The dark Viking romance Torn Avenger was published by the Writers in Crime in September 2017.
Cover art: Simply Defined Art
Murder. Passion. Two worlds colliding.
As the second son of a Viking earl, Alv Gunnulfsen wasn’t meant to inherit a throne or avenge a murder. But when his brother is slain during a raid and their father dies of grief, Alv is expected to take command and claim the killer’s death. In a world of ruthless retaliation and strict social codes, he must also maneuver cleverly to protect a troublesome secret: his attraction for men.
Roeland van Dijk, a wealthy Dutch merchant settled in Norway, has done the unthinkable to protect his family — hacked off the head of a Viking rapist. The wrath of the blond savages will cost him his freedom, and possibly his own head… Unless he’s willing to accept the love of another man.
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Shortly after release, Torn Avenger reached #9 on Amazon UK’s bestsellers list “Viking Historical Romance”.
It also reached #47 on the same list on Amazon.com.
In January 2018, it hit #5 in the Preditors and Editors Readers’ Poll 2017 in the “Best Other Novel” category.
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UTTERLY GRIPPING AND EMOTIONAL
If you’re a fan of Vikings and like your MM romance, then this is a must-read. Be warned it’s labelled a dark romance for a reason. There’s a fair amount of violence, grit, and tragedy, but then in Viking times, what do you expect?
From the first page, I was immersed in history, and I couldn’t put this story down. Utterly gripping storytelling, and so very emotional. There were times where I couldn’t see how this could possibly ever result in a happy outcome for the characters. Suffice to say the reader is in for a hell of a rollercoaster ride.
– Doris O’Connor
Loved how Lea stepped out of her comfort zone with this one. Being a huge fan of the Vikings TV show, I was all in when reading this one. I love the twist and turns, the heat, the believable emotions. I felt every single one of them as I read through this. Couldn’t put it down!
– DC Stone
What a fantastic story. I worried about how to write this review to give this book its due justice and in this end I’m going to do a kind of analysis and I hope you see where I’m going with this.
First let me start by saying this story is marked as a dark Viking romance. In my opinion, dark romances are gritty and shocking, with heroes/heroines that push the boundaries of expectations in romance novels. With that in mind I would consider Torn Avenger to be on the mild end of the dark romance spectrum.
Are there gritty scenes? Sure. But that is more down to the fact that it is a Viking story and therefore brutality, gore and Viking warriors kind of go hand in hand. It is to be expected.
Do the heroes push the boundaries? Are they dark enough? Alv certainly pushes the boundaries. His character is described as half-man and half-woman, and regarded with amusement by his fellow Norsemen. In 11th century Norway when his fellow men were fearless Vikings, macho and brutal, ready to strike first and talk later, Alv was the opposite, gentle and kind. He wanted to heal people instead of kill them. How much more subversive can one get?
As for Roeland, when a Viking raiding party invades his village to pillage and plunder, he does what needs to be done to protect his family and kills one of them. Unfortunately the man he kills is the first son of an earl and his death has to be avenged, which is the crux of the story. Roeland tries to keep his family safe in hiding but he is eventually captured by Alv who takes him captive.
I’ll admit I expected some savagery in the form of revenge from Alv. But aside from taking Roeland as a captive, he continues to wrangle with his conscience about what had gone on and what to do. In the end Alv falls in love with Roeland. So the question becomes, how does he keep Roeland alive when everyone else in his clan seems to want him dead.
This story has layers. Suspense as we wonder if and how Roeland will get his freedom. Mystery as we try to unravel a poisoning. And of course romance as we watch Alv and Roeland develop feelings for each other.
Do I believe that Roeland, a man who had been in love with his late wife could be attracted to Alv? Yes. We know that people who have been through an intensely stressful experience can come out of it with different perspectives than they had previously.
Considering the upheaval and distress he’d been through, it is quite plausible that Roeland would fall in love with the man who saved his life and took such care of him, especially when said man was effeminate.
I’m also intrigued by Elke and Torsten’s storyline and hope the author will write a companion novella of sort. I would love to read about Elke’s ordeal from her perspective and having to marrying into a tribe of the person who assaulted her and having a child. How does a woman in that era cope with that kind of trauma?
Overall, this is a fantastic, sensual and emotional M/M historical romance. The characters are well drawn and the storyline had me hooked right from the first page to the last. I would’ve loved more on the page interactions between Alv and Roeland, but that’s just me wanting more steam.
Seriously, if you enjoy M/M historicals, you have to read this and don’t be put off by the ‘dark’ label. Alv and Roeland are too good to ever have the ‘dark hero’ label on them.
– Kay, Love Bites and Silk Ties
AT TIMES DARK, “BARBARIC,” AND INTENSE LOVE STORY
Loved it! Deserves a sequel to this new life for this passionate, brave, nurturing Viking and his warrior lover. Will answer once again what makes a family, and what more are we willing to sacrifice?
“BY THOR, YES!”
The beginning sucked me right in that I didn’t even realize I was already on Chapter 4 when I decided I needed to began taking notes.
Roeland van Dijk and Alv Gunnulfsen are amazing characters.
Alv is the second son of Norse earl Gunnulf Haraldsen, so he’s able to live how he wants. His older brother Joar is next in line and also the village champion. Life seems to be perfect for Alv until a war ship returns to deliver life altering news
“Joar died a courageous warrior.”
In this moment both Roeland and Alv’s lives will collide together in a series of tests and decisions both never thought they would have to make.
Roeland is a second-generation Dutch merchant settled in the peaceful creek of Bjorgvin on the coast of Norway. When the Vikings raided his village he got his pregnant wife to safety then headed out to find his sister. This is where his life will forever change starting an epic tale towards Alv Gunnulfsen, a Viking Roeland never expected to meet.
Alv raised his sword. “We’re not savages!”
“Well, the ones that raided Bjorgvin are. Were. I stopped one of them.”
I loved this book. I will say its probably a little dark for some people, for me I enjoyed it, but wished it was a little darker being a Viking story. This is a new author for me and I will definitely be reading more.
Character Development: 5
It’s no secret, I’m a big fan of Lea’s writing and once again this is a five star for me.
What’s not to love about sexy historical Vikings? Absolutely nothing. I love Lea’s style of writing, her characters and the heat she infuses in her books.
Grab this one up, it’s short, and will fill a cold afternoon very nicely.
– Janis Frisch
INTRIGUING DARK ROMANCE
Picture: Norway anno 1031
I loved it from the first line.
Roeland was working when he heard screaming and yelling and when he looked outside the Vikings were ravish all around. He has to save his pregnant wife and his sister.
When he finally finds his sister she is overpowered by a big figure who is between her legs.
He has to save her.
Alv lies in bed with his beautiful slave Hedin, when he hears a lot of commotion, a boat, his brother will finally be home from war.
He is back… but not in one piece… and not alive. As heir he would lead the people and now….
Alv is not a warrior or a killer, he studies medicine, he is small and fragile with angelic features, but he has to find the killer of his brother..so there he goes.
When he finds the man it isn’t someone he expected, this is a kind family man, who will be soon devastated because there is a lot of blood and a crying baby hold by a young girl.
Alv heart beats faster for the man in front of him, Alv is no killer he is a lover, only he has to take him home.. to the people. He has to die.
When he finds out this man is a foreigner, Dutch, it getting complicating.. The Dutch have an impressive army…
That was a wonderful written story. Dark, strong and unpredictable. All personalities amazing put down. It was like a movie before my eyes.
It’s about family honor, jealousy, manipulation, justice, love and kindness and two man who can’t be together…or can they.
It has an intriguing plot, this all with raw and dark Norway anno 1031 as background, great done.
– Truuss, Love is Love Reviews
HOT HISTORICAL!!! LOVED THIS BOOK!!!
love Alv and Roe, both strong characters trying to survive and do the right thing. it’s not always easy. i love historical stories, especially vikings, they brutal and sexy! was very happy with this story and would love to read more. would def recommend Lea Bronsen.
A WELL WRITTEN AND GUTSY TALE OF MARAUDING VIKINGS WRAPPED UP IN A DARK LOVE STORY
Different to my usual read. This is well written and includes what I would expect from a tale of marauding vikings. Lots of blood, gore, raping and pillaging!
– Ann A.
I don’t even know what to say about this book other than I love Lea writing and this would be the first book that I’ve read by her. I was amazed by the story and just couldn’t get enough of the book. It doesn’t tell you of trigger warning.. but this is a must read book
– Gina Burkart
This is a slow burn but I was very satisfied with the ending! Alv is a sweet, beautiful Viking that loses his brother and swears to avenge him. Roeland is a merchant that is content with his life until the Vikings strike and he has to save his sister. He goes on the run with his sister and pregnant wife only to find devastating ends. When Alv finally has his brother’s murderer in his clutches his good nature shows threw and his heart stirs. He must learn to follow his heart or conform with society.
The author did great giving motive and distinguishing characters. I did appreciate that this was not instant love and only one sided on the instant lust, it wouldn’t have felt right if Roeland would of been so quick to find himself attracted to Alv.
The only suggestion I have would of been a finish to the final scene in the book but the story was still complete without this.
– Candice Clark
HEARTWARMING VIKING LOVE STORY!
This was a great historical romance with Vikings. Alv & Roeland are great characters you can’t help but to fall in love with. You will not be disappointed with this FANTASTIC story of sweet love & HEA!
– Sandra Moreno
My first Viking book but won’t be my last. Well written world and characters made it hard to put it down.
– Save our Wildlife
DECEIT AND FORBIDDEN LOVE
This was a solid, recommendable Viking romance. There are more than enough reviews (and a lovely book description) that explain the premise and characters, so suffice it to say that it was an enjoyable story from all sides: the historical world, the Viking culture, the characters, and the intriguing story of murder, deceit and forbidden love. Even the “dark romance” label didn’t detract from the experience: I don’t enjoy dark romance as a rule, but apart from the brutality surrounding the Viking culture, the romance part didn’t feel dark at all—angsty yes, and with one party a prisoner of war *and* a man, making a relationship obviously forbidden—I would say it’s only mildly dark, so don’t be put off by that label. I liked the characters, they were distinctive and interesting, and the story started with a bang and certainly kept the tension going. Even though I do mention some negatives below, the story was overall a pleasure to read, and if you like historical and/or Viking M/M romance, I strongly recommend this book! It was well written and enjoyable, and short enough to finish in a day but long enough to pack a solid punch and leave one satisfied.
I felt a little disappointed in the ending, it was a good ending but felt cut short, but since our heroes did get their HEA I guess all is well, and I suspect it’s a byproduct of the length of the book (ie. short). I also wished that the author had spend more time developing the relationship between Alv and Roeland; it was very instalove (or instalust-turned-instalove? whatever…) between two complete strangers, especially since one was a heterosexual man who was deeply in love with his wife, so the progression felt rushed. Another thing that bothered me is going to need a SPOILER ALERT, so you should stop reading now if you need the mystery to remain intact.
(This entire paragraph is a spoiler!) It bothered me a lot how Alv handled the treacherous Hedin. I mean, Alv couldn’t murder a complete stranger for causing the death of both his father & brother, but he had no compulsion to plunge a knife, without hesitation, into a man he’d been sleeping with for a year, with almost cold-blooded detachment, just for endangering the life of a man he *didn’t* end up killing! I understand story wise why it had to happen: killing Hedin was the perfect plot twist to get our two heroes into position for their Happily Ever After, but the way Alv did it was so out of character for his compassionate, humane nature, that it bothered me for the rest of the book. If he killed Hedin by accident (Hedin did attack him with a knife after all) and mourned the death of his slave and ex-lover in those moments after, instead of being so detached, feeling no remorse beyond the fact that he could get caught, it would have been in line with his character while still reaching the same outcome. Even now, a day after I read the book, this is the only thing that really bothers me. At least the rest of the story was solid enough to still deserve 4 stars, which is a strong testament to the book’s high quality and enjoyment factor.
