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I’ve always loved the familiar images of Ireland – the rolling greens, the castles, the fog and cliffs and lore – but I’ve never been there.  Or I hadn’t, that is, until I picked up a copy of Renee Vincent’s RÆLIKSEN.  From the first page, one thing was abundantly clear.

You don’t read RÆLIKSEN.  You experience it.

Renee Vincent’s portrayal of  10th century Ireland is nothing short of stunning, but it’s the depth of the characterization that is so vivid, so enchanting.  Dægan Ræliksen and the lovely Mara – who counters his introduction with such feistiness that he’s heckled thereafter for the mark she leaves – pounce from the pages and into your heart from the moment you meet them.  Dægan’s adoration for her is so pure, such a display of innocence from a man who has long left innocent behind, that you can’t help but fall in love with both of them from the first page.  I dare say there’s not a woman alive who wouldn’t melt under the appraisal Dægan makes of Mara, but his eyes are clearly for one woman.

One woman who, by all accounts, can never be his.

RÆLIKSEN is a love story that’s shaped not only by the land and the sky, but by the poignancy of a rich and brutal history.  Renee Vincent doesn’t exploit this history, nor does she make light of it.  It simply is what it is, and the facets are so intricately a part of the story that they exist as one.  And therein lies the masterpiece.  Every word of this story has meaning.  Every moment leads to the next.  Every word is simultaneously natural and brilliant, each one holding an unmistakable place in history with the telling of this tale.

And what a tale it is.

I admit to getting misty-eyed every now and then when I’m lost in the pages of a good book, but RÆLIKSEN had me sobbing.  Not once, but twice, and the full body-wracking sobs that scare husbands, who wonder if they’re better to ask what’s wrong or to back out of the room and pretend they never saw a thing.  But as such, this story is an astounding thing of beauty.  Every heartfelt word poured onto the page came from a place inside me.  Renee Vincent has a way of touching the human spirit, of getting to a place in her readers we never expect to be affected, and certainly not with such profound longing and contentment.  There is no walking away from the intimate journey of RÆLIKSEN. It becomes a part of you.  It lives on.

It could be no other way.

Needless to say, Ireland in 916 A.D. is a world far removed from what’s familiar.  Lovers of historic fiction will find a quick place in the rich detail Renee Vincent paints, but even readers who have never ventured beyond their own time and space will find a home within these pages.  Writers are often told to “show, not tell.”  Renee Vincent takes it a bit further … you feel it.  You feel every moment of Dægan Ræliksen’s story – from the burning heat of a love affair that’s both demure and intensely erotic to the bitter ache of betrayal and loss, you will live and breathe and love within these pages.  Long after you close the last page, the words will linger in your soul.

Once you’ve experienced RÆLIKSEN, you could hope for nothing less.

RÆLIKSEN is the first book in the Emerald Isle Trilogy.  The second in the series, MAC LIAM, is now available, with book three, THE FALL OF RAIN, due for release in December 2011.  If you’d like to learn more about Renee Vincent, click here to visit her website.