by Julie Garwood
Book 1 of Lairds' Fiancées
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 thought 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...
Because there's an almost ridiculously comedic vibe to Julie Garwood's writing style, I couldn't find it in me to give this book less than a very average rating of 2.5 Stars. I remember coming across a review while perusing Historical Romance novels that described this book as rather shallow and really only good for the "lols", but not much else. And I feel like it's pretty spot on.
Mind you, I went back and forth on my like and dislike of everything in this book, starting with the 'Angelic Mary Sue' character of Jamie Jamison, to the arrogant and always angry, yet has a heart of gold hero, Alec Kincaid. The book also didn't lend itself any help when I came to the realization of what Medieval Romance and Highlander Romance entailed... I mean, it wasn't like it totally slipped my mind just how terrible women were treated during that era in history, but I guess it sort of DID slip my mind, if that makes any sense.
The forced marriages, the forced consummation of the marriages, the fact that women were treated like property... There were more than one reference implying that women were no better than sheep or horses, and one of the lairds even got more offended his horse had been abused by our heroine, screaming about how "It's one thing to insult the wife, but, oh no, you did NOT just slap my horse!"
I fully admit it--I needed to adjust my mindset. I know history was never kind to women. I've admitted this before when I was reading a Chinese historical by Jeannie Lin. I get it. But I don't have to like it. Maybe that's why I tend to lean more towards historical fiction where the women (and sometimes the men) are maybe too modern for their era. Maybe it's not as historically accurate, but it doesn't turn me all ragey.
Except that I'm of the impression that things can still be handled MUCH better. Which, in a way, Julie Garwood kind of manages to do... sort of... maybe... I don't know.
Because, as I'd stated earlier, there's a strange comedic charm to Julie Garwood's writing style, which, when you set aside everything I didn't like about this book, kind of shines through rather well. There were moments when I thought the book was definitely getting a little bit better. There were moments when I did find it in myself to give a light chuckle.
But those moments are so random and so out-shined by the things I didn't like.
I would say that Jamie was the most cliched Mary Sue I've ever read about, but that wouldn't be true, because I've encountered worse. But she's definitely a top ten contender. I mean, basically Jamie is everything from self-sacrificing, to hard working, to beautiful, to kind, to forgiving, to knowing how to ride a horse bareback, being able to heal, having the ability to make everyone fall in love with her, and also manages to run around saving children from rampant wild boar. She can also, apparently, shoot an arrow dead center at a target from miles away, as well as throw a dagger with super human accuracy.
Did I also mention that she's angelic and beautiful? Even though SHE doesn't think she's beautiful... and deliberately fishes for compliments on at least two occasions.
The one and ONLY flaw that Garwood gives her is that she has a terrible sense of direction.
And in my personal opinion, I also find her extremely clueless and easily distracted. The fact that her common sense and her comprehensive skills were drastically diminished after her first sexual intercourse encounter did not escape my notice. And why is it that so many stories MUST turn so many women into idiots after they fall in love or have sex? Those first two or three chapters had a rather agreeably sensible and intelligent Jamie, to be honest. Then her thinking capacity dwindles as the book progresses.
And somehow her fragile emotions kept being brought up again and again. So now, aside from being a Mary Sue, she's also a speshul snowflake with thin skin and easily disturbed emotions? Or are the men just treating her like a baby, because it kind of seems more that way, really. If it's one thing I've noted about Jamie, it's that she doesn't have as sensitive and easy to hurt feelings as every one of the men are making her out to have. Men are strange...
I could probably go back through and count how many times someone states that he doesn't want her sensitive feelings to be hurt, and so doesn't bother telling her the truth about a lot of things. Especially about the fact that her life is in danger and someone's trying to kill her. THAT NEVER WORKS IN ANY PLOT! If someone was trying to kill me, I would like to know so that I can take the proper precautions, ya know? Rather than cluelessly stumbling into a freakin' bear cave 'cause no one wanted to scare me with the knowledge of it's being there.
Meanwhile, I only have one thing to say about Alec. He's arrogant, annoying, violent, and has no sense of personal boundaries. He's apparently super sensitive to Jamie's feelings and understands that when she says "no," she actually means "yes." Oooh... Heaven help me from arrogant fools. That stuff might have been fly during the 1100s in Scotland, but I'm kicking shins, calling 911, and running if I ever run into anyone like that in my lifetime.
On a side note, I think I'm going to give it some time before coming back to the second book in this duology, The Wedding... if at all. It was written a few years after this first book, so maybe there's been some... difference in ideals? I get that The Bride is considered a classic romance of some sort, but it looks like I'm destined to be a dissenter on this one. Oh well, you can't please everyone, I guess.