Magnus Ericsson is a tenth century viking, a farmer with simple tastes who relishes all that the earth produces. The only complication in his otherwise peaceful existence is his eleven children, the inevitable consequences of his overactive libido and obvious virility getting him into trouble on numerous occasions. All of the children's mothers have either divorced him, abandoned him or died, leaving Magnus as their sole caregiver. Magnus, restless in his soul and tired of being the butt of jokes concerning his large family, decides to take a vow of celibacy and sail for distant lands in hopes of finding a new home for his brood. His brother, Rolf, had disappeared several years earlier while on a mission for their father, and his other brother, Jorund, had met the same fate when he went in search of Rolf. When Jorund's sword and two photographs depicting the missing brothers are found, Magnus has the feeling that they might still be alive somewhere, and perhaps if he sails far enough to the west, he will find them. Leaving behind his oldest daughter who recently married and oldest son to watch over his estate, he sets out on an adventurous journey with the remaining nine children in tow. While they are sleeping on their longship, anchored in a Norse harbor, a heavy fog envelopes them. Magnus and his son, Torolf, later awaken to find themselves in the strange land of Holly Wood.
Angela Abruzzi lost her parents in a car accident when she was a child, and grew up with her grandparents, who owned a large vineyard called the Blue Dragon. She learned all about the family business from them, but after her grandfather passed away, the winery had experienced a long series of bad luck and mishaps that had left them in dire financial straits. Not willing to give up, Angela took a job as a realtor to the stars, investing all of her earnings back into the vineyard. They continue to grow grapes to sell to other vintners, while dreaming of one day producing their own wines again. One day, while visiting Darrell Nolan, a famous Hollywood producer, in hopes that he will pay big bucks to use the family's vineyard as a backdrop for his next film, Angela witnesses a bizarre sight. It seems the producer is also working on a film about Vikings, and the replica longship on the movie set has been overtaken by a family of Vikings who look nothing short of the real deal. The star of Darrell's picture has become more trouble than he's worth, and Darrell is so impressed with the stranger in charge of this ragtag band that he wants to hire him on the spot. The only problem is Darrell must break his contract with the other star first and in the meantime, wants to keep his newfound "treasure" under wraps. He agrees to pay Angela a great deal more money if she will "hide" these people at her family estate.
Magnus took one look at Angela and knew that he had finally found his destiny. Angela, having recently gone through a messy divorce from a man who had cheated on her, is initially unimpressed with Magnus, and rather appalled at the idea he would have sired so many progeny. She is also not too keen on the idea of taking care of these people, but the extra money Darrell offered is sorely needed. What leaves Angela in utter disbelief though, is that this family appears to be completely unfamiliar with any modern conveniences or customs. They seem nice enough though, and since she is being paid well, she agrees to take them to the Blue Dragon. Angela's grandmother, Rose, who adores children and had always wished she had been able to have more to fill her rambling house, is thrilled to play hostess. The children adapt quickly to their new life, and Magnus, who takes easily to tending the vineyards and vegetable garden, certainly seems more likely to be the farmer he claims to be, than the actor everyone thinks he is. It doesn't take long for Magnus to charm the socks (and other articles of clothing) off Angela, but he is a man of honor and that pesky celibacy vow is still hanging over his head, not to mention he has absolutely no interest in having any more children. Whatever is a Viking to do? Add to that a fire in the vineyards, a greedy neighboring landowner who has been trying to buy out the Blue Dragon for years, and trying to convince Angela that he is indeed a time-traveler, and it looks like Magnus will definitely have his work cut out for him in this bizarre and mysterious new land.
Like it's two predecessors in the Viking Series II, The Very Virile Viking is a fun-filled romp through time with the tale of another tenth century viking who travels one thousand years into the future to find his soulmate. This is the story of Magnus, the older brother of the heroes from the first two books who, beleaguered by eleven children, sets out on a journey with nine of them, both to find a new home for his huge family and to search for his missing brothers. In the two previous books, Magnus just didn't seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, and since I tend to have a preference for highly intelligent heroes, I wasn't entirely sure if I would like this book. He also seemed, in those books, to be bit more chauvinistic than his brothers, if that were possible. Once I got started reading this book though, I couldn't imagine why I had procrastinated. The story was rife with Sandra Hill's trademark humor and sensuality that was definitely on par with it's prequels, and I thought that Ms. Hill did a great job of redeeming a hero whose overactive libido had led him to encounters with numerous wives, concubines and "passing fancies" that produced his humongous family.
