Well, I’m pretty gobsmacked. I had to end the last section at page 42, at the end of Chapter Two. I still don’t know what’s going to happen next; as I said, I’m going into this completely blind, so I’m not reading ahead. You guys get my honest reactions right as I read them, since I’m writing this as I go.
Seriously, I’m only two chapters in, and I’ve already learned the following things:
- Apparently, the power of a single prayer from an old woman to the Virgin Mary is enough to COUNTERACT THE LAWS OF PHYSICS. Don’t be stingy, Grandma Rose; where’s my break in radio? You pulled twelve people through time and across the freakin’ world, you can get me a simple internship at Q101.
- Whales can sense temporal disturbances, but they still need a stolen Klingon ship to travel through time. Some help they are.
- I was going to nitpick about how a wooden ship survived an overnight trip from “The Norselands” all the way through North America to get to the West Coast, but it also was propelled 1,003 years into the future so I can forgive a little lateral movement on the space/time axis.
- Clichés apparently don’t matter if you use enough of them. This book is in a whole line of (apparently) successful Viking Romance novels from the same author.
Also, I want to point out how transparent the plot is so far. First off, we have Magnus, who loves to farm, has a lot of children, and has trouble finding a woman who is accepting of both. On the other hand is Angela, who is trying to save her farm, her grandmother wants children running about the place, and has trouble dealing with men of a modern mentality. HMMMMMMMMMMM.
They come from different eras but hey here’s a temporal instability (THAT THE WHALES ARE TRYING TO WARN YOU ABOUT, MAGNUS) that throws them together.
All this in less than fifty pages. Seeing as this is the first romance novel I’ve ever read, I want you guys to assure me that the plots aren’t as telegraphed as this one is. They get better, right guys?
We open Chapter Three with Angela at Universal Studios, negotiating her way into letting them film a movie at the Blue Dragon Vineyard. The Director is making too low of an offer and seems to be chafing when she reiterates her initial demand of five hundred thousand. We find out that it’s because he’s also working on a Viking movie – a remake of an old Kirk Douglas flick, to be exact – but his lead didn’t want to vike around on a wooden boat and a fake-stormy sea, couldn’t stand the outfit, and couldn’t stand the supposed hottest actress on the planet, so he told The Director to vike off and flounced away.
As she’s closing the deal, the director notices that there are people on board his fake Viking ship in the lot. Angela, of course, can’t resist taking a peek at what he’s talking about, and so we have this glorious description of her first glimpse at Magnus.
Standing with legs widespread on the prow of the longship was a man who could only be described as…well…a Viking. He was six-foot-five, at least, with long, light brown hair streaked with blond highlights – probably from riding a surfboard and not because he’d been riding the ocean waves on some ancient dragonship.
In one hand he held a huge sword. In the other arm he held a little blond-haired girl dressed in an old-fashioned pinafore-style gown. The most amazing thing of all was the group with this…this…Viking on a longship. Not just the toddler in his arm but a bunch of other kids as well. She quickly counted. Nine in all, each dressed in ancient attire that she surmised was the way the old Norse would have been garbed.
First of all, let me point out that Magnus should have eleven children at this point; he had ten in the beginning, and then The Littlest Tax Deduction got FedExed to him. That’s her in his other arm, and eight more behind him, which means that his other two children either A: didn’t survive the Time Vortex, B: are belowdecks or hidden behind other kids and thus Angela can’t see them, or C: fell overboard, despite Magnus’s insistence that they all tie themselves to eachother to prevent nautical sleepwalking accidents. That, or Magnus “accidentally” untied a couple of them. It seems like the kind of thing he’d do.
Secondly, the comparison is made to Kevin Sorbo. Which I get, yes, but honestly that’s probably the easiest comparison in the world to make. This body type is pretty much dime-a-dozen in this field; you could have chosen almost anyone. But who does she go for? Captain Forehead.
The poor man’s Fabio.
Alternately, the rich man’s Brendan Fraser.
While Angela’s salivating over Magnus from afar, The Director is doing a bit of salivating of his own. Forget an actor who has dramatic training and even knows what cameras are. Hire on an unwashed vagrant who simply looks the part! It costs less!
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Uwe Boll School of Hollywood Casting.
Let me take a step back here and mention that so far, the perspective shifts have been jarring. Sandra Hill does keep things in third person limited pretty well, but for jarring transitions and unclear internal dialogue, things can get a bit wonky.
I mention this because we have a sudden and awkward jump to Magnus, who is dealing with his new surroundings surprisingly well. In fact, none of it really bothers him all that much, except for The Unbearable Heat and – this is my favorite – the fact that he can’t tell where these strange people have their farms in the midst of all these shiny buildings. I don’t mean the farming euphemisms for sex I was using earlier, I mean actual farms. Sure, the buildings are strange, and the people look different, and the women wear pants (the harlots) (even though the world harlot meant vagrant/tramp/bum, was used for males, and didn’t exist before the 13th century), and hey look there are strange machines that move around without horses, BUT WHERE DO PEOPLE FARM? Hey, person with blue clothing and a strange weapon in your hand, why are you yelling at me like that, AND WHERE IS YOUR FARM I CANNOT UNDERSTAND THIS.
