Review by Veronica

He grinned at her then, and she felt her stomach flip. It took her by breathless surprise. It was the first time she’d seen him smile—and she thought her heart had stopped for just a second. He was incredible.

Get ready to be swept off your feet by this epic historical romance. 

Bound by duty

Tempted by desire

Guard to the Byzantine emperor, Viking warrior Destin is tasked with delivering his sovereign’s runaway bride-to-be to Constantinople. Abandoned at birth, Destin has spent years making something of himself, and with this final task comes the promise of land and riches. Only, the fiercely beautiful Livia refuses to be wed! Destin must return her unharmed—and untouched—but the closer they grow on their journey, the harder it becomes for him to hand her over… 

I’m always excited when Sarah sends me her latest book because I know I am about to get my Viking romance fix. I was pleasantly surprised with the new direction Sarah went with this book. Typically, Viking romances are set in the North, think England, Norway, or Iceland. I love spending time in these places, but sometimes, it can feel repetitive. That is why I was really excited that Sarah brought her readers to a new location. This book is mainly set in Rome, except for the story’s first quarter, when Livia and Destin travel from the North and head to Rome. This change in setting added a sense of uniqueness to the overall story. It injects new life into the Viking romance world. Sarah did an excellent job at bringing Rome to life in her story. Not only did I get to spend time in this lush location, but I was also immersed in its culture and people. I enjoyed the different political landscape that exists in this city. Livia and her family have to work with the grand electoral council, the Church, and ministers. It was an interesting new political dynamic that I hadn’t interacted with before.  

There is a lot packed into this book, so don’t think that because it’s a shorter novel, you won’t get a story that is rich in detail. From the moment I started reading this book, I was hooked. Everything is so well plotted and organized. Sarah takes her readers on this epic journey filled with danger, romance, and political intrigue. Livia’s uncle is determined to kill her so he can be guaranteed to be the new ruler of Rome. Livia’s father has arranged for her marriage to the Emperor of Constantinople to help unite their empires and protect Livia from her uncle. Livia doesn’t want to marry the emperor. All she wants to do is see her dying father and decide if she wants to petition to be the next ruler of Rome. The Emperor of Constantinople has sent Destin to collect and protect Livia. The first quarter of this book is this fast-paced journey from the North to Rome. Livia and Destin constantly try to outrun and outsmart her uncle’s men. There were plenty of close calls and high-tension minutes that had me wanting to turn the page to see what would happen next. The rest of the book is spent in Rome, and even though they are no longer running away from their enemy, danger still lurks around every corner. There were also quieter moments scattered throughout this story where Destin and Livia spent time getting to know each other, sometimes in a steamy manner. 

Livia and Destin were fabulous characters both together and apart. They are both strong-willed, kind, brave, and sometimes oblivious to what others think or feel. Destin is a different kind of hero. He is still broody, strong, and heroic, but there is also this vulnerability to him that a lot of historical heroes don’t have. Destin’s left arm has been paralyzed since birth. This has made his life much harder because no one thinks he is worthy or will amount to anything. Destin’s character has this wonderful mix of confidence (especially in his fighting abilities) and vulnerability (especially with matters of the heart). Destin was such an interesting and complex character. Livia was a joy to be with. There were moments when she was so fun and sassy. There is also this part of her that is driven. She may not have wanted to be the next ruler of Rome, but she knows her followers need her and is willing to do what is necessary to be the next ruler of Rome.  

The romance is sweet and oh-so spicy. I love the chemistry between these two. There was a bit of role reversal here. Livia was the one to actively pursue a physical relationship with Destin. She takes charge of the situation. She knows what she wants, and that is Destin. I love the whole forbidden love element to their relationship. It had me trying to figure out how these two come together for their HEA at the end of the book. I really enjoy not knowing what the HEA journey will look like. It keeps me guessing and wanting to keep on reading. There are a lot of bumps and misunderstandings in their growing relationship. They kept each other on their toes, and I loved it. 

The Viking and the Runaway Empress is a fabulous and addictive read and a must for fans of Viking romances. 

Thank you, Sarah Rodi, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.