Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Bride by Julie Garwood (audio)

Book Description:
By edict of the king, the mighty Scottish laird Alec Kincaid must take an English bride. His choice was Jamie, youngest daughter of Baron Jamison... a feisty, violet-eyed beauty. Alec ached to touch her, to tame her, to possess her... forever. But Jamie vowed never to surrender to this highland barbarian.

 He was everything her heart warned against - an arrogant scoundrel whose rough good looks spoke of savage pleasures. And though Kincaid's scorching kisses fired her blood, she brazenly resisted him... until one rapturous moment quelled their clash of wills, and something far more dangerous than desire threatened to conquer her senses...

The Bride is my favorite Julie Garwood novel, and probably one of my all time favorite romance novels ever.  A cut above the usual Highland romance, this is a re-read for me, only this time, I had the great pleasure to listen to it on audio.  It was like reading it again for the first time and I loved it!  In my opinion this is Julie's best book and it's the book that hooked me on romances.  I was spoiled by The Bride, for I read it early on in my romance reading and it wound up becoming the gold standard for the way I rated other romances.  Coming off my love for Outlander I picked this up having no idea how good it was going to be. I was blown away by it and I was hooked on highlanders (other than Jamie Fraser) from that moment on. 

What makes it so good?
  • Humor. Tons of funny laugh out loud, delicious moments between the hero and heroine.  Garwood is great at this!
  • The Hero.  Alec is an alpha medieval Scottish hero with a kilt and accent that stole my heart.  I really love him!
  • The Heroine.  Jamie is the endearing, slightly klutzy, feisty, stubborn heroine with a heart of gold
  • Plot.  An amusing and diverting plotline that is a joy to read; these two people are thrown together in a marriage of convenience and against all the odds - it works!  Plus there's the usual murder mystery as well that's a bit more complex than the usual.
  • Romance. Mmmm... mmmmm good.   The chemistry between Alec and Jamie is perfect, they're a great match for one another, not to mention the sex which is passionate and memorable - yet, not over the top.  Highly satisfying, appropriate and well done. 
The basic plotline is about a young Englishwoman, Jamie (yes, it's a man's name, a running joke throughout), the youngest in her family of four girls.  Right away it's apparent Jamie is unique.  All her life she has been the strong one in the family, the one her older sisters rely on, and very often take advantage of as well. Jamie does everything around their castle while her sisters just let her.  She hunts with bow and arrow, she runs the household, nurses people back to health, protects them from intruders and takes care of her father - all without complaint.  It's all she knows and with such a good heart, it truly doesn't bother her.  She's no Cinderella waiting for her Prince Charming.  Although later on, it does annoy Alec when he hears about how she was used.  In his belief, the older daughters should have been taking care of their little sister!  Jamie is her father's favorite, though not his actual daughter by blood.  She is his stepdaughter from her mother's previous marriage who her father then raised as his own when he married her mother while she was still pregnant with Jamie.  Without question, she is the most beautiful of the daughters and when Alec comes to her father's castle to marry one of his daughters, it's Jamie whom he chooses.  There's an hilarious scene when he overhears Jamie and her sister talking to their beloved groom in the stable about what they've heard about the Scots and their outlandish ways and the pleated "gowns" they wear! So funny!
Jamie is unaware of her own beauty, she's natural and guileless - although she's not perfect.  She can be extremely stubborn though it's couched with an endearing naivete.   Alec as the laird of his clan is no nonsense, decisive and used to being obeyed without question.  He selects Jamie to be his bride and rides off to Scotland with her immediately after.  Jamie follows him, unhappy at her lot, but she obeys him, though she has a lot to learn about her new Scottish warrior husband.  Her delusions of how she'll be able to handle him are so sweet - and so unrealistic! I just loved her and she does get her way with him most of the time!  Without trying - she's irresistible - I really loved her!

*I'm so gushy over this book!*

And so begins a fabulous romance in which two totally different people learn to live and love with one another after being forced to marry.  She is the newcomer from England who must learn Alec's Scottish ways, and he has to learn how to chill out and treat her like a person and not as a possession - even though he does say at least once, "Mine!"   Both bend and make compromises.  They basically get used to married life.  Eventually they learn to trust one another and become a team as unlikely as that sounds in the Middle Ages (a few fictional liberties are taken, obviously).  Alec is the one that needs to change the most, he thinks of her as his chattel.  It's harder for him to accept his young wife's new ways, much less as an equal.  He's the consummate alpha male, set in his ways, brooking no arguments when he gives an order.  Yet he's so attracted to her from the beginning, it's hard for him to say no to those violet eyes.  This is amusing in of itself, especially the way all his men see the way he changes towards her.  For such a big and imposing man, Alec is a great and gentle lover, the love scenes between them are the best, not overdone, nor full of purple prose - just right. Their first time together is one of my all time favorites romance scenes.  A nice long build up starting with my all time favorite Julie Garwood moment when Alec says to Jamie on their wedding night as she cuddles up to him after bathing in a freezing cold pond,

"Jamie, you're wearing my plaid"

A priceless moment for she has told him that she will not let him bed her until she's wearing his plaid - and here she is totally oblivious to the fact that she's already wearing his plaid to keep warm! I laughed out loud at Alec and his cleverness - he knows what he wants and how to outsmart her!  Her initiation to sex that night is ideal and the chemistry between the two sets the tone for the rest of the book although Jamie keeps him at bay for a long time once they're back at his castle, sticking to her guns regarding "bedding" and "privacy" and "wearing his plaid."

