.  Pagan himself, still he spares priests though he sells them as scribes.  He's a heathen, a murderer, and it is a sin for any Christian woman to love him.  Yet when he abducts Maeve from her peaceful Irish fishing village, he may have found the only one who can.