Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Reluctant Viking by Sandra Hill ****

Hill's writing and humor is something that takes a little bit of getting used to and a certain mood to be in - it's pretty outrageous and over-the-top. As long as I'm in that mood, I find I can enjoy the craziness of the plot and fun of the story.

This one is sort of a cross between time travel and dream fantasy. Ruby and her husband Jack have lost that loving feeling in the 20th century - and Jack has had enough and moves out. On that day, Ruby, exhausted emotionally, decides to listen to one of Jack's motivational tapes. While she is being told she can do anything she wants, live anyway she wants, she goes to sleep - and wakes up in the 10th century, in Jorvik/York England, on a Viking ship, in her 20th century t-shirt, jeans and running shoes (and 20 years younger). Once on land, the ship's owner - Thork - turns out to be the spitting image of Jack. Several of the other characters also look like her modern day neighbors and co-workers, which helps give the story it's dream fantasy characteristics.

Hill just writes away the language differences by having her understand everything they say - no trying to have it be something complicated, after all, since it's humor. But the clothing and lifestyle differences are there in spades. And Thork, her Viking hero, doesn't buy her time-travel story at all. It seems she is taken for a spy, and is headed for torture or death if she can't prove her innocence.

In her time in the pre-medieval world, she tries to get Thork to marry her - but he's sworn never to marry. He has a half-brother that is always trying to kill him, so he keeps his 2 bastard sons a secret, to protect them. He has a mistress, Linette, and eventually agrees to a political betrothal - meanwhile, while he's attracted to Ruby, he's determined not to marry her.

She soon decides/realizes she's been sent back to learn a lesson, and does whatever she can to woo Thork. She doesn't seem to know when to keep her mouth shut - she's constantly trying to modernize the locals, with talk of birth control, sexy lingerie, jogging. Stuff that in a more serious time travel novel, you'd be aiming the book at the wall, but in her humorous style you just shake your head and keep reading. She knows a little bit about the era, and has done a genealogy that includes Hrolf, a Norman royal, as an ancestor (yeah, as if) so she claims him as family for protection purposes. When she does finally meet him, she can name his children and grandchildren since they're in her genealogy chart.

She's conflicted about whether she's committing adultery to sleep with Thork while still married to Jack, but goes with the theory that Jack and Thork are one and the same. In fact, if it's just a dream, where's the adultery, right? So hers is a quest for getting back her husband - getting back that loving feeling. OK, she's pretty flighty - one minute she's telling him he is her husband, the next she's insisting they get married - one minute she's teasing and laughing, the next she's angry or crying. Lightning quick mood changes all around - it's pretty standard Hill stuff.

I think this was somewhere in the 3.5-3.75 star range for me - I liked it ok, didn't find myself laughing out loud but I was amused by the story, as outrageous as it was. It's a Viking book for the Winter 2008 challenge, and a series book for the Serial Readers Challenge. It also fits my A To Z Challenge.

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