– Nevaeh Wright
VIKINGS IN LOVE – VERY ENJOYABLE!
I really had a good time reading this story; viking adventures aren’t normally my thing, but the characters were vividly drawn, and I got sucked in! I did have a favorite character, Alv, because he was sweet and gentle, living in a world that was fierce and harsh. I have a soft spot for outsider characters.
The history was well done, and I’m a sucker for those kinds of details, so the author made the world real by using them the way she did.
Definitely a good read. Thanks to the author for her patience with my review, and the opportunity to enjoy her book.
– Christina E. Pilz
Quite an interesting story in the midst of historical changes. Clash of cultures, struggle to be oneself, secrets and misunderstandings, family bonds and new unexpected relationships. Well written from both POVs, with strong side characters. It was the first book by this author for me and I will for sure keep an eye on future publications.
I was not a fan of historical anything when I chose to read this, and I’m still not but this was well written and contained lots of factual (I’m guessing, seemed like it to me anyway) references to the time period. I liked the story and the characters, but I wanted a bit more depth. It wasn’t flat but I felt there was more detail in the description than personality in the characters. It was an interesting concept, interesting enough to get me to read historical, and I wish that we would have seen more of their lives actually being together than what lead up to how they got there.
– Amy Waugh
BUT I’M GLAD I TOOK A CHANCE ON THIS BOOK
Gritty, dark and violent are just some of the ways I would describe the book. I was skeptical in the beginning because dark romance is not my genre of choice, but I’m glad I took a chance on this book. I do love a good M/M story but this is not your typical M/M book. Roeland is married to a woman and she is pregnant in the beginning of the book. He loves her dearly and is excited about their first pregnancy. Then everything changes when Vikings raid their village. Roeland is in charge of protecting his sister and he doesn’t know where she is during the raid. He goes and searches for her while leaving his very pregnant wife behind, when he finds her he is in shock. He finds a Viking raping his sister and proceeds to sever his head. That set everything in motion. Alv is a Viking from the village that the raiders came from. He is the second son of the Viking earl and stands to inherit nothing so he goes into medicine and dabbles with his male slave. The village has a don’t ask don’t tell policy when it comes to Alv. It’s discovered that his brother, the first son, has been murdered and his father dies of grief, Alv makes a vow to avenge this tragedy. When Alv and Roeland’s eyes meet there is an unexplained current of awareness that groes through Alv. What will come of Alv choosing to spare Roeland’s life?
This is a story about family, revenge and misplaced grief. Once Alv finds out the real reason Roeland kills his brother he sympathizes with him, but that doesn’t negate the vow he made to his mother. Will Alv be able to step in his father’s shoes? Will Alv be exposed for his sexuality because it is expected for him to marry a woman and produce heirs?
– Ashley A. Carr
THIS BOOK IS VERY WELL DONE AND I WILL READ THIS AUTHOR AGAIN!
This was a very entertaining story and I really enjoyed it! 3.5 stars
And that cover, oh yeah – it got my attention real quick. It is perfect for this story and you should absolutely judge a book by its cover, lol. 😀
*Warning* There is on page description of rape which could be triggers for some.
The story starts with Roeland in his shop when he hears the sound of invaders in his village. His wife is heavily pregnant and works in the shop with him and his first though is to get her to safety. I was drawn into the story right away – it’s very catching the action that begins the tale.
Once Roeland and his wife are hidden beneath the store, he remembers his sister is about somewhere in the village. She is a beautiful young girl and he is afraid what could happen to her during the raid. So – despite his great love for his wife and unborn child – he can’t bear the thought of letting his young sister come to harm. He had promised their father that he would look after his sister. This was a very emotional scene with the wife crying and begging Roeland not to leave her, but he won’t be swayed.
