Viking Unchained
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My husband and I were in Barnes & Noble a couple of weeks ago. He was browsing the sci-fi section, and I was in—where else?—the romance section. Eventually, my husband found his way back to me and began idly looking at titles. A few minutes later, he tapped me on the shoulder and held a book out to me. “You must read this. It looks awesomely cheesy!” I never thought the day would come when my husband would actually pick out a trashy romance novel for me to read, but, sure enough, I found myself holding a copy of Viking Unchained by Sandra Hill. And he was right; it was cheesy.

The book begins in 11th century Baghdad, where Viking warrior Thorfinn Haraldsson is searching for his son, Miklof. Finn’s wife, Luta, had left him some months earlier, taking their son with her as she ran off with her new lover. Their ship allegedly went down in a storm, but Finn heard a rumor that a woman and child matching their descriptions had been sighted in Baghdad. While in the Iraqi city, Finn gets into a fight (he is a Viking, after all). The next thing he knows, he’s surrounded by a team of modern-day U.S. Navy SEALS. (Yeah, I didn’t get it, either, but bear with me.)

Finn winds up traveling back to the States, where he meets Lydia Denton. Lydia’s husband, Dave, was a SEAL who was killed in battle—and he just so happened to look almost exactly like Finn. Lydia has a son, Michael, who looks—wait for it—just like Finn’s lost son, Miklof. Amid all of this mistaken identity, Lydia and Finn begin to fall for each other. But, as always, there are obstacles. Lydia has a hard time separating Finn from his lookalike, Dave, and Finn finds it difficult to trust women after his wife left him…er…centuries earlier.

I tend to have a high standard for time-travel novels, having read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. And, sadly, Sandra Hill is no Diana Gabaldon. The time-travel aspect of the book is totally glossed over—with no explanation how or why, other than a brief mention that it “runs in Finn’s family.” Yeah, there are something like 40 Haraldssons hanging out in the modern-day United States. Some have assimilated very well, while others seem to have seen The Thirteenth Warrior one too many times.

I simply didn’t find any of the characters—even Lydia—to be engaging. I did like Finn, or at least his affection for and loyalty to his son, but that’s about it. I couldn’t care less whether or not Lydia found love again, or if Finn’s time traveling sister-in-law was a “harpy.”

The one thing I really hated, though, was the way that Hill would start out most paragraphs. She’d give them titles—lame little quips like “I love a man in uniform—but I love him out of it more.” If she wanted to have titles, titling the chapters would have worked much better.

Hill attempted to insert some suspense into the story, but that didn’t work very well, either. The so-called villain is an Iraqi man who’s sworn revenge on Dave’s family because he feels that Dave was responsible for the deaths of his wife and child. The character is such a stereotype of the “Jihadi/Evil Muslim” that even I found it offensive—and I’m one of the least PC people around. To make matters worse, he only shows up in three scenes—and one of those is his death scene. Hill would have been much better off if she’d paid more attention to the plot rather than describing Finn and his family’s Viking ways.

Basically, the only things that Hill got right were the love scenes. Those were very hot indeed—pretty much the way one would imagine that sex with a Viking would be.

All in all, I was very disappointed in this novel, which was too bad, since I really wanted to like it. How could you go wrong with Vikings and Navy SEALs? Well, read Viking Unchained, and you’ll find out.

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