George & The Virgin
by Lisa Cach, historical/time-travel (2002)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52489-9


I hope this is the first and last time a book with Virgin in the title makes it to my keeper shelf. George & The Virgin - what kind of title is that? Whoever thought up the title is hereby sentenced to spend to two hours of listening to Michael Bolton's Greatest Hits at full volume.

But hey, isn't it a nice day, people? Ah, that's what a good book does to me. Life's good. There's fine TV (The Guardian and my unexpected pleasure, Crossing Jordan), fine movies, fine stories, and then there's George & The Virgin, a story that has me hanging on from page one to the end. It is a comedy, with lots of potential for farce, but one doesn't even have to burrow deep to look for unexpected depths. Like her brand of humor, really. Lisa Cach's brand of humor is often sparkling and witty, but it can also be on the bristle, sometimes even caustic side. It makes an intriguing read.

In the medieval time, there's a dragon terrorizing the village of Markesew, and every year, the people will hold a lottery. The virgin lass that gets picked will be the lucky one who will grace the dragon's dinner plate that year. Young Alizon tried hard to lose her virginity, but she couldn't, and just like her friend saw in a vision, she was the lucky one that year.

Cut to twelve years later - still in medieval times. That psychic friend, still grieving over the state of her village, casts a spell and summons a warrior to deliver them all from the dragon. In today's time, professional wrestler, George Arlington (stage name The Saint) undergoes some soothing hypnosis session and somehow ends up being summoned by the psychic in medieval times. With his stage spandex and all, who else can he be to those awestruck medieval people but Saint George the Dragonslayer, eh?

George at first believes that he's in some hypnosis-induced vision (relive your inner fears/dreams, that sort of thing), so he plays along to kill the dragon. Soon, he will learn that there is really a dragon up on Devil's Mount. But along the way, he will stumble upon an enigmatic woman and a castle haunted by lil' virgin ghosts.

That woman is Alizon, and how she survives makes an interesting story. Well, let's just say she now takes cares of the virgins the villagers send every year after her, and together they build a new life in Devil's Mount, coexisting uneasily with the dragon. When George struts into her life with his jolly good-natured personality, brittle Alizon will soon forget which way is up. But what of the dragon? And the other virgins running around the place?

There's more to this than what I wrote. It's a wonderful love story, for one. George's good humor and easy-going nature is infectious and attractive, and a wrestler who knows what the Occam's Razor is is definitely a catch. Oh, and I must say one thing: he is delightfully (and typically) male in that exasperated/good-natured-"Oh, you silly, silly... man!" kind of way.

His foil is Alizon, who can be brittle and icy. Then again, we are talking about a woman who was sacrificed to death by a bunch of cowardly men when she was a girl. Does she bear a grudge against the villagers? Naturally - Alizon is no healing-crazy medieval mind-reading nitwit. She is a sexual woman, despite her virgin status, and she feels resentment at the way life dealt her the cards as much as she can learn to love and heal again.

And that's what finally makes this book a keeper for me: its simple yet mature approach to new chances at new beginnings. Alizon and George start out fun but not much else, but as the story progresses, Alizon's self-discovery provides ample substance to supplement the verbal, slapstick, and sometimes toilet humor. George & The Virgin is bawdy as a good medieval should be, but there are moments that brings tears to my eyes - especially those where George doesn't want to let go of Alizon and where Alizon finally learns to let go of the past.

In the end, this is a really satisfying read. It's funny, but damn, it also packs a powerful punch. With one of the most delightful heroes ever - even if he's a professional wrestler - and a heroine who thaws so beautifully in a multifaceted plot, this book will definitely make it to my end of the year best read list.

But really, some points have to be deducted for the overuse of the word "virgin" in this story. It makes me grit my teeth after the umpteenth time everybody (except the hero) is called a bloody virgin in this book.

And poor Belch! How could you, Lisa Cach! How could you!

Did I mention that I blubbered like an idiot at that scene? I know, I know. Still, *sniff* .

George & The Virgin could have been a hammy farce. It ends up being a fine fantasy of heroism, healing, courage, and of course, love. Heck, it makes both the fantasy reader and romance reader in me radiant with pleasure the way only a good book could. Hey, you crappy books in my TBR pile, all is forgiven. I'm okay with the romance genre all over again, and I will put that kerosene can away. But I'll only tackle the rest of you after another rereading of this wonderful story. I love this book, two thumbs and a pinkie up!

Rating: 97


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