Roeland had his wits about him as he stealthily travels the village looking for his sister, but he doesn’t have to go far before he hears a woman crying and a man grunting. I knew immediately what was happening, and before long so did Roeland. Seeing his young sister being raped and beaten by a big brute of a man, Roeland charges at him with his sword and plunges it in his throat, decapitating him. It a very gory scene, but I personally thought it was justified. Who could be expected to control themselves at a time like that? Today, if Roeland had been in the same situation, but instead had a gun, he would have shot the attacker, or if he had had a baseball bat in his hand, he would have beat him possibly to death.
The scene then changes to Alv, who is a simple man in that he just wants to study medicine and be left to go about his life the way he wants. And with whom he wants. He has never had any desire to be the Earl or a leader in any way. I liked Alv right away and thought he was a good and decent man who was trying to do what he thought he should – seek revenge on his brother’s killer. His proclivity to be with men is a well known secret in town so he knows he is seen as an odd one, and he can’t afford to be seen as weak any more. I felt his swift transition from meek medicine apprentice to take charge leader was authentic and I never questioned his immediate orders to hunt down the killer. This was all very well done.
The rest of the story shows Alv finding Roeland (and it’s clear Roeland killed his brother) and Alv’s decision not to kill him. When Alv learns what his brother had done and why Roeland killed him, Alv is shocked. You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Roeland’s wife – I don’t want to reveal too much about the story – what I’ve said so far is really already revealed in the blurb.
What I will say is that Roeland is a strong man who has survived much and Alv is not a monster and can see that Roeland shouldn’t suffer any more than he has. Aside from how rushed and unrealistic the ending felt (view spoiler) I really, really enjoyed this story.
I wish more time had been spent building the relationship between Roeland and Alv – from adversaries to people who had an understanding, to sort of friends and if Roeland could have worked for Alv which would have put them in close contact with each other on a daily basis I would have more easily bought their relationship later.
Overall, a very sweet and quick read. Very well written and I would totally read something by this author again.
GOOD STORY WITH POTENTIAL
I was very much looking forward to reading this story as the blurb was fantastic, but I must say I have some fixed feelings about this book. Not by the writing, though. That was fantastic, and I was captured by the story right from the start. It is gripping, full of tension, and I was anxiously waiting for what came next. The time setting was great. The harshness of living in those days was described perfectly.
I loved the characters as well. Alv is a sweet guy, who has to tread in his brother’s footsteps and avenge his brother’s murder. He is not the warrior his father and brother were, but a healer with a soft heart. When he sees the murderer, he decides to let Roeland live and take him with him as a slave. Roeland is a fierce and loyal man, protecting those he loves.
Some parts felt rushed. The forgiveness on both sides, the wooing of Roeland’s sister, and Hedin’s part in it all. The thing I had the most difficulty with was the romance part. As the story is mostly told from Alv’s point of view, I got a fairly good understanding of him and his attraction to Roeland. Roeland is gorgeous after all. No, what I found a bit unbelievable was Roeland’s reactions towards Alv. Roeland lost his wife, the love of his life, in childbirth, and yet he responds quickly to Alv. For me, it was too quickly without much preamble. If they moved more gradually, it would have made more sense to me.
On a side note, being Dutch myself, I loved that the names are quintessential Dutch and written correctly. This author did her research.
All in all, I found this a story well worth the time, and I will definitely read more by this author.
– Tanja Ongkiehong
3,5* would have been 4 if the story were longer with the romance more developed.
A bit short so it felt rushed sometimes but the story is great.
Alv’s life changed after his brother’s death. He’s thrown in a life he didn’t want at all!
Roeland just wanted to save his family.
Both lost a lot! Everything is a mess but love can change everything.
I will definitely read more from Lea Bronsen
I have to say there are some thing I really liked about this book and some that were a disappointment. It is not your typical M/M, at least not for most of the book, and it is refreshing in its uniqueness.
