The Secret (Highlands' Lairds #1) by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #1
Also in this series: Ransom, Ransom (Highlands' Lairds, #2), Shadow Music
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: May 1st 1992
Genres: Historical Romance
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Judith Hampton was as beautiful as she was proud, as purposeful as she was loyal. The dear Scottish friend of her childhood was about to give birth, and Judith had promised to be at her side. But there was another, private reason for the journey from her bleak English home to the Highlands to meet the father she had never known, the Laird Maclean. Nothing prepared her for the sight of the Scottish barbarian who was to escort her into his land...Iain Maitland, Laird of his clan, a man more powerfully compelling than any she had ever encountered.
In a spirited clash of wills and customs, Judith revelled in the melting bliss of Iain's searching kisses, his passionate caresses. Perplexed by her sprightly defiance, bemused by her tender nature, Iain felt his soul growing into the light and warmth of her love. Surely nothing would wrench her from the affection and trust of Iain and his clan...not even the truth about her father, a devastating secret that could shatter the boldest alliance, and the most glorious of loves.
Judith Hampton and Frances Catherine became friends at a young age, before they knew it was wrong. Over the years their friendship not only held, but grew stronger. Judith made a promise to Frances Catherine that when it was time for her to have her first child she’d attend her. Only there’s a problem; Judith is English and Frances Catherine is married to the brother of a Highland Laird. To say the Highlanders are unhappy about the promise is an understatement. As a matter of fact, they’re convinced Judith, as an Englishwoman, has no intention of keeping her word.
They’re thoroughly surprised, however, when they arrive in England and Judith is ready and willing to go. Iain Maitland, the laird, is especially surprised. Not only is the Englishwoman willing to keep her word, but he finds her beautiful in the extreme. He knows there are way too many complications and he can’t keep her, especially since his clan is currently in turmoil since he just stepped up as laird. That doesn’t stop him from wanting her though.
Judith is surprised to see the laird of Frances Catherine’s clan himself. She never would have expected that he’d be the one to fetch her..nor that he be so handsome. Though she tries to fight it, she can’t help but be attracted to him. As they travel to the Highlands, she finds herself falling completely under his spell.
But things aren’t going to be easy for her in Scotland. Her father – whom she’s never met – is an enemy of the Maitland’s, the clan midwives are terrible harpies who only want to inflict pain, and her attraction to Iain is one step away from turning to love.
I really adore this book. This is a full-bodied story that really transports the reader back in time. Garwood often writes about weightier issues, and this novel is no exception. Here she tackles the misguided way the church treated women.
I loved the way Judith stood up for herself and the other women of the clan, often putting herself out or making a fool of herself in the process. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. Her frustration over the way the clanswomen were treated was well written. I loved that Iain stood behind her and supported her. Though he was as arrogant as they come, he still valued Judith and her opinion.
The way Judith and Iain battle their attraction, but are unable to keep away from each other, is beautifully written. There is much humor peppered throughout the story, especially when it comes to the council and Iain’s soldiers. The way Graham and the the other elders bickered and confused matters made for some great reading, as did the way Brodick, Liam and Ramsey all tripped over themselves around Judith.
Parts of it are over the top – especially the wedding. While I’m sure it was meant to be extremely amusing, it’s something Garwood often does in her novels and I tend to just roll my eyes through those scenes. The way some of the conflicts were resolved came about a bit too easily..everything was wrapped up in a nice tight bow. While part of me appreciates that, I also find it just a bit too trite.
Overall this is an emotionally compelling read, rich with the flavor of the highlands and wonderful characters. Reading it was like coming home to good friends, ones I wasn’t even aware I’d been missing until they were with me again.
4.5 out of 5
This book is available from Pocket. You can buy it here.