Besides the romance scenes, there are a million little moments between this pair that are funny and clever.  Much to her own amazement, one of Jamie's little peculiarities is that she has a knack for starting clan wars at the drop of a hat! It was hilarious how she'd set off these fires unawares and then Alec's amazed reaction when he hears about his bride's latest indiscretion.  Scottish clans think nothing of going to war with the slightest provocation.  Yet, as annoyed as he gets with her, he can't get mad at her because she blithely made him promise he'd never yell or get angry at her - a promise he comes to rue over and over again for he's known for his temper!  But, the great thing is, no matter how exasperated he gets - he's always behind her one hundred percent and backs her up with all his men.  What strength - I loved it! Frankly, I loved Alec, period.  He's one of my all time favorite romance heroes.  Big and strong, commanding, fearsome, yet he turns to marshmallow inside when it comes to his adorable little English wife!

There are too many great scenes to discuss, but after their wedding night scene, my second favorite is between Jamie and the King of Scotland.  It's priceless, and one of my all time favorite Julie Garwood moments.  Jamie is unaware that she's talking to the King of Scotland who is supposed to visit their castle.  She comes upon him unexpectedly, not realizing who he is.  She's upset over her latest mishap (she has many), going on and on about her new marriage and how she thinks Alec is going to kill her over her latest.  She wants to wear his plaid now, which is really important to her, showing her love and support for his clan, but she can't get the pleats right.  She's telling this all to the king who she thinks is just some visiting lord.  Meanwhile, Alec is leaning against the door jamb listening to his zany wife go on and on with the King who actually winds up listening sympathetically to everything she's saying and then actually fixes her pleats for her!  I especially love it how she gets this vexed look on her face with the king and berates him for not paying enough attention as she tells him her long sob story.  It's very funny and Jamie is so adorable!  In many respects this reads like a screwball comedy - she is one of my all time favorite and funny heroines!

Besides the obvious romance going on between Jamie and Alec, there is also the whole mystery of who is trying to kill Jamie.  This is not an unusual plot point in a romance, but this one is well thought out.   I believe the first time I read The Bride I didn't quite figure out who was behind the murder of Alec's first wife.  Yet on listening to it this time, I realize how well Julie builds her case and reasoning of why the killer murdered his first wife.  Although Alec's wife died (everyone believed it was a suicide) we learn she left a baby daughter behind from a previous marriage.  Once Jamie finds out about the little girl, she immediately wants to retrieve her and raise her as her own.  Adopting the young daughter of Alec's dead wife is a nice way to parallel Jamie's own upbringing.  She won't let the young daughter, Mary Kathleen be raised by someone else, especially if they've been abusing her.  I was also glad that this storyline did not become center stage, which belongs to Jamie and Alec.  Yet it only underscored what a heart of gold Jamie has and how warm and compassionate a person she is.  I'm making her sound perfect - and she comes close.

As far as the audio version of this romance, it doesn't detract from the in print version at all. Rosalyn Landor does a great narration, though her voice for Alec is a little high for my own tastes, I wish it had been a man doing his voice ;) Still, the characters all came to life for me and it was an excellent rendition, you can't go wrong with it.

So, thank you for reading through my gushy homage to a favorite re-read and if you haven't checked this book out yet, go for it!  I recommend it highly to anyone that loves a highlander romance with men in kilts.     Plus, another thing I loved about it was that for once it was a book that wasn't filled with a ton of angst at the end that goes on for 50 pages where the heroine is kidnapped and the hero has to rescue her as I find in many romances. There was some tension there at the end with the murderer, but bearable. My favorite aspect of the book was  the relationship between Alec and Jamie and how they interacted. One minute they're at loggerheads with each other, the next they're just plain into each other - a totally, totally fun read!



Marie-Thérèse said...

I'm not much of an "alpha male" fan (in kilts or clad otherwise) but this does sound like a fun book and your enthusiasm is, as always, contagious! I think I'll have to look for this romance at the library the next time I visit it.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

M-T, if you like humor in your romances, then you'll like this one alpha hero or not!

Penelope said...

Hi Julie! I adore this book! It is also one of my all-time favorite romance novels, and I think I have re-read it probably 10 million times. In fact, reading your review is making me want to read it again...

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Penny - isn't it the best? As I said, I was spoiled by reading this first of all of Julie's books, I compare all her other medievals (or any other author's) to this one and they all fall short - this is her masterpiece, although I like The Secret alot as well, mainly for the hero and the humor (can you tell I'm big on humor in a romance?)

Marie-Thérèse said...

I love humour in my romances so I'll definitely have to check this one and 'The Secret' out!

Have you ever read Betina Krahn's medieval series, 'The Wife Test', 'The Husband Test' and 'The Marriage Test'? Bits of 'The Bride' sound a little like 'The Husband Test' to me and I suspect you'd like the series if you gave it a try. They're medievals with a lot of humour, strong, intelligent if sometimes naive heroines (they're novices in a nunnery, after all!) and alpha but not obnoxious heroes. Fun books if you can find them.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

M-T, I have them on my TBR list, I have to move them up now, they sound great!

Tracey said...

I know we've discussed that I love Julie Garwood before, but nothing specific. I think I read The Bride back in university along with several other of Garwood's books. I think Saving Grace was my first and favourite, but it's been so long, I remember reading it, The Prize, The Gift, etc. I've also read "Heartbreaker" and enjoyed that too. She's a very good writer.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Tracey, I still have yet to read any of her contemporaries. I'm still working my way through her historicals (reading one right now at the moment, which is a Regency). Saving Grace was okay, not a favorite of mine, I though the hero was too hard on Grace and had absolutely no sense of humor. He was so dour! But I do love an alpha hero, such as in Judith McNaught's novels and Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels. It's no wonder I loved your Darcy so much before I knew he was considered an alpha - and what an alpha! *swoon*

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