Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Julie Garwood returns to her beloved historical romance roots in a thrilling tale of love, murder, adventure, and mystery set against the haunting landscape of medieval Scotland. For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows, skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England's most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle's marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place. For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war. Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle's bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle's body nor heart is safe. A gripping novel that delves into the heart of emotions - unyielding passions of love, hate, revenge, and raw desire.
If only this book was as good as the description above made it sound. Now, it is Julie Garwood afterall, so it wasn't bad, but it was a big disappoinment compared to her earlier historicals. Where was the humor? Where was the romance? Where was the sex? This barely felt like one of Julie's books. Half way through the book, the hero and heroine still had barely met! It took a very long time for the plot to get going where it centered on the hero and heroine. Endless lead up to the events that leave Gabrielle stranded in Scotland where she meets the unlikely ferocious hero, Colm who takes pity on her and brings her back to his home. Eventually, they must marry - a forced marriage - in order to protect her from King John and his minions who want the land that serves as her dowry - and the secret to a hidden treasure of gold.
Gabrielle is on her way to Scotland to marry a Scottish laird that she has never seen. An arranged marriage her father has set up for her, she is a dutiful daughter and will marry the laird and make the best of it. The King also wants this marriage. But, all goes wrong and the elder laird is murdered and she no longer has a husband waiting to marry her! Due to jealousy, a spiteful and lying b**tch yells out that Gabrielle is a whore and has been fooling everyone about her chastity. The crowd turns ugly and before you know it, Gabrielle is unjustly maligned and disgraced - but it's not true! Her life is turned upside down in a matter of minutes. Cast out and banished from England, this is where our unlikely hero, Colm steps in. Little does he know that this vulnerable and beautiful "princess" is also an expert with a bow and arrow and saved his brother's life. I kept wishing Gabrielle would tell Colm the truth that she was the one who saved his brother from being murdered - a sideline earlier in the book about feuding clans, etc. Gabrielle unwittingly stumbled upon his brother's near murder and stopped it by shooting an arrow and killing one of the men that was going to kill him, though no one witnessed it but her faithful guards.
Colm takes her under his protection and brings her north to his holdings, but due to circumstances regarding this little (but important) piece of land and her regaining her reputation, Colm and Gabrielle must marry. Of course, Colm doesn't even want to marry her, not because he believes the story - he's just not interested in getting married at the moment. Still, honor forces him into the betrothal to save her from the dastardly and evil Englishmen who are trying to get to her. As much as he's attracted to her - very attracted - he vows he won't touch her for six months, so no one will doubt that her first baby is his due to the ugly rumors surrounding her. They'll have a long betrothal. But, things change and once King John learns of the huge mistake that has been made in regard to her and her reputation he wants to make amends (not really, he always has some kind of ulterior motive) to her for the strife she underwent over the big lie about her, but it's too late. In order to avoid having to marry who the King wants her to marry (and give the land to someone else), she quickly marries Colm, and he is now owner of the land that everyone wants.
Still with me here?
Meanwhile, she's falling in love with Colm and frankly, I found it hard to believe why. He was so stern and hard and cold most of the time to Gabrielle. He is this great big brute of a Scot, everyone is scared to death of him, his reputation makes him out to be absolutely scary and ruthless. He had no sense of humor - barely even a twinkle in his eye - ever. Not even likable. Yet, around Gabrielle, he begins to soften, but it's gradual. Once they're married and they consummate their marriage, they grow warmer towards each other, but with none of that endearing humor and winsomeness that Garwood's earlier Scottish historicals have. And none of the sensuality her previous books have had either! Their wedding night was so disappointing! The story itself wasn't bad and had a lot of promise, but it just wasn't romantic enough to be a Julie Garwood medieval - or at least the way I like them to be!
The plotline of this wasn't bad, there is a lot of deception and shady doings behind the scenes, (not on the part of Colm or Gabrielle), but by these English lords who are after Gabrielle and this lost gold that they believe she can help them find. Her mother comes from a former kingdom that has a history of some lost gold that was supposed to go to the Pope and really didn't.
It's a good story but not what I was expecting. I had to read Shadow Music, despite the mixed reviews, since I really loved the first two books in the series, this is similar in tone to Ransom, but less romance than The Secret. For any die hard Julie Garwood fan, it's hard to resist any of her historicals, especially when a new one comes out, but I can't help wondering if she's lost her desire to write them, this book reads like she did. I have a feeling we're only going to see her suspense contemporaries in the future - but, I could be wrong - I hope.