Fans of Julie Garwood – relax; you can let out your breath and rest easy. While The Wedding is perhaps not her finest release, is better than you feared. The misstep taken by Ms. Garwood in her disappointing For the Roses was not the start of a downward trend – it was just a one-time goof. The Wedding (mostly) delivers the goods. The Wedding is a sequel to Garwood’s classic The Bride. The primary actors in The Bride, Alec and Jamie Kincaid, are secondary players in this story, which is a medieval tale of love, laughter, and revenge set in the Scottish Highlands. To avenge the death of his father, Laird Connor McAlister steals away the bride of his father’s killer. She is Englishwoman Brenna Haynesworth, a beautiful young Lady who had actually proposed to Connor as a young child after he rescued her and a piglet from a muddy little puddle.
The prologue and the first chapter illustrate the paradoxical relationship of this unlikely couple. The prologue is of a young Connor promising his dying father he will avenge his death. The first chapter, with the rescue of Brenna and her piglet by Connor lets you know this will be a funny, funny book. Few authors can juxtapose the darkness of revenge and the lightness of humor as deftly as can Julie Garwood; she mostly succeeds in this story.
Brenna, in typical Garwood fashion, seems slightly befuddled to those around her. The relationship she fashions with Jamie, heroine of The Bride, is a true sisterhood. Both heroines had families that never appreciated them to the fullest and both suffer from faults which lend both humor and pathos to their stories. But whereas Jamie had a terrible sense of direction, however, Brenna suffers forgetfulness of her possessions. She is not, however, as childish as she appears – she is clever and achieves her goals in an unusual fashion – much to the reader’s merriment.
Again, in typical Garwood fashion, most of the book details the growing relationship between Connor and Brenna. Most of the story takes place in just a couple of days – she is the only author I know who can write 50 or so wonderful pages about one episode. Although there are far too many “Honest to Gods” being said in this book, the author does a marvelous job with alternating points-of-view. Connor and Brenna mirror each others thoughts so perfectly and so differently that I swear there are newly-etched laugh lines on my face.
Garwood taps so much humor in Brenna’s relationships to her new “family” that her over-the-top befuddled-ness can be forgiven. The relationship between Connor and his “brother” Alec is reminiscent of that shared by Colin and Caine in Castles – i.e., there is great depth of feeling shown between the two and additionally, the older brother tries to convince the younger to accept the fact that he loves his wife. The feeling of family that Garwood accentuates to her benefit in many of her novels also serves her well here.
What keeps this book from DIK territory, however, comes near the end of the story and focuses on the revenge factor. Without giving too much of it away, I can say that Connor’s stepmother and stepbrother are (obviously) not as they seem. But since Connor clearly loves these two, Brenna has difficulty asserting herself until it’s almost too late.
A tragedy sets the scene for a misunderstanding of epic proportions and Brenna cannot accept that Connor truly does love her. This author has handled this situation better in other books, including The Secret. Parts of the last few chapters, while they do include some good spots (including the setting up of what I hope will be another sequel between one of Brenna’s sisters and one of Connor’s best friends), seemed too melodramatic and forced.
That aside, whatever it took to get these two marvelous people back together was worth it. If you value the details of setting, the small steps it takes to “grow” a relationship, funny dialogue, and the small relationships and situations Julie Garwood builds between all the characters in her stories, this book will undoubtedly please you. If you like “important” stories with lots of pathos, intensity, and complexity, you probably should pass The Wedding up.
At $23.00 hardcover, this book has a hefty price-tag. I was willing to pay hardcover price for Saving Grace. I felt a bit cheated doing so for Prince Charming. The Wedding was worth it for me – it’s not destined to become a Garwood classic, but I will return to it for the laughter and the love.