REVIEW: The Bride by Julie Garwood
Dear Ms. Garwood:
Back in 2006, Jayne and I wrote a few reviews of our all time favorite books. We primarily read and review “new to us” books whether those are new publications or recently republished backlist titles. Because of that, our archives are thin as it pertains to the books which might considered modern romance classics. The holidays are a perfect time to remedy that.
“The Bride” is one of my most often read books. I purchased it new in 1989 and proceeded to read it so many times that the spine fell apart. When Penguin (who apparently must have bought Garwood’s digital backlist titles after they reverted from her original publisher, Pocket) began rolling out the release of new titles, I snapped up my copy. At $5.99, I felt like I was getting a real bargain.
Jamie is the youngest daughter of Baron Jamison who owes the crown money. To pay his debt he offers two of his daughters to marry two Scottish Lairds to help cement a peace between Scotland and England.
In many ways, this is a twist on the Cinderella story. Jamie’s mother came to Baron Jamison with Jamie quickening in the belly. Jamison treats Jamie as his own. But Jamie pays for her place in the family by working. When her mother died, Jamie slowly but steadily took over the mistress duties and her father let her. Jamie’s hands are calloused and her step-sisters are not. She runs the keep, manages the finances, and ensures that the family has a home over their head. What saves Jamie from coming off as a pained martyr is she is portrayed as not only embracing her role as doyenne of the keep, but welcoming it. She doesn’t see herself as being used or abused by her family. When she is taken to Scotland and instructed to rest, she believes that her new husband isn’t valuing her.
The fairy godmother might be the stablemaster, Beak, a Scot himself who views the Scottish Lairds appearance at Baron Jamison’s keep as a way to give Jamie a new and better life. He confronts the two Scottish Lairds, Alec Kincaid and Daniel Ferguson, and tells them that the Baron Jamison treats his daughters like his horses:
Baron Jamison treats his daughters just like his horses and that’s a fact. Only have a look around you and you’ll get my meaning soon enough. The pretty little ladies in these three stalls are for the baron’s daughters, right there for anyone to see. But if you’ll walk down this long corridor and turn the bend, you’ll see another stall hidden away in the far corner by the side door. It’s separated from the others. That’s where the baron keeps his beauty, a magnificent white pretty just waiting for a proper mating.
Jamie is beautiful, a wonder at healing, capable of managing a huge keep, able to tame the wildest of horses. Yet, for all her perfection, she is somehow relatable. She doesn’t view herself as beautiful and every other skill she has she deems without much value. She acts as if she is ordinary even if those around her view her otherwise.
Alec Kincaid is a fierce warrior who is only taking an English Bride to appease his King. His first wife killed herself and The Kincaid, as they call him, views a wife with as much interest as he has for his horse. Despite Jamie’s beauty, her strong defense of her family, and her winsome manner, Alec still is intent on placing Jamie firmly in the wife category, much to Jamie’s dismay.
Jamie doesn’t allow Alec to walk over her. Her strong personality and the rightness she feels in her own beliefs impel her to challenge him: “Alec, if I’m not any good at kissing, it’s your fault, not mine. Maybe you aren’t any good, either. What think you of that possibility?”
Neither Jamie nor Alec change much in the story. Their character arcs are subtle. Jamie begins to see her self worth shouldn’t be tied up in how much work she does for others. Alec’s insistence on holding himself emotionally apart softens when he falls in love with Jamie. In a true melding of the best of both worlds, Jamie’s deliberate refusal to understand the intricacies of clan feuds highlights the ridiculous nature of some of them but she also comes to understand the fierce loyalty the clan system invoked. Robin once said that the key to a captivity narrative is that the captive changes the captor and his people in some measurable fashion. “The Bride” exemplifies this. Jamie is taken from her home, a forced Bride, and changes Alec and his people by adopting the best of their culture and melding in her own sensibilities to create a more harmonious life for everyone.
“The Bride” features classic Garwood tropes. The inept but beautiful heroine (usually English). The stoic, long suffering Scottish Laird who must marry to protect his people but has no intention of caring for the lass. The reluctant clan that is won over by the heroine’s dogged attempts to fit in. Humorous gags that repeat themselves throughout the book. In “The Bride,” it is Jamie’s poor sense of direction and her name.
“I’ve been in England too long,” he admitted, “else I’d find your arguments overbearing, wife.”
“Will you quit calling me ‘wife’? I have a name. Can you not call me Jamie?”
“It’s a man’s name.”
She wanted to throttle him. “It’s my name.”
“We’ll find another.”
“We will not.”
“It isn’t decent to touch like this in front of others, Alec.”
She ignored the amusement in his voice. “No, it isn’t,” she repeated. “And my name is Jamie. You’ve still to say it, Alec.”
“It’s a man’s name.”
“Are we back to that?”
“Aye, we are.”
“Did you say your name was Jane?”
“No, it’s Jamie,” she instructed.
She nodded when Gavin continued to look confused.
