Tag: Highlands

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted February 22, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Reviews | 15 Comments

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Holly
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Ransom
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 2008
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General
Pages: 438
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Throughout her acclaimed writing career, Julie Garwood has captivated readers with characters who are compelling, daring, and bursting with life. Now one of the most popular novelists of our time proudly returns to her beloved historical romance roots–in a thrilling tale of love, murder, adventure, and mystery set against the haunting landscape of medieval Scotland.
For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows–skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England’s most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle’s marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.
For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom–when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.
Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle’s bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle’s body nor heart is safe.
A gripping novel that delves into the heart of emotions–unyielding passions of love, hate, revenge, and raw desire–Shadow Music is magnificent gift from Julie Garwood and a crowning achievement in her amazing career.
From the Hardcover edition.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

Man, I love me some early Julie Garwood historicals. She lost me with her romantic suspense. I remember being so excited when she announced she was releasing a new historical. I’m still pretty disappointed it didn’t live up to my expectations. I wonder what would happen if I read it now? I might need to reread it and see if I still feel the same. 

This review was originally published January 8, 2008

This is less a review about this particular book and more my thoughts on the writing of Julie Garwood. Casee reviewed the book here. You can check that out for a plot summary and her thoughts, for they mostly mirrored mine.

Throughout her career, JG has remained a favorite of mine. Well, let me clarify. Prior to Killjoy she was a favorite of mine. Her historicals still call to me on occasion and I find myself picking them up at random, anxious to sink into an old, comfortable story, similar to how I might slip on my favorite sweats after a long day at work, or pop in a favorite DVD if I’ve had a particularly bad day.

But after Killjoy, not only did I think contemps were not her thing, I decided her writing itself deteriorated. The last novel I read by her was Slow Burn. While I enjoyed the basic premise behind it, I was sadly disappointed in the actual writing. Sentences were choppy, paragraphs seemed to bleed together, or go in odd directions that made no sense to me, dialogue was stilted, characters were half formed or one dimensional. I thought the plot was an awesome one, and had it been better fleshed out it had the potential to become her best written novel yet. But instead it fell far short.

After that, I decided not to read another of her contemps. I told myself, and others, that I’d buy her again if she went back to historicals, but otherwise I was done with her. I removed her from my auto-buy list and comforted myself with her old historicals, the ones that got me hooked on romance to begin with.

Then the announcement came. That yes, Julie Garwood, historical legend, would be returning to her roots. Love her older historicals or hate them, you can’t deny she’s a basic staple in romance. I was happy to hear she’d be returning, but somewhat apprehensive. Because although the moment I’d been waiting for had finally come, I was concerned about her actual writing style. The way she wove a story back when was unconventional perhaps, but still engaging. I didn’t think she’d be able to return to that, not after seeing evidence of her decline in her more recent novels.

I’m sad to say I was correct. She may have done quite a bit of head-hopping in her previous novels, but the focus remained on the two main protagonists. In this novel, however, she chose to write in a more narrative style than from one POV or another. So I was constantly pulled out of the story by her glossing over things, or seeming to sum things up. Very frustrating.

I’m also extremely unclear about how they H/H came to fall in love. There was hardly any interaction between the two, and what there was was disjointed and…once again, glossed over. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to her writing. A chapter would start out from one POV or another, and then half-way through she’d jump into a narrative style, summing things up rather than allowing us as readers to follow the progress.

I suppose it would be like me starting a story, in which I use rich, colorful detail and much humor only to say, once you’re engaged and intrigued, “Blah blah, yada, yada, you get what I mean” and then just leave it at that. Frustrating, no?

There were some good parts. When the POV was written from either the hero or heroine, I was drawn into the story. Unfortunately, those parts were few and far between, and when they did happen, they didn’t last long. The basic premise was also a good one, and classic Garwood. Sadly, the point of the plot was lost somewhere in the muddle of switching from one writing style to another, the jumping between characters and places (i.e., from the Barons in England to the clans in the Highlands to the heroine to the hero to the guards of the heroine to her father back to the barons to the king of England, etc, etc) and the mass amount of inconsistencies presented.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read for this book said the Priests provided a lot of comic relief, but I didn’t really see that. Sure, there were some amusing parts, but I think I assumed they played a bigger part in the overall story (with actual read time, I mean) and that just didn’t seem to be the case.

