Lieutenant Ian MacLean leads a team of highly trained Navy SEALs. They've been tasked with locating and infiltrating a terrorist camp in Northern Iraq and capturing the sect's dangerous leader. It's supposed to be a precision in and out mission, but when Ian sees suspicious activity in a nearby cave, he feels compelled to go check it out. What he finds is a disheveled hellion who he thinks is the escaped mistress of the terrorist they're looking for. She whacks him on the head, knocking him out cold, and when he awakens, Ian finds himself tied up and at her mercy.
After losing her entire family, Madrene Olgdottir was doing her best to keep her family's holdings in the Norselands out of the hands of their enemies, but a powerful foe overtook her and sold her into slavery in the Arab lands. There she's been passed from one sultan to the next until she prays for escape during a particularly nasty storm. She has no idea that she just time-traveled one thousand years into the future, so when Ian comes along in his strange garb, carrying equally odd weapons, she thinks she's landed in a bizarre enemy camp. Although she finds it difficult to trust him, she agrees to release him in exchange for him taking her to Baghdad when his mission is completed. Once there, instead of being returned to her homeland like she expected, Madrene finds herself temporarily married to the "troll" and going to a new land with him. There she finds all manner of strange and wondrous things, including a surprising attraction for her new husband. But when she realizes she's fallen in love with Ian, can she convince him to keep her permanently when her last husband set her aside for being barren? And what of the terrorists who are now hot on Madrene's tail, thinking that she possesses important information about them?
Hot & Heavy is the fifth book in Sandra Hill's Viking II series, which up to this point, has been following the time-traveling exploits of the Ericsson/Magnusson clan of Norse men and women. In the previous four books, all the members of this family traveled forward in time from 11th century Norway to the present day, with the exception of Magnus' (The Very Virile Viking) oldest daughter, Madrene. She was unintentionally left behind and has been doing her best to care for the family's holdings in the thirteen years since her father and most of her other family members disappeared and were presumed dead. When she is catapulted forward in time as well, she meets and falls for Ian, a Navy SEALs commander, who was introduced in the previous book, Wet & Wild. He's the brother of Allison, the heroine of that book, and he has also worked with Madrene's brother, Torolf, who is a SEAL, too. Overall, Hot & Heavy was a cute addition to the series that was mostly enjoyable for me. However, despite it appearing to be the most well-liked book of series (according to GoodReads ratings), I didn't like it quite as well as Wet & Wild. IMHO, it had some weakness, which I'll discuss shortly.
Madrene married at the age of eighteen to a man who never really appreciated her and ended up setting her aside (the equivalent of divorce) when she produced no offspring for him. Then all of her family, with the exception of her oldest brother, Ragnor, disappeared. Several years later, Ragnor also went a-Viking and never returned, leaving her alone. Despite her fierce determination to lead her men in battle and retain the family's holding of Norstead, she was defeated by an ogre who humiliated her and then sold her into slavery in the Arab lands. There she was passed from one sultan to the next because of her shrewish tongue and her "magical" ability to make a man's dangly parts wilt with a wave of her hand.:-) After two years of this nonsense, she's had enough and attempts an escape, trying to get to Baghdad, where she hopes to find a ship to take her home and raise an army to oust the beast who took over her lands. As she's hiding out in a desert cave after a fierce storm, she encounters a man like none she's seen before, who claims he's a seal - as if that's possible - but she thinks he might actually be a troll. Despite her initial dislike of him, when he promises to take her to Baghdad, she believes he could be useful to her. Needless to say, things don't exactly go as planned, and through a series of crazy events, she ends up married to the "troll" and going home with him to Sandy-Egg-Go, where she discovers he may not be as bad as she originally thought. Madrene is definitely a woman who speaks her mind and has no filter between her brain and her mouth. I've found this quality irritating in other heroines I've encountered, but with Maddie, it's rather charming. She's also very stubborn, another quality which often annoys me, and which leads to plenty of head-butting with Ian, but I have to admit that I admired her determination and her ability to hold her head high even in the midst of trying circumstances. She also has softer, more vulnerable moments that make her relatable, so overall, I liked her pretty well.