The soldier turned to Alec and blurted out, “But that’s a man’s name.”
Throughout the text, “that’s a man’s name” is a repeated refrain, always interjected at just the right moment to provide comedic relief. The use of repetitive phrases and motifs are not limited to humor. In the first sex scene between Jamie and Alec, the phrase “Not yet” is traded back and forth between the two, first used by Alec to signal that he isn’t ready to put an end to their activities and her introduction to intimacy and then by Jamie to inform Alec that she isn’t ready to stop.
Another writerly technique that is employed very effectively is the cliffhanger chapter endings matched by startling chapter beginnings. Chapter One starts with “They said he killed his first wife” and ends with “Still? it would make the kill so much sweeter. Chapter Three ends with:
“It will be a frigid day in heaven before I marry you, milord, a frigid day indeed.”
“You’ve just described the Highlands in winter, lass. And you will marry me.”
Exactly one hour later, Lady Jamison was wed to Alec Kincaid.
and Chapter Five begins with “She wore black to her wedding.” There are no wasted scenes in this book. Every word that is stated by the characters is important in either building the characters or advancing the plot. The use of repetition is done with obvious intent and not because of a writerly tic.
Probably nothing in this book is historically accurate, but I care not. As Jayne famously recited in her review of “The Raven Prince” by Elizabeth Hoyt: “I so believed in the romance and the world you’d created between these two that if you’d told me they got into a Range Rover and drove off into the sunset on the M25 I would have nodded and said “of course, that’s the perfect vehicle for Jock to fit into”. That is how I feel about “The Bride” and a whole series of historicals written by you. A
I absolutely agree…I LOVE this book!
Oh the sweet memories of reading so many of Julie Garwood’s historicals! Thank you, Jane!
This is the first Garwood book I read (a few months ago) and I absolutely loved it. I will read more. What one/others, next to this one, do you like?
This was also my first Julie Garwood I read. And that was just recently. I really enjoyed it.
What else by her would you recommend?
@Owen Kennedy: My favorites include “honor’s splendor”, “Secret”, “Saving Grace”, “Lion’s Lady, “Guardian Angel”. The Prize and Rebellious Desire are lower on my reading list. I really disliked Castle and Ransom which were both sequels to previous books and lacked the spirit of their predecessors.
I was also a fan of her Westerns although others disliked them.
“Probably nothing in this book is historically accurate, but I care not.”
Loved this book too but I’m surprised you didn’t tag this with the mistorical pejorative y’all were so hot to use a few months ago.
This is the first Julie Garwood book I read and I was hooked from there on out. It was wonderful for all the reasons you gave.
The two Julie Garwood books I reread the most are Saving Grace and Prince Charming.
Oh gosh, I love Julie Garwood. Her and Rebecca Paisley, Jill Barnett and Julia Quinn. I think I read each of their stories more times than I can count. They have always been my all time favorite romance writers and I just adore their humor.
They inspired me to write by showing me how utterly perfect romance and humor go together. Because of them I felt free to write what I’ve always loved – humor dashed with angst. The – I hope – witty banter between my characters, as well as the sometimes physical comedy, quirky behaviors and weird pets are my homage to those ladies. If anyone laughs at even one of my lines they way I did when I read Basket of Wishes, Minx or Splendid, I might swoon.
@Tammy – I meant to but forgot. Thanks for the reminder.
This was my first Garwood and like many others, I was hooked. I still have many of her historicals on my keeper shelf!
“The Bride” was my introduction to romance and remains a favorite of mine.
Love, love Julie Garwood’s historicals! Almost as much as I love Judith McNaught’s (still waiting impatiently for her work to be digitized!)
I LOVE this story. It was my introduction to adult romance and to this remains one of my favorites. Like Jane I have gone through several print copies.
I also discovered Julie Garwood here, the topic was virgin heroes, and someone recommended one of her books.
Thanks for that.
I love, love The Bride! This was my first introduction to Garwood and a great comfort re-read. No matter how many times I re-read the book, the enjoyment is still as good as ever.
No matter how many times I re-read the book, the enjoyment is still as good as ever.
This is why all of Julie Garwood’s historicals are on my keeper shelves — unfortunately, I have never gotten as enthused over her contemporaries.
My favorites are Honor’s Splendor and the Secret. And Saving Grace and Gentle Warrior and the Prize and….
I can’t pick a favorite. I have them all on my keeper shelf.
@Lynn: I agree. Her contemporaries does not give me the same fuzzy feelings (though I did enjoy a few of her earlier contemps but when it comes to re-reading them, meh). Which is why I am so glad that I started on her writing through her historicals and not via contemps!
I loved how this review showed what you loved in the book. Sometimes it’s hard to do that and be specific instead of generally gushy, but you did, and now I have to read it too. More all-time favorites, please!