I think I’m in love with this book now.
Also, point of interest here, apparently sixteen-year-olds in Magnus’s time speak in an extremely literal, almost school-book fashion, which makes me wonder if all Sandra Hill knows about “Norselands” is what she learned from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I submit to you the following:
“Dost think we have entered the Land of the Dead?”
“That fiery first level of the Norse underworld, comparable to the Christian hell?” Torolf shook his head.
Magnus and the kids react to their new surroundings and are approached by Universal Studios security, and Magnus contemplates that the magic fog that brought them here must have made it so they can understand English, which is at least an attempt to explain that. It was seriously bugging me until then, so I’m glad I don’t have to nitpick at that anymore. While he’s pondering this, he’s approached by The Director, who wastes absolutely no time in trying to schmooze up to him.
Anachronistic wackiness ensues. Lots of the standard “I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN, STRANGE PERSON, AND I DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOUR EXPRESSIONS”, with basic gesture and idiom confusion being the bulk of it. Magnus refuses to hand over his favorite sword – Head Lopper (!) – while the children start squabbling over who gets to go grab his other weapons so they can defend the ship.
Of course, it’s not long until they get off the ship and Magnus comes face to face with Angela, and let me tell you, Internet: Our boy is smitten, right off the boat. She is an older-than-he-normally-prefers goddess with black hair and dark brown eyes (see I told you guys), with “kiss-some” lips, a mole he would love to do nasty things to, and legs that make him want to drop his baby girl and run his hands over.
Her long legs were covered with transparent silk hose, and on her feet were black leather shoes with thin, high heels. If his hands were not occupied with the babe, he would be unable to restrain himself from touching that long, long stretch of winsome leg. Not just touching, either. Licking would be good, too.
Emphasis is, of course, mine.
Already, he is having thoughts that this woman is his soulmate, that she is his – dare I say it – destiny. He smacks his kids around a bit when they make fun of him for ogling her, and immediately starts panicking. What if she’s already married? What if she doesn’t want to return with him to The Norselands? What if, god forbid, she doesn’t like farms?
We are, of course, missing Angela’s reaction shot, but don’t worry, the next chapter opens up with the following:
The man was a tree…
Which…really sums it up. But no, we’re not left there; she goes on to describe his arms and legs as tree limbs, and promptly begins to continue referring to him as “The Tree”. Because – as we learned about farming – once we’ve found a metaphor that works, we may as well keep using it.
But despite her panting for breath and the fact that she cannot take her eyes off him, she tells herself that she Does Not Like Him. He is everything that her ex-husband (The Creep) was – muscled, imperious, bristling with weaponry – and the whole Viking motif is obviously a plea for attention and she can’t stand attention whores. She hates everything he stands for so much that she’s going to keep standing there and staring at him for as long as she can.
What follows is a bit of back and forth between Magnus and Angela that is really awkward and embarassing to read. He is smitten with her, and she keeps putting him down. He doesn’t understand these newfangled machines and New World Concepts, and she’s sure, absolutely sure that he’s putting on a show to get hired for the Viking movie.
Unfortunately for her, The Director wants none other, and due to some strange thing in the contract for the previous guy he needs Magnus and The Littlest Vikings out of the public eye. Guess who has a lot of land where nobody goes, that’s vaguely farmlike, and who happens to need The Director to be in a good mood?
And so, Angela takes a Viking family to Wal-Mart. (This is a sentence I never thought I would write.)
(Oh, and we find out what happened to his other two children; they did stay behind after all. Or so Magnus claims.)
It’s pretty standard fare stuff, where Magnus is aghast at the sheer amounts of fruits and vegetables just lying there on the shelves, and where everyone is forced to buy underwear, and Lida The Baby gets changed, and Angela gets more and more confused and upset at the fact that these people don’t know anything about Wal-Mart. She makes a comment that Magnus stinks to High Asgard, and so he grabs an armful of – what else? – Old Spice.
Look at your Viking. Now back to me.
Now back at your Viking. NOW BACK TO ME.
That is the man your man could smell like.
Of course, there’s a bit of a problem when Magnus tries to pay for all his brood’s purchases with a gold coin, but Angela has him take it over to the antique/coin shop across the street and he gets at least forty thousand dollars for it. And he has chests full of them back in the car.
This is the point where I start to lose interest in Angela as a character, because up until now, she’s tried to fight the lust-at-first-sight impulse and stay cynical about the whole thing. Now? It turns out that he’s freakin’ rich, so she starts taking interest.
Of course, it could be construed as the first sign that his story is true. If that’s the case, then I’ll forgive her.
Just this once.