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…
HelenKay: The Bride was the first romance I ever read. Up until then, I had been an avid reader but no romance novels, thank you. Yeah, one of those. Then Julie Garwood came along with her alpha heroes, her soft on the outside tough on the inside heroines, her sexy and witty banter and her romance with a splash of mystery, and I was hooked. This one will always be special and this read – probably my 10th – brought as much enjoyment as the first time.
H: Scottish historical romances are not your usual choice and Garwood is not an auto-buy for you. Did her writing style in The Bride work for you or draw you into the story and the lives of Alec and Jamie?
W: Before we go any farther, I have to say that I’m not the only one here who would usually rather jab a stick in their eye than read this particular subgenre. I found this choice from you stunning. A Scottish historical, with a hero and heroine who can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees, in a story that lacks pulsing adventure and often loses sight of the conflict, is what I think of as the opposite of what you like to read. Really, I can’t wrap my mind around it.
To answer the question, as with other works by Garwood, I found The Bride simple, straightforward, and linear. There is nothing overly complex about the storytelling or the characters. And, once I let go of the expectation of being dazzled by intricate and multifaceted writing, the straightforwardness had its charm. There is something very comfortable about reading Garwood, she doesn’t bother to stay a step ahead of the reader, but instead allows the reader along for the ride as though the story is unfolding for reader and writer simultaneously.
H: Garwood manages to mix romance and mystery with a bit of comedy. The result, for me, is charming with solid pacing and a believable and building romance. Did you find the competing aspects of the book balanced and even, or did any part suffer from what you viewed as Garwood’s decision to take on too much at one time?
W: The central focus here is the romance and everything else Garwood brings in is to further that cause. Garwood creates many setups, such as Jamie rearranging Alec’s kitchen, that play on some basic—though humorous—misunderstanding that can crop up between men and women. She uses these incidents to bring Jamie and Alec together and clue them in to how they feel about one another. The same is true of the mystery storyline: if not for the death of Alec’s first wife he wouldn’t be in a position to marry Jamie. Knowing that the killer wants to eliminate Jamie brings in a ticking clock aspect to the book and sets an expectation in the reader that Alec and Jamie will be brought closer together via the danger.
H: There have been some rumblings in the romance reading and writing communities about the portrayal of Scottish Lairds and historical Scotland. Were you offended by the tone, the setting or Alec’s character?
W: Offended? No. But, I approach any Historical romance the same way I do Steampunk—as an alternate history that didn’t happen and in no way is meant to be accurate. That is not to say that I am not aware of how inappropriate the tone is to the setting. It’s clear that Garwood is moving her hero and heroine around on a stage that is 1100 Scotland rather than letting them really inhabit that time and space. No one has to reread Beowulf to know that Garwood’s characters aren’t speaking a form of English that would have been recognizable in the time the story is set or for that matter they aren’t thinking, caring or acting as people in 1100 Scotland might have. With a novel like this either you give yourself over to it and enjoy it for what it is, or you don’t and then nitpick the inaccuracies.
H: The premise of The Bride is based on the "typical" historical romance construct of the arranged marriage/marriage of convenience. Did the storyline feel fresh and believable or did it suffer from the same-old-thing problem?
W: Perhaps the most succinct answer for this is to simply say that around page 200 I realized the sense of déjà vu I’d experienced from page one was because I’d read this book before (not only from other authors offering this storyline, but this very book). The construct and plot points are very familiar on the romance landscape. Every single one that Garwood presents here has been done and done and done.
H: Alec started my long romance with alpha heroes. His brute strength, solid character and eventual vulnerability to Jamie won me over. Did he rise above bully status to hero status?
W: Alec never struck me as a bully. Something that I associate with Garwood heroes—though my reading of her is not terribly extensive—is their immediate admiration, closely followed by feelings of tenderness toward the heroine. In this regard, Alec was no different. At first he was surprised and amused that a mere slip of a girl like Jamie would dare stand up to him, not too long thereafter he put her safety and needs before his own. Even at first, when he vacillated between blustery and aloof he always liked Jamie, and I think that tones down his more overbearing traits.
