Or, How I learned that European men can apparently impregnate a woman at ten paces.
Let me start out by saying that the copy I received did not have the chestacular cover you see to the right. The bookstores nearby were out of this book. Amazon didn’t have it at the time that Trekkiegirl tried to order it for me. We ended up having to trawl the local libraries’ web catalog and see who had it in stock, and then go through the spinners of their romance sections to find it and then suffer the amused looks of all the librarians at the front desk when we checked it out.
On a completely unrelated note, it’s amazing how many covers of romance novels have a top-heavy man who seems to have trouble finding buttons for his shirts and a woman about half his size. Apparently the female body needs to be completely dwarfed to be fully satisfied? I’m just saying, if I was a woman, I wouldn’t want a slab of muscle like that on top of me for fear of being crushed to death.
(Also, what is that? Is he attacking the reader? Seriously what kind of pose is that I can’t even.)
According to the back of the book, this promises a lot of anachronistic wackiness in addition to many romantic interludes, so let’s flip on the Flux Capacitor and take this Nordic nonsense out for a spin!
Please note: I am going into this COMPLETELY BLIND and am, in fact, writing this post as I read it.
We begin this crazy adventure in “The Norselands”, apparently because the word Scandinavia was trademarked. Was there ever a place actually called The Norselands in the history of ever? I ask because I just did a couple searches right now and all I could find with that exact phrase was custom maps for Age of Mythology, and the setting for four Xena episodes and a gloriously-titled episode of Hercules. (“Norse by Norsevest“)
It is the year 999, which the book claims that were “the days of old where men were…whatever…”
No, really. That’s precisely what it says, right on the first page. The book doesn’t care enough to make something up.
Hand to God. It’s right there.
Not to worry, though! We’re introduced to Magnus Ericsson, a man who is about as far from being “whatever” as you can imagine! He has four absolute favorite things, including farming and farming-related euphemisms.
He loved the smell of fresh-turned dirt after spring-time plowing. He loved the feel of a soft woman under him in the bed furs… when engaged in another type of plowing. He loved the heft of a good sword in his fighting arm. He loved the low ride of a laden longship after a-viking in far distant lands.
Viking, as it turns out, is a verb as well as a noun. It’s a good thing Vikings have such strong arms that they can not only hold swords, but also spend time viking around! And also “viking around”, which I think is a much better term for tilling a lady’s field.
Of course, sowing his seeds in every mound he finds has a huge drawback because, lest we forget, he is a Very Virile Viking. Ten little vikings all in a row, calling him Faðir day in and day out. Thank the gods that a few of them died, otherwise he’d have more!
Ten in all! That was the side of his brood, despite the loss of a son and a daughter to normal childhood ills and mishaps.
Scandinavian Norselands Flu, and the annual Take Your Daughter To Pillaging Day, which was very embarassing for everyone.
Anyway, Magnus is royalty of some kind. Or, his parents were, and there’s pressure on him to take over the family’s holdings from his Uncle Olaf. He doesn’t want to give up plowing his fields or “plowing his fields”, and so what follows is at least half a year’s worth of dithering back and forth about how much he wants to be with women but how he can’t avoid having children keep popping up in his life.
Case in point: His newest daughter has been mailed to him by merchant ship from some town he visited once and he tries to refuse delivery and have her sent back. I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING HE SPENDS LIKE FIVE PAGES TRYING TO DO THIS.
“Take her back whence she came,” Magnus demanded.
“I cannot,” Ragnor said. “She came on that trading knorr from Hedeby. […] [Her mother] died recently of the brothel disease.”
So far, I’ve come to learn two things from this book:
- Magnus can’t keep it in his
pantsleather loincloth thing, and
- The laws against the shipment of human cargo weren’t in effect 1,011 years ago. Which is a seriously frightening concept; did everyone just pack babies onto boats, then push it downstream and pray? I honestly didn’t think it happened outside Ancient Egypt.
He vikes around for a bit and lusts after the new serving girl – at least until he finds out his two oldest sons are currently threshing her wheat. At the same time. And a third is about to grab his spade and join them when Magnus stops him and, we assume, the whole affair. Probably so he can save all the harvesting for himself – although, at this point he’s almost paralyzed with the fear that he can conceive a child just by looking at a woman. I really, really wish I was making this up.