Magnus was an earthy man, and while he may not have been highly intelligent in the traditional sense, he could easily have been characterized as a genius when it came to farming and animal husbandry. Whatever he might have lacked in intellect, he more than made up for in simple charm. Even though he had never been lucky in love, Magnus was a wonderful father, and I greatly admired his parenting skills and commitment to his children. Although he grumbled frequently about being saddled with so many youngsters, he exercised a great deal of patience in dealing with even the most mischievous ones and considered each of them to be a precious gift. Some were merely dumped on his doorstep and may not have even been his biological children, but he never turned any of them away and still cared for and loved all of them the same. I thought that Magnus exhibited a little more vulnerability that his brothers did in their stories which made him all the more endearing. He was rather self-conscious about his numerous children and his big ears which made him not quite physically perfect. In this way, I found him a bit easier to relate to than his brothers. Although he did still share their alpha-male arrogance, it wasn't overdone.
All the other characters were quite likable as well. Angela was a determined woman who had basically dedicated her life and every penny of money she earned to keeping the family vineyard afloat after the business fell on hard times. She ended up loving Magnus's kids as much as he did which is something that no other woman in his life had done for him. I thought Angela's character was a bit underdeveloped though, so she didn't quite stand out to me in the same way that Magnus and the kids did. I found her to be a pleasant heroine nonetheless. Angela's plucky, chain-smoking, Grandma Rose, was a sweet lady who obviously had passed her perseverance on to her granddaughter. Magnus's children were an absolute hoot, and each one had their own individual personality, which must have been quite a challenge for Ms. Hill to create eleven characters who were so different, and yet so wonderful. The nine who were on the canvas during most of the story ranged in age from fourteen months to sixteen years. They all adapted very quickly to their new home in the future, and generally behaved as 21st century kid's their age would. I thought that giving the hero of the story so many kids was a very unique element that I would be hard-pressed to find in any other romance novel and in general, probably would not have a great deal of appeal to many readers, yet it worked quite well here. I never found the kids to be annoying or obnoxious, even the ornery ones. In my opinion, they were all simply adorable.
The first one-third or so of The Very Virile Viking was absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. I don't think I have ever experienced belly laughs while reading a book, but during this part of the story, I found that I just couldn't stop smiling. There is a scene where Magnus and his children discover the joys of Wal-Mart that was positively priceless. The humor in the remainder of the book was somewhat subdued by comparison, but still present. Both Magnus and Angela had frequent internal dialogs going which were sometimes incredibly witty, but other times wore a little thin. I felt that the author could have pared these down a bit without really affecting the overall atmosphere. The other thing that I thought could have been stronger was the relationship development between Magnus and Angela. They had only know each other for a matter of days before they began to engage in sexual intimacies, which in my opinion is not the best way for two people to get to know one another. I will concede that Magnus felt with certainty that Angela was his destiny from the moment he first laid eyes on her, but Angela did not have the benefit of the same dreams that he had experienced which had led him to that conclusion. The fantasy element of a story like this would usually make me bit more lenient of the love-at-first-sight scenario, but I just didn't feel the kind of emotional connection I would have liked to between these two characters at the beginning of their affair. However, their passion and rightness for each other became much more apparent as the narrative progressed, and I found the ending to be thoroughly romantic and satisfying.
As mentioned earlier, The Very Virile Viking is the third installment in Sandra Hill's Viking Series II. It is preceded by The Last Viking and Truly, Madly Viking which featured Magnus's brothers, Rolf and Jorund respectively. Both of them make brief appearances in this book, giving the reader a look at where they and their wives, Meredith and Maggie, are a few years later. The Very Virile Viking also introduces readers to the next generation of time-travelers, Magnus's children, some of whom become the heroes and heroines of future books. The remaining books in the series are Wet and Wild which features Ragnor as the hero, Hot and Heavy which features Madrene as the heroine, Rough and Ready which features Torolf as the hero, and Down and Dirty, with Viking Unchained due to be released this summer. For logical readers, the story would likely not stand up to close scrutiny, but I found The Very Virile Viking to be a fun, enjoyable fantasy that leaves me open to reading more of Sandra Hill's books in the future. If you like your romance with a healthy dose of laughter, then look no further than this book and it's companions.
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