I’m sure I’ll end up buying her next book (assuming she continues to write historicals), just to see if she somehow improves…hmm, or perhaps that’s not the right word. Regresses into her old writing habits? Goes back to being the Garwood I knew and loved? I’m not sure. I have a feeling I’m going to be sorely disappointed when (if) that time comes, however.

On a related note: Ange, The Romance Groupie, posted about this book on Saturday. I mentioned my disappointment in the overall writing in the comments, and she responded with this:

Actually, I’ve noticed that many of the popular authors appear to be going down in the quality department. I’m wondering if it’s the editors, publishers, etc. that are ruining it. It just seems strange that so many great authors have gone bad in the last year or so. Is it just me? Are you seeing this trend too?

I thought about it some, and yes, I have to agree. Some of my favorite authors have seriously declined in the last few years. Could it be because of the publishers or editors? Or is it just simply something with them personally?

Regardless, I’m disappointed.

Even though I said this was less a review and more my thoughts on JG’s writing as a whole, I’ll still rate the book:

2.5 out of 5

You can buy it here in hardback or in eBook format here. When I bought it from Books on Board, they were offering a $5 cash-back incentive, bringing the total book price down to $9.95. I’m not sure if they’re still offering the promotion, but you could email them to see.

two-half-stars

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Guest Review: Ravished by a Highlander by Paula Quinn

Posted August 24, 2010 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments

Tracy’s review of Ravished by a Highlander (Children of the Mist #1) by Paula Quinn

Forbidden Love

Davina Montgomery is no ordinary English lady. For her own protection, she’s been locked away from society, her true identity the Crown’s most closely guarded secret. Until a shocking betrayal–and a bold rescue–land her in the arms of a fierce Highlander, a powerful warrior whose searing gaze and tantalizing touch awaken her body and soul.

Undeniable Desire
As the firstborn son of a powerful Scottish laird, Robert MacGregor has no loyalty to the English throne, but he’s not the kind of man to leave a woman in distress, even if she is English. He vows to deliver Davina to safety, unharmed and untouched. Yet one stolen kiss leaves them both smoldering with desire…and desperate for more. With Davina’s secret threatening to destroy his clan, Rob must choose between everything he holds dear and the one woman he can’t live without.

Davina has been raised in a convent. She’s had an army protecting her, but it seems that it’s not enough to save the nuns when they are attacked. When Rob MacGregor and his friends and family come upon the convent they don’t hesitate to help out and try to save them. But the only one who truly needs protection is Davina, though she won’t say why. Rob decides that he will help her and then they’ll be on their way, but Rob and Davina end up having a connection that neither can deny. Rob decides to take Davina to his home Camlochlin, knowing that it’s truly the only place that she will ever be safe. Not only does their love grow, but it puts them in a very precarious position.

Though this is book 1 in the Children of the Mist series I’d say it’s a continuation of the MacGregor series. Rob is the firstborn son to Callum MacGregor who we first read about in Laird of the Mist. There seem to be quite a few children so hopefully this will be a nice long series.

The story was a good one and quite engaging. Both Rob and Davina are quite charismatic characters and the love story between the two was beautiful in its simplicity. Even though there were quite significant reasons to not be together they defied everyone. A lot of times that doesn’t work for me in a book but in this case I loved it. I can’t wait to read Seduced by a Highlander which comes out in September.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

The Series:
Ravished by a HighlanderSeduced by a Highlander

You can read more from Tracy at Tracy’s Place

This book is available from Forever. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

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Guest Review: Devil’s Highlander by Veronica Wolff

Posted August 17, 2010 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 1 Comment

Judith‘s review of Devil’s Highlander (Clan MacAlpin, Book 1) by Veronica Wolff.