I think it is time to unearth the Garwood collection I acquired when my Aunt abandoned them at my house. My favorite Garwood was Guardian Angel. I wonder if it still is…
OH…. memories :)
Julie Garwood was the first historical romance I ever read. I loved, loved, loved them. I went to the library and the bookstores, desperate to get all her books. I have them still and reread them at least once a year. I loved how her books had reoccurring characters and that I could “catch up” with previous couples in their happily ever after. I liked her westerns too, but her Scottish/Highland/English are my favorite. I was so bitterly disappointed when she moved to contemporary romance. Not b/c she isn’t a good author, but b/c there would be no more of these “crack’ books for me. Funny, romantic, adventure… this was what I though a historical romance should be and I remember being so sleep deprived b/c I had to finish it. I still haven’t read any of her newest, although I should.
I’m 4 books short of my goodreads goal to read 100 this year. I think I’ll re-read some JG favorites because I know I’ll finish each book and love it :)
My first Garwood was “The Wedding” when I was 14 or 15 years old, it was also the 3rd or 4th romance novel I ever read. It is actually the book that made go from liking romance novels to loving them.
Upon finishing “The Wedding”, I quickly headed up to my local library and read “The Bride”, & “Saving Grace”. Today, I have all of Garwood’s books on my shelves (except for the contemporary) and those books will always be my comfort reads.
I’ve seen Maya Banks’ disastrous new Mistoricals compared to Julie Garwood, which leads me to believe I couldn’t ever get through one of Garwood’s books.
I do care about historical accuracy – a lot. And the “humorous” Eighties romps with the stupid yet feisty heroines – well, I’m not sure I could survive hundreds of pages of that.
Now I must go re-read this! I have some time off finally and I’ve been wanting to catch up on some reading. Thanks for remding me that it’s good to revisit the past sometimes.
Totally agree with your review of The Bride. This is one of my all-time favorite books. And now that I have a digital copy I can forget about my DTB falling apart! I absolutely loved these early Garwood historicals. You hit the nail on the head with some of her oft used tropes but they work for me. Some of my other favorites include The Secret, The Wedding, Saving Grace, Lyon’s Lady, and Guardian Angel. I was THRILLED to see digital releases and have snapped up my favorites. Major comfort rereads for me. Thanks for the review.
I LOVE ‘The bride’. My first Garwood was ‘the wedding’ and when i discovered Bride, i felt like i’d been handed a treasure. I’ve read and love all her historicals. The contemporaries – not so much. Somehow they’re not as…magical….as the historicals.
Julie Garwood was an author one of my romance reading friends back in the ’90s enjoyed, but I often read the backs of her novels in the bookstore, and the descriptions never appealed to me. I think I was an annoying historical purist even when I was in grade school.
Sometimes I wonder if it helps for a person to have read books like this back when she was a kid to love them so much. The dialogue seems very ’80s sitcom to me (I’m getting “Family Ties” flashbacks)… but that probably means it’s just not my cup of tea.
I just finished reading this one, after seeing this review and hearing so many people say how much they loved it. I’ve only read one other Garwood book, Castles, which was one of my first ever romance books (and still love to this day because of it [yes, I know most others don’t care for it]).
Anywho, I did find the story cute and the characters fun (and funny), but I had trouble really getting into it, for one majorly mistorical reason. I don’t know a ton about history (especially Scottish), but I distinctly remember reading that kilts didn’t come around until sometime after the medieval period, and this book takes place in 1100ish. Now, this wouldn’t be such a big deal if they just mentioned them from time to time, but it becomes a rather large plot point. Not only the guys all walking around wearing them (and freaking out Jamie), but also Alec being so into Jamie wearing his plaid.
I looked it up, just to make sure I wasn’t making up history, and sure enough, kilts came around in the 1700s and tartan plaids as a way of signifying clans (and mostly for use during battles) even later.
Unfortunately, this one major mistorical plot point killed it for me. I guess I’ll go back to Castles, where Gardwood uses her time to make up whole countries instead of cultural practices. :-) I guess this goes to show that we all have our own brand of crazy that we can handle.
I’ve read Garwood’s Highland books so many times I’ve had to replace all of them at one point or another. My favorite would have to be Ransom, but The Bride is a close second.
I remember reading this book, my very first Julie Garwood, back in the 1oth grade. That’s been way too many years for me to count now, but I still go back to this one when I need that “romance fix”. You know . . .the sweet fix that comes from a really well written book that can make it all better. This one, and another of hers that I can’t remember the title of, but I remember a line, “I was married on a horse” ( or something similiar) are my two favorites.
Amazing book. It was THE BOOK to get me into historical fiction/romance. Saving Grace (also by her) and This is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland are ranked up there in my favorite list. :D
I never thought I would get attached with this novel, it was the second book I read and I have just finished it. I was surprised that it was written in 1869. I felt so attached with this story and I hope I can see many fans out there although it seems like it does not suit in my age because I was only 16 and some scenes is not for me to read. I really like this and tell everyone that this is indeed a good novel. I think Alec captured my heart :)