The first time I read The Bride, I was captivated by Alec and Jamie's story. I refused to put the book down and I ended up reading it in record time. Wild horses could not have dragged me away from this book. Many people I've met still list The Bride as not only their favorite Julie Garwood, but their favorite romance, period. Since that first time, I have reread the book a number of times and now it is like visiting old friends. This is one book that can always put a smile on my face.
The story of Alec and Jamie is that of an arranged marriage. King Henry has commanded Baron Jamison to marry off two of his daughters to Alec Kincaid and Daniel Ferguson, lairds of their own Highlands clans. The Baron thinks to keep his youngest, Jamie, out of sight while the marriages are taking place. He wants to keep her under wraps so she can continue to take care of the family. he knows that if either man sees her exceptional beauty, one will claim her. Unfortunately for the Baron, Alec does see Jamie and knows immediately he wants her. Jamie is not pleased. Though Alec is impressed by her courage (there aren't many men who would dare stand up to The Kincaid), he is sure he will tame her. Jamie wears black to the wedding. And so the fun begins!
The clash of cultures and wills is apparent from the start. To start, the brides and their grooms are attacked by bandits on their journey back to Scotland. Mary pulls Jamie in front of her because she is used to Jamie's protection. But Alec and Daniel are displeased; to their way of thinking, older protects younger. To Jamie, it is her duty; she has always taken care of her family. Her introduction to this type of violence is telling. She realizes first hand the way of the highlanders and believes Alec's soul is in jeopardy (starting an hilarious series of episodes where Jamie is continually paying the Church for Alec's sins, at one point doing so in advance). For his part, Alec believes his wife has "grit" but that she must be soft and taught many skills. In truth, she already knows these things, which makes for some very amusing scenes throughout the book.
Upon her arrival at Alec's holding, Jamie is astounded by the number of people there as well as their hostility toward her. Alec knows that his soldiers will give their lives for his new bride but not their loyalty. . . that will soon change. When Jamie saves the life of one of their own they pledge their loyalty to her. She sleeps right through it.
Jamie still has a hard time "settling in". She turns the usually reticent Alec's life upside down. She almost starts a few clan wars, decides to move the kitchen to the main house and brings Mary Kathleen, Alec's daughter from his first marriage, to live with them. Jamie does what she feels is right regardless of the outcome or whether she's insulting another clan. This endears her to just about everyone, including Alec. Along the way, she steals his heart, especially in her ready and open acceptance of Mary Kathleen. You couldn't tell Jamie she's not that child's birth mother.
All is not well though; someone is trying to kill Jamie. These scares wake Alec up. He is frightened to death of losing her and realizes that he loves her. Jamie discovers she loves her husband as well. It is amusing to read their thoughts on this. Both insist that given time, the other will realize love too, not knowing it's already happened.
Alec and Jamie's passion for each other is an integral part of the story, as well as being immensely entertaining for the reader. They have an immediate and strong physical response to each other. This passion starts early and builds, growing even brighter as they come to know and love one another. At times they are aggressive and at other times, tender. They even show affection for each other in front of Alec's soldiers which is something hard to imagine Alec doing. He is as possessive of Jamie's body as he is of her mind and heart. The love-making scenes are very passionate and very romantic. Hallmark Garwood. I sighed heavily through the lot of them.
Jamie is a wonderful Garwood heroine. Beautiful, seemingly befuddled with a good deal of vulnerability and competence thrown in, plus an endearing flaw of a poor sense of direction, she is a match for Alec, standing up to him with a temper to match his own. She has had to make her way in a family where she felt she didn't quite fit in. She did this by excelling in every thing she did to get attention.
Alec is a hero to sigh over. Strong, handsome, Scots. . . what more could a girl want? His ideas about his wife and wives in general are funny and it's great to see how Jamie disabuses him of many of those notions. He too is vulnerable. He is afraid of losing Jamie, and would go to any lengths to protect her. He is also compassionate but mess with his own and you're in for trouble. His scenes with Mary Kathleen are some of the best between a father and daughter. I loved that the bedtime stories he tells her are in fact battle stories! And that little Mary loves them! Of all the romances I've read, Alec is my favorite hero. He's a hard man but once he loves you, look out. The devil himself couldn't pry Alec away.
Alec and Jamie have some of the best repartee I've read. Their banter and insults are stinging but affectionate, especially after they get to know each other. They constantly prove each other's misconceptions wrong and the reader is left laughing. Love and laughter go together perfectly. Even though the two have pledged their love for each other they still won't give the other an inch. That is one reason I love the book but another reason is this: this couple not only loves each other, they respect each other. They each have their own flaws and things they do well and ways they act that are different, but Alec and Jamie come to respect those differences in the other and this is an important point to couples everywhere.
What's not to love about this book? Love, laughter, a wonderful hero and heroine. . . how could anyone not love it? I cared about these characters and that is a high compliment for me to give. All these things make The Bride a classic romance and Julie Garwood a favorite writer.
Buy it at Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes and Noble/Kobo
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