Book Reviews

The Reluctant Berserker by Alex Beecroft

Genre Gay / Historical / Ancient Europe / Warriors/Soldiers / Romance
Reviewed by Lena Grey on 07-June-2019

Book Blurb

Dark Ages England. Among the Saxons, a warrior is the highest form of human life. He dominates all, he yields to none, and if ever this mastery is taken away, his honour is taken with it. 

Reluctant berserker, Wulfstan, a noble and fearsome warrior, has spent most of his life trying to hide the fact that he would love to be cherished and taken care of by someone stronger than himself. Slight and beautiful harper, Leofgar, has the opposite problem – how can he keep the trained killers off him long enough to get them to acknowledge he’s as much of a man as any of them? 

When, in a panic, Wulfstan accidentally kills a friend who is about to blurt out his secret, and Leofgar flees rather than submit to his lord’s lust, they meet on the road to the pilgrims’ shrine at Ely. Pursued by a mother’s curse and Leofgar’s vengeful lord, they must battle guilt, outlaws, and the powers of the underworld with the aid of only music and a female saint. And if they fall in love on the way, there’s still that murderous shame to overcome.

First edition pulished by Samhain Publishing, 2014.

Book Review

As hard it as may be now for a man to be attracted to another man, in the eighth century it was deadly. Real men did not submit to anyone; it could cost you your life and reputation. Wulfstan, of 'The Reluctant Berserker', is a fierce warrior, admired and respected by everyone for his warrior skills and his volatile temper. Few men even attempt to cross him and those who do, end up either badly wounded or dead. Wulfstan has done everything expected of him all of his life in order to gain his current measure of respect, but he feels totally dishonorable because the man he appears to be on the outside, is not the person he is inside. Instead of being in control all the time, he'd like to be able to surrender that burden, in the arms of another man.

Wulfstan is a warrior, a deadly force to be reckoned with if you are his enemy, but if you are someone who needs help, either nobleman or a slave, he provides it. He's a contradiction in many ways, but his main disparity is that he acts tough, even brutal sometimes, but in his heart, he's a gentle giant, wanting someone to love whom he can give his heart and body to, if only he could get past all of the guilt he feels. The church teachings say that wanting another man is a sin and he doesn't want to condemn himself or anyone else to hell so he refrains. His desire to be on the bottom makes him feel less than a man. He's so terrified that the other men will find out that he kills his best friend accidentally when he threatens to betray Wulfstan, heaping even more guilt on himself. I felt a great deal of compassion for Wulfstan and the more I learned about him, the more I loved him. Wulfstan is a very special man, a real man in my estimation, who would take on someone else's burden if possible without consideration for himself. He suffered so much in his life and a lot of it was unnecessary. His torturous journey through overcoming his fears and searching his soul was painful to me as well. I really wanted him and his object of desire, Leofgar, to make it. I wanted them to endure and their love to grow even though it seemed against all odds.

When Leofgar first meets Wulfstan, he shows his cheeky side by giving a kiss on the mouth. At that point, it earned him a thrashing, but the seed of lust was planted, sealing his and Wulfstan's fate. I admired Leofgar for his musical and story telling abilities, but most of all, for his love of Ana, his master. Leofgar is determined to protect Ana and when he is dying, seeks shelter and ends up swearing loyalty to the master of the castle. After Ana dies, his master decides that he wants Leofgar to be his boy. At this point, forgive me Alex, the song by Meatloaf came to mind as he sang: “I'll do anything for love but I won't do that.” Leofgar wasn't willing to be used sexually, especially since being on the bottom is equivalent of stripping him of his manhood. Yes, he is small and willowy, not muscle bound like the warriors, but he is good with a bow and a knife and, I daresay, better with using his brain than any of them are. He effectively proves that sometimes, brain is better than brawn. He tries his best to show his master that he's a man, just in a different way, but his master will have none of it and is as determined to rape Leofgar as Leofgar is to not be raped. As the story goes on, so does Leofgar's journey to understanding that loving someone, wanting to give yourself to that person, is not wrong, or weak. It's part of a wonderful union between two people in love, both giving, both receiving.

There's so much more to tell of this epic story; I feel as though I've barely scratched the surface. The language is so authentic to the period that it takes a bit of adjustment and I had to read more slowly in order to digest the book but it's so worth it, because of the atmosphere it created. I learned many new words, some of which, my dictionary couldn't even define and when it could, it usually explained that this was an archaic use of the word. As for authenticity, it was amazing the grasp Alex has on that time period. It's my theory that she secretly took a trip in a time machine back to that era as part of her research.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in Saxon history and culture, castles, medicinal herbs, witchcraft, ancient weapons, and literature you can really get your teeth into. Thank you, Alex, for the brilliant story, word lessons, herbal knowledge, and for giving me a gift that I could truly enjoy.





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Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 276 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 25-March-2017
Price $4.99 ebook, $10.99 paperback
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