After Scotland’s civil wars, the orphaned brothers and sisters of the MacAlpin Clan reclaimed the abandoned Dunnottar Castle as their birthright. Hardened in battle and haunted by family secrets, these fiery Highlanders must rely on each other as they right the wrongs of their troubled history.

Cormac MacAlpin lost his innocence too young–he has always blamed himself for the kidnapping of his twin brother, Aidan. He turned away from his childhood friend, Marjorie Keith, denying the propect of happiness with the young woman who loved him, even as a child. Now a tormented war hero, working as a fisherman, Cormac is speechless when Marjorie comes to him with an appeal for help–a poor city boy she has been caring for has disappeared, reminding her of long-lost Aidan. their bond of shame once thwarted a budding romance and threatens to again–but Cormac and Marjorie are adults now, with needs too powerful tokeep locked away.

There is perhaps no greater force that shapes human lives than guilt and shame. We like to think that love makes the world go round, as put forth in a popular song, but in truth I have found that so many people are impacted by events that make even the greatest and nicest happenings unacceptable, all because of lingering guilt and shame. So it was with Cormac and Marjorie–each laced with guilt over Aidan’s kidnapping 13 years earlier, so much so that they have moved out of each other’s lives. Marjorie is convinced that Cormac hates her; Cormac, on the other hand, believes that his failure to protect his brother and the horrors of war make him unworthy of Marjorie’s love. Oh brother . . .

A goodly portion of this book does detail how the efforts to find Davy bring these two together, forcing them to talk, remember, open their hearts, explore their guilt, and try to find a path down which they can journey, at least as friends if not more. Of course, this is a romance novel, so we know that it is a love story. But don’t be fooled: this is not your usual love story and these two don’t find an easy resolution to their difficulties. First there is the finding of Davy; then there is the whole matter of enslaving poverty stricken boys, taken off the streets while their are working or playing, all because the greedy slavers have convinced themselves that they are giving these kids a “chance at a new life.” (And we all know that the rationale for slavery down through the generations where varied and and widespread.) This is just one. Then there is the whole matter of the missing brother, and throughout the telling of this tale the author keeps inserting people and happenings that are unexpected and vastly interesting. I don’t think very many people will figure this book out easily.

So, in the final analysis, I have to say that this is a very enjoyable novel, quite entertaining, and a good read. I do think that some of the latter chapters are somewhat ponderous, but perhaps that is just me. However, I was very glad to have read it, and I hope that those who find joy in reading of the Clans will find this book equally inviting.

I give it a rating of 3.75 out of 5.

This book is available from Berkley. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

The series:

Devil's Highlander (A Clan MacAlpin Novel)

You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place.

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Lightning Review: Highland Wedding by Hannah Howell

Posted March 8, 2008 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Lightning Review: Highland Wedding by Hannah HowellReviewer: Holly
Highland Wedding by Hannah Howell
Series: Highland Brides #2
Also in this series: His Bonnie Bride
Published by Open Road Media
Publication Date: April 29th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, Scottish, General
Pages: 296
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-stars

The vivid scar that spans Sir Iain MacLagan’s cheek is a daily reminder of the wife he lost—and of the enemy that still stalks him. Commanded by Scotland’s king to remarry in order to unite two powerful border clans, lain reluctantly weds Islaen MacRoth, a woman whose delicate appearance belies a playful, seductive nature that proves dangerously attractive to a man who has vowed never to jeopardize his heart, or his loved ones, again . . . 

Raised with eleven boisterous brothers, Islaen has little time for foolish romantic notions. Even so, she hoped for more than a forced marriage to a man who shares her bed, but not her life. Step by step, Islaen sets out to wear down Iain's defenses. 

This is the sequel to His Bonnie Bride, one of my most favorite books of all time. Unfortunately, I think perhaps my expectations were too high, because this one fell far short.

