Sir Niall of Malloy is a fourteenth century English knight who acts as prison guard for a witch-hunting archbishop. One day, the witch he is to escort to her bloody death is young, comely, and, we are told, “a merry twinkle danced in the warm hazel of her eyes.” Her name is Viviane and she assures Niall, with much dimpling and hair-tossing and laughing like a musical bell, that once she explains everything to the archbishop, she will be released with an apology. When it penetrates her head that she is to be summarily executed, she makes a wish on her mystical moonstone that she be “as far away from here as ever a person could be.” She promptly vanishes, leaving Niall holding the moonstone – and the bag. He’s in deep trouble for letting a witch escape, and his only hope of redemption is to go wherever she went and bring her back for execution.
So where did she go? I was rooting for Papua New Guinea, but no such luck – she’s on an island in the Straits of Georgia, in 1999, mistaken for a Renaissance Fair enthusiast. She is promptly given a job in a bookstore (how does she know how to work the cash register and the credit card machine?), makes friends, and gets along splendidly. She believes that this is the island of Avalon, that the people she knows are all immortals, and that everything works by magic. When Niall uses the moonstone to come after her, she is convinced that they will spend eternity together, because it is fate and they belong together, and so on and so forth. Niall feels that he must fight his attraction to her (she is, after all, a witch) and bring her back to justice.
It is never explained why he does not immediately grab her and wish on the moonstone to go back to the archbishop. Rather, he stays with Viviane in 1999 for quite a while, fails to withstand her charms, and in spite of her gushing about fey immortals and mystical realms, he soon figures out where and when they are.
Niall is the kind of guy who, upon being presented with that magical device called a toilet, straddles the seat, opens the tank, and fiddles with it until he learns how it works. I liked that. He is a man who has known both honor and failure, borne enormous responsibility, and isn’t afraid of more. When he realizes that he has taken Viviane’s virginity, he decides to marry her – after all, they’re compatible and he has a responsibility. That’s what a virtuous medieval man is supposed to do – care for and protect her and the child she could be carrying. You would think that Viviane would know that. But she refuses to marry Niall because he does not drop to one knee and swear undying love.
Do I need to spell out for you how I feel about this woman? Viviane is the sort of mindlessly spunky heroine who insists upon accompanying the hero on a dangerous rescue mission, making said mission ten times more dangerous, because, as she says, “You must have some feelings for me, regardless of what you say, and I’m not leaving your side until I know the truth of it.” Can you hear my teeth grinding? She is too stupid to live, but it goes deeper than that – she is also too annoying to live. Within the first chapter I was actively rooting for her execution, and she only got worse.
Rather surprisingly, considering my feelings about Viviane, I enjoyed the spicy sexual chemistry between her and Niall. Ms. Cross writes a mean love scene, and Niall and Viviane are sizzling hot together. It helps that Viviane doesn’t talk, or laugh like the splashing of a brook through an emerald glade, while they’re making love.
Much of this book is genuinely funny, especially the quirky and clever twentieth century parts. The woman who owns the bookstore where Viviane works is a wonderful secondary character, and the scenes in which she gives Viviane relationship advice are hilarious.
“Men are from Mars and all that jazz. They’re like a different species.”
“I had no idea. . .”
No, Viviane shouldn’t know what the word “species” means. But then, she comes from the sort of Medieval World at Disneyland where the townspeople rise up in indignation when an archbishop kills a Jewish moneylender. Historically speaking, The Moonstone is kind of a joke, but to tell you the truth, I didn’t see that as a serious flaw in this case. I think that anything is game if the comedy is effective and funny. I don’t expect a Danny Kaye movie to be historically accurate, either.
But although this book is funny and sexy, it is not effective comedy. I just spent too much time wanting to shake Viviane, sunny disposition and all. The cover blurb says that this book is perfect for fans of Lynn Kurland. That might be so, as The Moonstone is reminiscent of Kurland’s mix of time-travel and humor. But unless you have a high tolerance for heroines of the tstl persuasion, you might just want to skip it and reread Kurland instead.