His friends aren’t helping, either. Harek the Huge (yes, really) has “found a solution” to his problem and has rounded up every willing woman in the area who is unable to conceive. Of course, they’re all either A: terribly old, B: extremely overweight, or C: already pregnant, so he shuns them all out of hand. Are you paying attention, ladies? Magnus is your man. He is here for you. He understands your needs. As long as you’re hot.
Speaking of, let’s take a look at our next contestant! She’s young, she’s hip, she’s got a BMW and a vineyard in California’s beautiful Sonoma Valley; let’s say hello to Angela Abruzzi! Coming to us all the way from 2003, Angela has both coal-black hair and coal-black eyes, which is something I haven’t ever seen before, not even in the craziest Harry Potter Mary Sue fanfiction I’ve been subjected to over the years. The closest I’ve ever seen in eye color would be my own; they’re about as dark a brown as you can get. Maybe that’s what it is, or maybe Angela just has the soulless black eyes ’cause she’s effectively lifeless in her current situation. I’m calling that comparison right now; let’s see if I’m right.
It doesn’t hurt my theory that Angela runs the Vineyard to the exclusion of a social life and has Views About Men; namely, attractive ones tend to venture off and irrigate other grapes. She’d much rather work her real estate job to keep paying the bills on the vineyard, which incidentally is about to run into the ground.
Grandma Rose, though? I love Grandma Rose. She’s a snarky old woman who dresses like this old hippy woman I saw one time at Black Market Minerals, with the faded jeans and tank top and mud-caked sneakers. She tops that ensemble with an eighteen-carat-gold cigarette holder.
Here, of course, is where descriptions get confusing, and I attribute this fully to the writing style. Twice now, in the span of three pages, I’ve had to go back and re-read things because Sandra Hill has a problem with multiple ideas in single paragraphs. It appears that Grandma Rose is the one with the job and who’s paying for the Blue Dragon Vineyard, but a few pages later it shows us that Angela’s the one who’s a workaholic. It also spends a paragraph talking about Grandma Rose and the people she spends time with, and a casual mention of “her marriage to The Creep”, which makes me think that it’s Grandma Rose’s old marriage, right?
And, God knew, she couldn’t blame Angela for failing to have children with the Creep.
I went back at least three times to make sure I didn’t just misread the original paragraph, but no, it’s just poorly written.
It turns out that the vineyard will be saved by a director that wants to film a Romance Movie there. Angela gets Rose’s permission on the basis that Angela finds a man and has children, because that’s all that Grandma wants, really. Children to be running around the vineyard. There’s a whole feminist argument to be had here about children and being the end-all be-all of any woman’s life (which of course is the most obvious and natural implication), but I’ll skip over that and say “HMMMMMMMMMM”.
“Okay, I’ll look harder. I promise. It will be at the top of my list.” She pretended to be writing herself a note on the palm of her hand. “One…good…man.”
“Oh, I don’t know about good. Virile would be better.”
We cut back a thousand years to Magnus and his children, who are on a ship going somewhere for some reason. They’re all tied together at the ankle to make sure that if one of them sleepwalks overboard, they all get pulled under to die as a family. And what’s this? Magnus’s teenage son is making fun of him for taking a vow of celibacy? Seriously, dude, if the guy has any more of you he’s going to have to kill the largest to provide food for all the others. Let the man not farm if he doesn’t want to farm.
It turns out they’re at sea ’cause Magnus’s uncle, Erik the Red (no, really), doesn’t want them back there, because Magnus doesn’t care about teaching his children manners and they embarassed him there. So they decided to cross the seas to That New Place Leif, Erik’s son discovered, where there were grapes-aplenty, and sure, the occasional pesky red-skinned savage would come by and scalp people but it was a paradise, really!
As they sleep lashed together on the ships, Magnus hears the cries of killer whales and thinks hey, maybe that is a warning of some kind. And as they sleep, their ship drifts away from the other two, and Magnus dreams of an old woman praying for a man to arrive. He tries not to be skeeved out by this, but when he wakes up, the fog parts and they spot a mountain. Miraculously able to understand English, Magnus reads the words on the side of the mountain as “HOLLYWOOD”.
Awesome Euphemisms (Or, Light Up The Dayna Signal):
- “It was not yet spring, but his sap was running high.”