H: Jamie is everything I usually hate in a heroine – a young, naive, virginal teen. But, she grows and changes and gets stronger. Did you find her to be a good contrast and the right mate for Alec or just another young whining heroine?
W: Jamie is a standard issue heroine. She has skills and experience beyond what she should, given her station in life and this makes her most remarkable and lovable to those that encounter her. She takes care of her father and everyone and everything at her father’s home. She interprets anything outside of her limited world view as wrong or less than intelligent. She starts wars with only the best of intentions and brings peace through her blunders. She is good to a fault—even bringing in Alec’s first wife’s child to raise as her own. She befriends all, and even manages to charm those set to hate her. Alec comes to love her—as far as I can tell—because she’s just so cute with her dander up.
H: For me, one of the strengths of this book is character development. Jamie goes from the semi-forgotten daughter in a Baron’s home, to the second wife of a leader, to a woman in her own right. Alec goes from an "all work" attitude to a "I want a full and real life" view. Do you agree that Garwood managed to make these characters come alive and mature in 350 pages?
W: Is there really character development? There is so little internal conflict for Alec or Jamie that growth clearly isn’t the goal. Besides falling in love with one another, do either Alec or Jamie have a character arc? Not that I can see. As the book opens, Jamie is the center of her father’s world, smarter and more hard working than anyone—besides perhaps, Beak—is aware of, and running everything. As the book closes Jamie is the center of husband’s world, still smart and more accomplished than anyone around her truly understands—though everyone is catching on—and she’s still running the show. But does Jamie really learn to take care of herself? Not so much. Does she learn that problems can best be solved without her meddling? No, in the last scene of the book she rushes out headlong to prevent a war with England. I don’t believe Jamie undergoes personal growth, as much as I believe those around her come to accept her.
Alec arrives on the scene as the Alpha male who marries because the King tells him to and by book’s end he’s the Alpha male who’s found love, but he doesn’t move beyond that because Garwood doesn’t give a place to go.
Had Garwood chosen to allow Alec and Jamie to complete one another instead of accessorize one another, I believe that would have contributed to real and substantial growth for both characters.
H: There are several bit players, including Jamie’s family, Alec’s clan and Alec’s entourage. All play a role, even if that role is to make the reader aware of something about the main characters. For example, Jamie’s sister and her childish attitude and behavior help the reader to see Jamie as the stronger and wiser of the siblings. Did these third parties add to the story or take away from the main action?
W: Overall I believe the secondary, and on down the line, characters served to reinforce the main characters. However, in the case of Jamie’s sister Mary, I was aware, towards the end of the book, that her arc hadn’t come to an end (since the main characters didn’t have much growth, Mary’s arc stood out for me). And, instead of concentrating on how things would wrap up with the main characters/storyline, I was pulled from that action to wonder when and if Garwood would bring things back around to Mary.
H: Did the book end at the right place? There is an end wrap-up to the mystery then the book continues for a few more pages on the issue of Andrew, the man Jamie’s father pledged her to marry before Alec chose her as his wife. Are all the subplots neatly and simultaneously resolved in your view?
W: Ah, Andrew, I was sure Garwood had forgotten about him. Allowing Andrew and the unfinished business with all the clan Lairds to wrap up after the mystery aspect was an odd choice. The book starts with the death of Alec’s first wife and the demented ramblings of the unnamed killer, and Garwood weaves more of these rambling throughout the book so that the threat to Jamie’s life is ever present. The mystery aspect is far more important than Andrew—an unneeded, and largely ignored, subplot if ever there was one—or the clan Lairds acceptance of Jamie, and therefore to wrap these up before the end of the true external conflict seems more natural.
H: Historical romances are not my favorites but a Garwood Scottish romance always grabs my attention and doesn’t let up until the final page. What about you – would you read Garwood again or was once enough for you?
W: If I never read another Scottish historical, I could somehow carry on. As for Garwood, the day might very well come when I whine until you agree to let me have For The Roses as an oldie pick.