ABOUT THE BOOK:
“Bruised, bloody, and barely dressed, she knew it was over. She had no doubt the Vikings would search for her if she tried to run—especially now, with their companion lying dead. It would be dark soon, and she had no idea where she could go or hide. Jilliand knew they would come for her. The Vikings were not likely to let this go—especially it being an attack by a woman. She was defeated. Weak and shaking, she stared at the man’s body. I think tonight I die.”
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Jilliand by Clare Gutierrez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jilliand by Clare Gutierrez is a 2018 River Grove Books publication.
I love historical romances set in Medieval days, or those featuring Vikings, or Pirates. Sadly, they don’t write many of those types of books anymore. So, naturally, this novel piqued my interest and that gorgeous cover lured me right in, giving me high hopes for a rip roaring, high seas, sweeping saga.
To be clear, one should not approach this book with the same mind set you would with the typical historical romance. This book is not written in that style or format. This story is more of a historical saga with an epic love story at its core. Don't expect high angst or the usual battle of the sexes or the standard conflict that usually accompanies historical romances. This one actually might do better under the historical fiction category, just to keep those types of preconcieved notions at bay.
This book moves slowly but still has enough intrigue and adventure to keep readers engaged in the story. As a person who is a fan of this genre, I was already prepared for the many trials and travails that our heroine would endure in her life. For some, the amount of adversity Jilliand faces may seem harsh, but it’s common in this type of literature.
I don’t necessarily enjoy watching characters suffer unduly, but I don’t mind the drama, and the way these strong women, who have everything in the world going against them, who can’t seem to catch a break, rise to the occasion, proving their mettle, always managing to perservere in whatever situation they find themselves in. Of course, I always hold out hope, even it is against all odds, that maybe after all is said and done they will finally have their hard earned, long overdue happily ever after.
JIlliand is such a character. Her upbringing is unusual for an English lady and her young life is marred by abuse. Her goal, which is to find her way to freedom, is thwarted time and time again. Just as she finds peace, love, happiness, and contentment, she will once again face yet another round of adversity.
I used to love novels that put the heroine through the ringer by separating her from her lover, time and again, where her life is fraught with danger, before they finally fight their way back to one another for good. Somehow, it made the ending all the sweeter because of the depths they went to to be together. However, the modern reader, who may be accustomed to that steady, overstuffed, over saturated diet of Regency period historicals may not know how to digest or cope with Jilland’s struggles.
While, it is evident the author has done her homework, and I do see how much effort she has put into this novel, the writing is uneven, the pacing a little too slow, and the dialogue is slightly wooden. I think the love story may be too understated, as the chemistry between Jilliand and her beloved Viking- Rurik, is a very slow burner and despite assurances they love one another, the passion is very muted. This is one of those times where there is a clear distinction between a romance novel and a love story. As with many historical fiction novels, such as this, there are some implausible moments that might not have seemed feasible. Those moments do glaring stick out, unfortunately.
That being said, one point I did want to stress, though, is that despite Jilliand’s being somewhat of an anomaly among women, with an education and warrior skills no proper English lady would ordinarily possess, I thought the author made the situation clear from the start, and if this falls into the ‘inaccurate’ slot, so what? I’ve finally come to realize the distinction between authentic and realistic. The authenticity was there, but a few situations and conversations were unrealistic- if that makes any sense.
I’ve been trying to relax and enjoy the story more instead of making monumental issues over a few perceived inaccuracies, just so long as my intelligence isn’t insulted to the extreme. In this instance, we want a strong female character, one our modern sensibilites can embrace, which may mean taking a few liberties. Otherwise, the story would be much harsher, and Jilliand would be impossible for us to relate to at all.
To that end, for the most part, I really enjoyed this novel. The author’s heart is in the right place and the effort is evident. Her research unearthed some interesting information about the Vikings that may seem to contradict the usual portrayal of them in movies and television. The story is indeed a sweeping saga, with many twists and turns, and was certainly a welcome change of pace for me.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Clare Gutierrez is a registered nurse who grew up on a cattle ranch in rural Colorado as one of four children. After living in Carlsbad, NM, for twenty-eight years, she now lives in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. She and her husband, Dr. Beto Gutierrez, host first-class photographers from the world over at Santa Clara Ranch, a 300-acre wildlife sanctuary. Jilliand is her third novel.