Jorund Ericsson is a tenth century Viking who returns from warring to discover that his wife and beloved twin daughters have died in a famine. During the same time, his younger brother, Rolf, went missing at sea and Jorund's father gives him a mission to go in search of Rolf. Jorund and his older brother, Magnus, set off on the search in their dragon boat, but are beleaguered along their journey by an orca who seems to have developed an affection for Jorund. To his dismay, Jorund also seems to have developed a telepathic connection to the killer whale, who the sailors affectionately named Thora. When the ship's anchor becomes entangled in sea weed, Jorund strips naked and jumps into the ocean to free it, only to be “kidnapped” by the whale. Thora takes him on a wild ride through space and time to 21st century Galveston, Texas, where she unceremoniously dumps him in the middle of a killer whale act at a marine park.
Maggie McBride is a psychologist and single mother who has been enjoying the show along with her twin daughters, Beth and Suzy, when the gorgeous blond hunk appears from out of nowhere. At first she thinks he is part of the show until she realizes that he is stark naked and wielding a very dangerous looking sword. Needless to say the police show up almost immediately and subdue the mystery man with a stun gun. Beth and Suzy had wished on a star (a constellation curiously shaped like a whale) for a father for themselves and a husband for their mother, and when Jorund shows up at the orca park, they just know he's the one. They beg their mother to help him, and thinking that he is probably just a harmless troubled man, she agrees to take him to the mental health facility where she works to care for him.
At first Jorund thinks he is being held prisoner by a very bizarre enemy or is dead and has been taken to some odd version of Valhalla or worse. He refuses to even speak to the beautiful but strange lady who comes to his room to question him every day. Maggie's casual mention of her daughters one day, tugs at Jorund's heart, and he finally opens up to her. What he says though, just leaves her even more certain that he's delusional, but she is able to get him to cooperate with her treatment plan. Comic mayhem ensues when Jorund attends his first group therapy session, but Maggie is impressed by the way he seems to be able to connect with the other patients. As Maggie spends more time with “Joe”, she is surprised by her undeniable attraction to him and how normal he seems aside from his assertion that he is a time-traveling Viking. She is actually beginning to believe him, and at the same time, question her own sanity. Feeling compelled to complete his father's mission, Jorund disappears from the hospital for three weeks and later shows up on Maggie's doorstep, but Maggie is afraid that if she lets him into her and her daughter's lives that he will eventually break their hearts if he is pulled back to his own time.
Sandra Hill is a mischievous author who has a talent for blending comedic elements with some great romance and sensuality. She is very good at creating play-on-words that lead to lots of hilarious misunderstandings, and she also has a penchant for funny t-shirt slogans that don't make much sense to a tenth century Viking. Truly, Madly Viking had many humorous moments that had me smiling and even laughing out loud, but it also had very tender moments that had me misting up. The story got off to a bit of a slow start for me, but about 1/3 of the way through, I was pretty well hooked. I think the slow start was because there wasn't quite as much of the “fish out of water” feel to this book as there was in the first book of the series, The Last Viking. I was also somewhat disappointed that Ms. Hill seemed to recycle some jokes and minor plot points and characterizations from the previous novel, as well as repeat some things throughout the book, but in the end there was enough new material to hold my attention.
The characterizations were very well drawn. Jorund at times seemed a bit too perfect for my taste (I have a personal preference for the more imperfect heroes) and a little too chauvinistic, but it wasn't overdone to the point of being annoying. Underneath it all he had a loving, tender heart of gold toward both Maggie and her daughters, and best of all, he really respected Maggie, so it was pretty easy to see why she would fall for him. I also enjoyed Jorund's attitude toward public service, and his realization of how much personal satisfaction he received from helping others. I loved Maggie with all her insecurities and inhibitions (What woman can't relate to that?), but Jorund had a way of making her feel truly beautiful. Maggie's daughters, Beth and Suzy, seemed a little beyond their years at times, and I found them to be most endearing when they were just being little girls. The mental hospital patients were a hoot, yet the reader could really sympathize with them in their individual situations.
Truly, Madly Viking is the second book in a series about a time-traveling trio of brothers. In this book, readers are treated to a reunion with Rolf and Meredith, as well as a few secondary characters from book #1, The Last Viking, and given a look at what their lives are like now. We are also introduced to the third brother, Magnus, who becomes the hero of book #3, The Very Virile Viking. Ms. Hill's Viking II series actually contains a total of six books basically written in two trilogies, with books #4-#6 being Wet & Wild, Hot & Heavy, and Rough & Ready. Truly, Madly Viking had some weaknesses and admittedly isn't the typical romance fare that I tend to like the most, but overall, there was enough originality, humor, and tender, heartfelt moments to make this an enjoyable read for me. If you're looking for a lighthearted romp with lots of laughs then look no further.
Update: Two more book have been added to this series, Down & Dirty and Viking Unchained. (7/13/08)
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook