It hurts to give Julie Garwood’s much anticipated Shadow Music such a low grade, but I’ve read more interesting, well plotted vacuum cleaner instructions.
Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, the Treasure of England, has been betrothed to a highly respected Highland chief by King John in hopes of securing peace. Upon arriving in the Highlands, Gabrielle and her faithful guards stop a murder attempt on a man who ends up being the brother of the most feared warrior in the Highlands. Gabrielle decides it would be wiser to not let on how the brother was saved, and by whom, and takes him to the local abbey to be cared for and restored to his family. The two barons who were vying for Gabrielle’s hand – and ultimately thwarted by King John’s decree that she marry a Highlander – show up, her intended groom is suddenly murdered, and she is accused of being a harlot and banished in the King’s name.
It’s Colm MacHugh, scary Highlander extraordinaire, who comes to her aid and takes her to his home for sanctuary. He witnessed her banishment while trying to figure out how his brother came to be at the abbey. He is also persuaded by his friend Brodick (yes, that Brodick from Ransom) to marry her in order to save her reputation and protect her. This is all well and good, but Colm and Gabrielle don’t meet face to face until page 145 – almost halfway through the book!
At the MacHugh Holding, Gabrielle learns who everyone is and tries to talk with Colm. She also wants to confess her part in saving his brother, but he always disappears. Gabrielle is everything that is noble and good natured; she hates her lie by omission. She is also beautiful, smart, and talented in archery and riding, as well as the more ladylike pursuits. The author points out that she has a temper, but I didn’t see it. We might as well send her canonization papers to the pope now. This chick should be sainted.
Another big issue is Colm. Poor Colm, I hardly knew ye. He was barely in the book. He shows up now and then to order Gabrielle around, let her know he killed a few people and that they are going to marry. Then he’s off to check the fields or hunt down some bad guy. By the time Gabrielle professes her love for him, she’d only spent a handful of hours – if that – in his presence. Not that I haven’t read and believed in love at first sight and quick courtships, but that wasn’t the case here. Gabrielle and Colm barely spare a glance for one another, other than to very blithely observe the other’s attractiveness.
Goodness, the problems do go on. The plot is convoluted and dull. The first 150 pages should have been chopped off and summed up instead of played out like they were. And the big climaxes? I didn’t recognize them. I sailed through the pages and then thought, “Hey was that important?” and reread those entries. They obviously didn’t have the intended impact.
I’m not even going to bring up the head hopping. We’ll just say it was bad.
There was very little to salvage from Shadow Music, but I will say that the bare bones are still rooted in what we love about Julie Garwood’s historical novels. Her heroes, heroines, the beautiful Highlands with anachronistic language, and characters that somehow you can overlook, are still in evidence. Yet, this book seemed forced and slapped together. There were lead characters I never got to know, plots I never fully understood, and secondary characters who were flat and lifeless.
I can’t begin to explain how disappointed I am in this book. I would have wagered that Julie Garwood at her worst would still be mildly enjoyable. I was oh, so wrong. For readers new to Garwood, my advice is to skip this and go directly to The Bride – one of the ultimate Medieval romances out there. For us loyal fans, just try to forget this one existed.