Ian and his SEAL team are sent to Iraq on a mission to infiltrate a terrorist camp and capture their leader. When Ian sees something suspicious in a cave, he goes to investigate and finds a bedraggled woman who he mistakes for the terrorist's escaped mistress. Even though she's not much to look at, he feels rather sorry for her, so when his mission is completed, he extracts her along with his team. Back at the base, he finds out that she's definitely not the person he thought she was. Underneath all the ragged clothes and grime was a beautiful swan, who has no papers and knows nothing about the terrorists. In fact, she's telling them crazy stories that don't make much sense. When it's time to return to San Diego, he hates leaving her behind, so he reluctantly agrees to a temporary marriage so that she can get into the US. But once they're back stateside, he finds it harder and harder to resist the temptation she presents. And he also discovers that the CIA wants to use Maddie to lure out more terrorists. For the most part, Ian is a stereotypical military man, who's both stubborn and a bit high-handed at times. As a SEALs commander, he expects his orders to be followed, and Maddie is anything but compliant. This leads to lots of bickering between them that stunted the emotional connection for probably about 2/3 of the book. Beneath all the surface bluster, Ian is a good guy, but maybe not quite my kind of guy. He does have a few softer moments that I enjoyed, but he also had what I deemed a lame-brained moment at the very end of the story when he apparently went out to lunch with another woman after Maddie left him for a few weeks. I thought if he truly loved her that he should have been trying to find her, but instead she accidentally finds him with the other woman. This wouldn't have been a big deal if it had been explained away as a business lunch or something similar, but it happened in the final pages and wasn't really addressed, leaving me rather annoyed with him.
Between Madrene's huge family and Ian's SEAL team, there are supporting characters aplenty. In addition to Maddie's father, Magnus, we get to see her uncles, Geirolf (The Last Viking) and Jorund (Truly, Madly Viking), and her brother, Ragnor (Wet & Wild), along with all their respective mates and growing families. The SEALs are a colorful bunch of guys with wildly different personalities. Pretty Boy, who of course got his nickname because of his good looks, will become the hero of the seventh book, Down and Dirty, while Cajun charmer, Cage, crosses over to Ms. Hill's Cajun series to get his story told in Snow on the Bayou. I'm a little disappointed that these two guys appear to be the only ones who get their own stories, because all the others are a fun bunch, too. Geek and JAM were particular standouts to me. As a lover of brainy guys, Geek was adorable, and with JAM being an ex-almost-priest, I think he could make an interesting hero. Last, but not least, is Maddie's brother, Torolf, who is a SEAL himself. He leads the charge back to the past to avenge his family's honor and take back their land in the next book of the series, Rough and Ready. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention Ian's feisty, finicky cat, Sam, who manages to save the day, which was super-cute.
Overall, I liked Hot & Heavy and found it to be pretty entertaining. However, I still thought that the plot, especially for the first 2/3 or more of the book, was a little thin. There just wasn't a lot happening action-wise and what little action there was tended to be glossed over. Toward the last quarter or so, the story picks up pace a bit and there was some excitement to keep me engaged. I wasn't quite sure how I felt about the author waiting until those final chapters to reveal that Madrene had time-traveled. I suppose it made sense within the context of the storyline, but at the same time, it didn't give Maddie or Ian much time to process that information. In fact, the story ends with him still not being certain if he believes it, which was a little unsatisfying. Also the humor was a bit off for me in this one. I just didn't think it was as LOL funny as some of the other books of the series have been. IMHO, the jokes about Maddie's large breasts and the way all the men can't seen to keep their eyes off of her were a little overdone. I believe that Ian and Maddie's mule-headedness and constant bickering was meant to be funny, and sometimes, it could be rather amusing. However, it simply didn't tickle my funny bone in that way, but if you're the type of reader who enjoys the hero and heroine constantly butting heads in a more light-hearted manner, you'll probably love it. Otherwise, though, the writing was strong and for the most part, I liked all the characters, so in spite of my perceived weaknesses, it was a good read.
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