Blue Christmas


Frankly My Dear

The Last Viking

The Love Potion

Truly, Madly Viking by Sandra Hill
(Love Spell, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-505-52387-6
Time travels spotlighting a hero that comes forward to the present day rather than a modern age protagonist that goes back to the past, often have exasperatingly redundant plots, featuring the same old scenes over and over again. The first time you read about a sword-wielding man from the Middle Ages killing a microwave, or fainting after seeing evidence of electricity for the first time, or gawking at an airplane flying overhead, it's funny. The second time, it's still a little funny. Three and four books later, you want to send the hero packing for a trip back to the past, no matter how good the author is. Thankfully, Sandra Hill has shied away from overdone story lines such as these, while still retaining a superior comedic plot, first in the The Last Viking, and now in its sequel Truly, Madly Viking.

Jorund Ericsson comes back from war in the year 998, only to find his wife and twin daughters dead from a famine that has hit the Norse lands. Compounding the grief that the loss of his children brings to him is the fact that his younger brother Geirolf (The Last Viking) is missing at sea, possibly dead. Promising his father that he will find him, hopefully still alive, he and his other younger brother Magnus set sail for the area off Iceland in which Geirolf was last spotted. When the anchor on his longship becomes entangled in weeds, Jorund divests himself of his clothing and jumps overboard to remedy the situation. A few minutes later, he finds himself on the back of a killer whale, future-bound...

Dr. Maggie McBride is a psychologist that works at the Rainbow Psychiatric Hospital in Gavelston, Texas. Taking her twin daughters for a trip to Orcaland, she's surprised to discover that more than just the whales splash around naked at the marine park. When a huge, naked man wearing nothing but his swordbelt comes cruising into the park on the back of a killer whale, Maggie takes it upon herself to have him sent to the Rainbow Hospital for evaluation, rather than to jail for endangering the mammals.

Maggie and Jorund feel connected in some strange, inexplicable way from the moment their eyes first meet. Both of them have their reasons for denying the feelings they have for each other, which grow stronger every day. Maggie tells herself she can't care for Jorund because he's a patient in her mental health facility who fancies himself a tenth century Viking, whereas Jorund tries to pretend he feels nothing for Maggie because it complicates his feelings in regard to returning to the past. Both of them, however, eventually come to terms with the truth: they are afraid to make themselves vulnerable by experiencing love for another person...

Truly, Madly Viking is Sandra Hill at her wittiest, funniest, hilarious best. From her descriptions of the modern world through Jorund's eyes, to the patients of the Rainbow Hospital we come to love, to Jorund's various escapades, you'll have a hard time trying to keep a straight face while reading this book. Entangled into the hilarious scenes Hill laces throughout the whole read, is a warm your heart, make you smile love story between a man and a woman who desperately need their other half, and a man and two little girls who need the kind of magic only a parent-child relationship can bring.

As is the norm for most Sandra Hill novels, the secondary characters, specifically the patients of the Rainbow Hospital, are irresistibly endearing. From Nurse Hatcher, who Jorund thinks would make a fine warrior, to Rosalyn, the nymphomaniac librarian, to Steve, the impotent Vietnam veteran (whose own story brings tears to your eyes), the well-scripted cast of Truly, Madly Viking will knock your socks off.

Even the method by which Jorund comes to the present, though penned in Hill's signature wacky comedic light, is unexpectedly refreshing. Riding naked on the back of a killer whale into the future, as ludicrous as it sounds upon first hearing it, actually calls for less of a jump in logic than most time travels, which typically use fairie rings and enchanted necklaces. (At least the whale scenario conforms to Einstein's theory which purports that if time travel were ever to take place, it would have to happen in water!)

There is something for everyone in Truly, Madly Viking. Whether you're a fan of romantic comedies, or warm and snuggly "made for each other" romances, or poignant, brings-a-tear-to-your-eyes stories, you can find something about Sandra Hill's latest to appeal to you. If you're a fan of all three, this might be one of your favorite purchases of the year.

--Tina Engler

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