Ransom (Highlands' Lairds, #2) by Julie Garwood
Published by Pocket Books
Publication Date: November 1st 1999
Genres: Historical Romance
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An alternate cover edition can be found here.
In the dark days after the death of Richard the Lionhearted, lives and lands would fall into upheaval at the hands of a power-hungry British ruler and his violent minions. One victim of the scourge is innocent Gillian, who is a mere child when the cruel and ambitious Baron Alford slaughters her father and tears her family apart. Alford, determined to recover a jeweled box for the despotic King John, is furious when the precious treasure slips through his fingers -- only to be lost for more than a decade.
Now a beautiful young woman, Gilllian finds the key to resolving her past in handsome Scottish chieftains Ramsey Sinclair and Brodick Buchanan. With the cunning and courage of the daring Scotsmen, and with the friendship of a new ally, Bridgid KirkConnell, Gillian at last fights the unscrupulous Baron Alford, laying claim to her home, her family, and her father's reputation. But in the presence of the mighty warriors, Gillian and Bridgid discover that desire can be a weapon of conquest ... betrayal can slay trust in a heartbeat ... and the greatest risk of all is surrender -- to the deep emotions of unexpected love.
For me Ransom has to be broken into two parts. I adore the first part, which is more about Gillian’s journey to the Highlands with her young charge. The second half is more focused on the mystery aspects and on the relationship between Gillian and Brodick. The traits I love most in Gillian during the first half become way too much in the second. Brodick’s behavior goes from being sweet and funny in the beginning, to just pissing me off in the second.
Lady Gillian is at the mercy of an English Baron who has named himself her guardian. He’s looking for a jeweled box said to hold the key to explaining the unexpected death of the King’s one true love and he thinks either Gillian or her estranged sister, Christen, know where it is. With the help of a traitor from the Sinclair clan in the Highlands, the Baron has kidnapped the brother of the Laird and intends to use him to force Gillian’s sister out of hiding. If he can’t get Gillian to do it first.
Gillian vows to get Alec – who, thanks to a childish prank, isn’t even the right boy..but instead the son of Iain Maitland – home. In order to do so, after she escapes from the Baron, she sends a message to Laird Brodick Buchanan saying she’s his bride and he needs to come collect her. Once Brodick arrives he and his men decide they’re going to keep her.
But Gillian isn’t interested in getting married, for she knows finding Arianna’s Treasure (the jeweled box the Baron is after) and saving her Uncle Morgan are her first priorities Plus, there’s a good chance she may not survive….except Brodick is determined that she will.
The first part of this book is dedicated to Gillian and Alec making their way from her childhood home in England to Alec’s home in the Highlands of Scotland. Her strength and courage are really showcased as she takes a beating to keep Alec safe, sneaks out of the keep and uses her intelligence and common sense to keep them alive while they wait for Brodick to arrive. She’s a fierce champion for Alec and a strong heroine. I’d even say she’s one of Garwood’s best during this part of the book.
The way Garwood tells the story really drew me in and had me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how Gillian and Alec would get home and how the Lairds would react once they did. The journey with Brodick and his warriors to the Maitland holding was interesting and engaging. Especially once they reach Annie Drummond’s cottage so Gillian’s arm could be healed. That’s one of the best parts of the novel.
During this time, Brodick is sweet and funny. Yes, he’s extremely arrogant and somewhat overbearing, but that’s tempered by his kindness and tenderness toward both Gillian and little Alec. It was easy to understand how Gillian fell in love with him.
The mystery revolving around why Alec was taken and Gillian finding her sister really pulled me in. I couldn’t wait for her to tell the Lairds her story and see how it would play out.
Then we come to Part 2.
This is where the story fell apart for me. Gillian, Brodick and Ramsey Sinclair, the laird whose younger brother was meant to be taken, travel to the Sinclair holding so they can try to figure out who the traitor is and find Gillian’s sister. Brodick tricks Gillian into marrying him. She thinks they became betrothed but really they got married.
That’s the beginning of the end for me. It’s meant to be funny, I think, but a woman should know when she’s getting married. Not to mention Brodick then uses her feelings for him – she admits she loves him – to manipulate her for the rest of the book. He makes promises and then breaks them, pushes her into doing things she doesn’t want to do and flat out lies to her.
I understood Gillian’s need to go to England to follow through and keep her uncle safe. But if Brodick had been willing to talk to her and share his plans, she would have made different decisions. She’s up front and honest with him from the beginning, while he’s secretive and conniving. The reason he lies is supposedly to keep her safe, but it didn’t read that way for me.
Where Gillian was independent and level-headed during the first half of the book, in the second she makes silly decisions and gets herself into trouble because she doesn’t think things through. I mostly blame this on Brodick, though, since he’s the one who lies to her and keeps her in the dark.
There’s also a secondary romance between Laird Ramsey and one of his followers, Brigid KirkConnell. She’s been in love with him forever, but he didn’t even know she existed until he’s forced to turn down several men who want her hand in marriage (his father promised her she could choose her own husband). We met Ramsey, along with Brodick, in the first book, The Secret. I was intrigued by him and looked forward to reading his story. Unfortunately, I feel like he got the shaft. He deserved his own book. I really liked Brigid, but they weren’t given enough page time to make their romance believable.
If the first half had carried on like the second half this may well have been my favorite Garwood ever. As it stands I have to say the second half really marred my overall enjoyment.
First half: 4.5 out of 5
Second half: 2 out of 5
Overall grade 2.75 out of 5 – the first half isn’t enough to save the story for me.