Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Secret by Julie Garwood ****

I read Garwood's The Secret because it's first in a series which contains an AAR Top 100 (Ransom) and I prefer to read books in order. This was my first Garwood book, and I guess I need a little guidance to understand her writing style.

Is it meant to be historically accurate? Funny? I wasn't sure - she has the characters say things like "Wait up" and... well, I don't have other examples, but it seemed odd. Other times she uses Nay and Aye not in character lines but just in her prose - is that to give us the feeling of Scots speech (from 1200 AD?). She doesn't use "verra", "canny", or "lass" to infer Scots speech, which I guess is good. I can only surmise that she used modern expressions that modern readers would understand and that modern readers are to assume that the characters actually used whatever would have been the vernacular and we are reading a translation, as it were. (does that even make sense?)

There's an almost Keystone-cops feel to all the discussions involving the elders - I finally figured out it must have been meant to be humorous. They all speak at once, they eavesdrop like mad, and they contradict and misunderstand each other a lot. The heroine often thinks they speak backwards, but I didn't find her speech or thinking to be exactly linear or sensible about 90% of the time either.

This is not to say I didn't like it - I did. I wasn't offended by her writing style (like I was by Stephanie Laurens') but I felt like I was missing something - something maybe obvious. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn't this.

The heroine Judith is English, raised near the Scotland border (of course, in 1200, that might have still been changing, if I recall) where she had a Scottish friend she grew up seeing once a year at the, uh, Highland games or ren faire - you know, something like that. When the Scottish woman got pregnant, she requested Judith attend the birth to fulfill a childhood promise. The woman's brother-in-law is Laird of the clan, so he fetches Judith for her. He is our beloved if surly and stubborn hero, Iain. (wonder how that is pronounced?)

Once again I'm going with the excuse that writing this from my work PC is stifling my ability to express myself. What we do get from this story is that Judith brought to the clan a lot of new-fangled and modern ideas from England - you know how modern those English could be in 1200 - and slowly won the clan over to some of her thinking. She also learned about herself, and her character development was realistic. Once I decided the book was meant to be humorous, I relaxed a little and enjoyed the ride.

OK, enough trying to figure out what I'm trying to say. I'm going with 4 stars for this read.

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