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Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Secret by Julie Garwood

Judith Hampton was as beautiful as she was proud and loyal. Her dear Scottish friend from 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, however, 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 reveled 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!

No matter how many times I re-read this one, it never fails to make me smile, laugh out loud or sigh in contentment as though it were the very first time I read it. Iain Maitlands' arrogance and Judith's innocence as well as the deep friendship demonstrated between Judith and Frances Catherine, provide just the right combination to pull off a fabulous story.

We first meet Judith when she's about 4 years old, while she's attending the annual border fair. It is at this fair that she befriends Frances Catherine, when Judith tries to impress Frances Catherine by protecting her from a bothersome bee. The two automatically hit it off and it's outright funny to see how the two complement each other and begin to pick up each others habits, much to Frances Catherine's father's chagrin. Over the years, the two become inseparable and form the sort of friendship that would make anyone envious. Their loyalty to one another is absolute and unwavering - even when they realise that they shouldn't be friends at all. It is because of this loyalty that Frances Catherine requests that Judith make the long journey from England, to the highlands to be there for the birth of her first child. And it is here that Iain and Judith are thrown into each other's lives.

Iain Maitland was a mean son-of-a-b*tch when he was riled....that is the very first line we get about our hero, and boy, was I hooked on him from there. (Yeah, I know I'm a sucker for the alpha male) Iain is a man of authority and conviction, moreover, he knows he could get any fit solider to do his bidding with a mere nod. Not because he's a bad ass, but because he's worked his ass off and his clan members respect him and perhaps, even fear him.

He's used to shouldering on alot of responsibility, having singlehandedly raised his younger brother Patrick (who is married to Frances Catherine) at a young age, and trained to be of the fittest warriors to grace the Highlands. In fact, he's the youngest highlander to ever be appointed as the clan Laird. So it's only expected for Iain to be an arrogant son of a gun, and boy..is he. But not in an irritating, get-over-yourself way..I think I lost count of the number of times I laughed out loud at his apparent arrogance, not to mention sigh a dreamy sigh. LOL.

As per usual with the Garwood heroes, Iain never fell short of being the possesive-ut-not -overly-so-protective warrior of his woman. I loved how he felt a fierce protectiveness towards Judith right from the beginning. And while he's as fierce as warriors come, Judith soon realises much of it is all bluster and underneath it all, he's still a man. A man of brilliance, a man of consideration and kindness and a man with a clear vulnerability when it came to the woman he loved.

Judith was a great heroine for Iain, and more importantly, she didn't make me want to rip my hair out or throw the book across the room, which is definitely a plus! While she's led a very sheltered life, she is still realistic about many things and I applaud the way she handled specific situations, such as the birthing of the babies. Many women during that time period would have swooned, but not Judith. Oh, she stalled and fought against the idea but when it came down to the crunch, she presented a confident front - shoulders back and chin up - even though she was terrified as hell, and did her best to handle the situation. Brava Judith!

Overall, this one was definitely a GREAT read, even as a 15th or 16th re-read, which is where I believe I'm at. Iain is without a question a swoonworthy hero (one of my all time favs) and even if he's not the hero for you, seeing the strong ties between Judith and Frances Catherine still makes it worth the read. A keeper for sure!

4.75/5

This is apart of a two book series:
The Secret
Ransom

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