Both the hero and heroine were good characters, and they plot had the same elements I’ve always enjoyed in HH novels before, but for some reason, this one just didn’t work for me. It might have been because the story was just a bit too real. I realize there was a lot of fighting in this time period (especially in the Highlands) but it seemed to me there was more violence in this story than there normally is. And while that doesn’t usually bother me (honestly? I like a bit of violence in my novels) this one was just over the top with it. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it?

Regardless, though well written, it’s not a favorite or one I’ll be picking up again any time soon.

3.0 out of 5

The Series:
His Bonnie Bride
Highland Wedding

three-stars

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Review: His Bonnie Bride by Hannah Howell

Posted March 5, 2008 by Holly in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: His Bonnie Bride by Hannah HowellReviewer: Holly
His Bonnie Bride by Hannah Howell
Series: Highland Brides #1
Also in this series: Highland Wedding
Published by Kensington Publishing Corp.
Publication Date: June 5th 2012
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General
Pages: 352
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

New York Times bestselling author Hannah Howell traverses the embattled border between England and Scotland, where two warring families prolong centuries of discord. . .
Storm Eldon was first caught up in the war between England and Scotland as a young girl, when she and her family were held hostage by their sworn enemies, the MacLagans. Years later, Storm finds herself trapped in the clutches of her Scottish adversaries once again. Now she must fight to preserve her loyalties, guard her virtue, and resist the charms of Tavis MacLagan, her handsome Highland captor. . .
Praise for Hannah Howell and her Highland novels
"Few authors portray the Scottish highlands as lovingly or colorfully." --Publishers Weekly
"Another classic." --Romantic Times

This is one of my favorite Hannah Howell books. I originally discovered this about 5 years ago, and now my copy is so tattered it’s falling apart at the seams.

Storm Eldon is the favored oldest daughter of an English Marsh Lord. We first meet her when she, her brothers and her cousins are kidnapped by their life long enemies the MacLagans, a clan of Highlanders. Her father is in the middle of a battle with the clan and her step-mother thinks it would be fun to take the kids and have a picnic whilst watching the battle. No, she isn’t the sharpest too in the shed.

That’s the first time Storm meets Tavis. After cleaning up a cut on Tavis’ father’s arm, they’re eventually ransomed back to Storm’s father. Seven years later, Storm is once again kidnapped by Tavis and his brothers. They take her back to their keep, planning to ransom her again, but this time her father is out of the country and her step-mother refuses to meet their demands.

It’s generally known that during this time period, a hostage was free game to whomever wanted to take her. But Tavis declares Storm off limits to anyone but himself. He agrees to try and woo her, but eventually makes his intentions clear. She will share his bed.

But outside intrigues, in the form of Tavis’ mistress and Storm’s family – threaten to take Storm from him. Though he refuses to admit he cares for her, it soon becomes obvious he would do anything for her.

This a passionate love story that really moved me. One of the things Hannah Howell excels at is writing strong heroines. Especially considering the times. They don’t cower before their men, they don’t hold back and they have deep wells of inner strength. In my opinion, Storm Eldon is the epitome of everything a heroine should be.

Though she knows her evil step-mother won’t ransom her, she holds out hope that when her father returns from war he’ll keep her safe. In the meantime, she knows she can’t keep Tavis from her bed. Instead of fighting the inevitable, she succumbs, knowing she’ll have pleasure. But she doesn’t except to come to care for Tavis. And even more, once she admits she has feelings for him, she knows nothing will ever come of it, because they’re families are bitter enemies.

This is an epic love story, filled with fiery passion, tender moments and amazing characterizations. The secondary characters are well fleshed out, but don’t detract from the main story. I was truly chilled by Storm’s step-mother, and laughed myself silly over the antics of her brothers and cousins. Tavis’ family is a riot and one I could see myself being part of. The way he interacts with his brothers and father is grand, and even Storm finds herself falling in love with them.

A must read for any lover of historical romances set in the Highlands.

4 out of 5

The series:
His Bonnie Bride
Highland Wedding

four-stars

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