Blue Christmas

Desperado

Frankly My Dear

Here Comes Santa Claus

The Last Viking

The Love Potion

My Fair Viking

Sweeter Savage Love

A Tale of Two Vikings

Truly Madly Viking

 
Viking Unchained
by Sandra Hill
(Berkley, $7.99, R)  ISBN 978-0-425-22295-9
*****
Viking Unchained is a terrifically strange love story.

Thornfinn Haraldsson is an 11th century Viking, an absolutely alpha male warrior. He is wealthy, strong, and fiercely devoted to his family. That is, until his cheating wife Luta disappears with his beloved newborn babe, Miklof. Finn begins a quest to find his son. He follows every lead that he hears of, travelling far away to try to reach his child.

Meanwhile, Lydia Denton, a modern young military widow still grieving her late husband Dave, finds herself pregnant and gives birth to a beautiful son, Michael.

In the beginning of the story, there is amusing side-by-side storytelling as we get to know Lydia and Finn. Both characters are insightful and funny. They contribute to an irreverent study of humanity at two different points in history. Then one day, as Finn believes that he is close to finding Luta and Miklof, he finds himself enmeshed in a bloody surprise battle in a strange land. He is outnumbered and fighting to what he thinks may be his death. He is suddenly and mysteriously transported during the fight to the present day war in Iraq. Finn is immediately found by Navy SEALS, including his missing cousin Torolf.

Torolf brings the very confused Finn home with him, and tries to explain a bit of an introduction to modern culture. Finn is stubborn, hardheaded and especially chauvinistic, given the time period he comes from. Torolf does his best to prepare Finn for the public and then brings him out with some military buddies to the bar. Lydia arrives at the bar with a friend who happens to be related to Torolf, and they end up at the same table. Lydia and Finn are immediately drawn to one another, especially because Finn looks nearly identical to Lydia's dead husband Dave. She almost fools herself into believing that he is Dave. Their chemistry is electric and instant, kissing and nearly dragging one another out of the bar to Lydia's bedroom that very night, although for very different reasons.

Lydia is desperate to rekindle her connection with Dave, and Finn wants to exact revenge on his faithless ex, Luta. He also means to find out the whereabouts of his lost son. Strangely, they soon realize that the other is not their ex in reality, but their sexual chemistry and companionship keep them bound together until they can figure out what they are to each other. Finn confides the truth of his time travel to Lydia, and she reacts fairly well, believing that somehow Dave has sent her this new lover to patch over her wounds. They are also connected by Lydia's son Mike, who is on holidays at her parents' farm. Finn believes, although he hasn't met Mike, that he may be his son and the reason that he has been brought through time.

When Lydia realizes that Finn intends to continue his career as a modern warrior, she freaks out. She feels like she can’t continue on the emotional roller coaster that is required when involved with a military man. She argues with Finn, and realizing she can’t change his mind, kicks him out.

Lydia and Finn are brought together again when Finn finds out through his SEAL buddies that Lydia and Mike are in danger. There is a terrorist lurking, who is hellbent on extracting revenge on David Denton's family. The resulting chapters are tense, and spellbinding storytelling that bring the story to a whole new level.

Viking Unchained's plot gave me a bit of a hard time in the first few chapters. It was difficult to swallow the time travel premise at first. However, the characters were so engaging and the story so well-paced, that I soon forgot the unlikely conditions. The conversations between Lydia and Finn are like puzzle pieces, each talking and hearing, but understanding coming only with time. Finn is funny, and his efforts to fit in with modern society are hilarious, especially given his caveman bedroom tactics. For all of the “two worlds collide” scenario, Lydia and Finn have a certain amount of shared healing in their relationship. The themes of love, loss and family are so universal that they prompt the core of this story to shine as a true romance.

I loved that the romance wasn't overpolished, and there are no perfect characters here. It's much easier to understand a flawed heroine, and when Lydia is so vulnerable with her grief she strikes a very real, compassionate chord. Finn is a fantastic warrior male, sexy and commanding. His love through time for his son is endearing and softens his rough edges. I didn't expect to love Viking Unchained, but its vibrant storytelling, well-placed twists and turns and sensual humor really had me hooked by the third chapter.

--Amy Wroblewsky


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