I liked that it seemed like the author put effort into researching the history and described the world believably. I liked the harshness of the beginning and how the story cuts in parts and shifts to the other perspective. like Roland finding his sister while she is raped and moving to act on it, we then move to Alv waking up in his house, in the Viking’s settlement and see the outcome of Roland’s action unfolding. Those cuts have an almost cinematic quality (being a film maker it’s an area I am familiar with) and I found it thrilling, engaging and interesting to red. I was always on edge for the next event, and some time was spared but “time jumping” in an efficient fashion that did not subtract from the story at all.
Roland is an interesting character, relatable and I felt for him.
however around the half of the book it started to be less consistent, mostly language that did not fit the time (like a character saying “thanks” and a few other modern expressions) that really stuck out in the otherwise well written book. It was also hard to believe Alv’s status, sometimes he seemed like a powerful man in the community and other time almost an outcast. Or the parts were the Viking were moral to their captured slaves but kept them in a filthy barn to “heal and get strong for manual labor”, it didn’t make sense and was a bit confusing and contradicting. It disturbed the flow of the story for me. I also felt like some parts dragged or when unexplained and others just breezed by, like some parts with Hadin and Alv. I felt like the second half of the book tried to resolve too many issues, they needed more time to evolve. And the ending with Alv and Roland was almost an afterthought, if Roland is new to attraction and sex between men he doesn’t look like it and it was another point where I felt I stopped believing the story all together.
– Neta Berkovich
SOOO PROMISING… I DESPERATELY WISHED FOR IT TO BE LONGER!
I wanted to love this book – so, so badly. Because for one, let’s be real here, the cover is stunning, and secondly, because the idea of combining Vikings with an MM romance absolutely intrigued me. Throw some gay for you into the mix and it became a must-read for me.
And it started off incredible. I was hooked… The story is gripping, emotional and intense – but what it lacked was the actual romance, or even the build-up of an emotional connection between both main characters.
The story starts with Roeland being happily married to a woman and they are expecting their first child. Roeland could not be more thrilled about it all. Until Vikings raid their village and leave nothing but destruction behind. It’s violent and not pretty at all – forcing Roeland to do something equally brutal for justice… and up to this point I couldn’t read fast enough.
What came then was a weird case of insta-lust from Alv, going a little crazy like a uber-emotional teenaged girl, even though seemed pretty content up to this point with a loose relationship with his male slave and a family who let him be because his bigger brother would be the one to become Viking jarl and rule the village.
And Roeland? Well… He mourned his losses and then suddenly just plain accepted that a man wanted to be with him. No questioning, no passion, no nothing, they just… were together suddenly, and yet not really. It was strange.
I loved the world the author created, and it could have been a great story if it were just a couple of chapters longer. So the fire fizzled and died rather quickly and I was left disappointed on the romance side.
– Nina Meleth Bookaddicted
A GOOD READ!
Before I start this review, I’d like to take a moment and drool over that cover. Wow!
A Viking who never expected to inherit the throne is suddenly thrust upon that important seat and tasked with revenge on his murdered kin. But revenge is cold when the man is one that calls to a Vikings heart.
Alv, our sexy Viking, is hunting the man that murdered is brother but as it turns out his brother is a rapist and that man is just trying to avenger his sister. Roeland is an unexpected hero but both he and Alv felt like they belonged in the contemporary genre rather than historical. Alv is a Viking healer but he sounds less like a Viking and more like a different era. Maybe 1800’s or the 1900’s. A lot of the secondary characters also didn’t fit the Viking theme in both dialogue and the way they acted. This would have worked beautiful in a fantasy setting or even adjusted to fit the early 1800’s/1900’s. The story is still very entertaining. I like the push and pull between Alv and Roeland. The sex is hot and romantic. Overall, Torn Avenger is a good read with an interesting plot.
– Bella Star, TBR Pile