July 26, 2022 Review: I tend to re-read this book anytime I am sad or upset. It’s been about 3 years and definitely needed this historical romance that introduced me what good romance writing can do. I honestly wish that Garwood had continued on with Johanna and Gabriel’s story in a subsequent book, or maybe followed Johanna’s brother Nicholas, but the ending to this book is always a great gut punch. Taking place 10 years after the start of this book we can daydream about what Johanna and Gabriel’s life looks like now.
Original Review: I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: Man in a Kilt square.
I have to have some happy right now and this book is it. I have been reading this since I was 12 or 13 and still have a copy of it on my shelves. The heroine (Johanna) kicks butt. The hero (Gabriel) kicks butt. We actually have a hero/heroine who thank God do not have any rape scenes between them. They reluctantly fall in love with each other which I thought was hilarious. The little family between Johanna, Gabriel, and Gabriel’s son was so cute. I was so happy with them. And then we have Judith’s foster brother Nicholas and I maybe swooned a bit there.
Johanna was married when she was a child (typical for the time period) and her first husband is a wife beater and also apparently raped and harmed other women. When her husband is believed dead, she is commanded to remarry by King John. She agrees to marry a man her foster brother believes will protect her and also come to love her. That man is Gabriel MacBain, who is in charge of two clans who have recently come together after the death of his father.
Johanna wins my heart when on her wedding day when she freaks out over saying obey in her vows and wants to reword them or she’s not going to marry. Gabriel who pretty much has enough of that, decides he is going to marry Judith (it’s pretty much lust in first sight for the guy).
Johanna is very interesting though. Even though she appears meek and timid, we find out that she learns to read since it is forbidden for women at the time. She has a hard time reconciling the Church’s teachings that she is less worth an oxen and that her husband beating her is okay. There is a scene with a rival clan where Johanna is like a freaking Valkyrie and it was awesome.
We do find out about Gabriel’s background and his constant struggle to lead his clan due to issues that happened with Gabriel’s father not claiming him. He is trying his best to get the two clans to come together, but the backbiting and refusal to trust one another is slowly tearing everything apart. Who knew that Johanna in the end will get them to ultimately come together.
I loved the secondary characters in this one a lot. We have Johanna’s brother, servants galore, and Gabriel’s trusted men. We also get to see though that Johanna though she may be timid around people, does not lack any backbone. And she decides after her first terrible marriage, she is not going to be beaten by anyone ever again.
The romance between Gabriel and Johanna is great. The love scenes were excellent and I did love it when Johanna starts getting demanding in bed. Hey, orgasms are great.
The writing and flow also works. Though I will say that towards the end things felt a little bit rushed and melodramatic. I didn’t care because I was cheering things the whole time. Evil is slayed (temporarily) and we know that Johanna and Gabriel will get their happily ever after.
The book takes place during the 1200s so there was definitely issues aplenty between the Highlands (Scotland) and England at the time. I really enjoyed how Garwood weaved the politics of the day (King John being seen as a murderer and usurper) and how it all tied things together with Johanna. I maybe cheered when the evil priest gets his due in the end as he lays dying and calls out for his mother. I sure as heck toasted
I also read this for Cannonball Read 14 Book Bingo. This fits the following bingo circle:
- Gaslight: Set in a historical period before electricity was common; an unreliable narrator; lying liars who lie are involved; politics.
- This definitely fits since this book takes place in 1200 in England/Scotland so there is no electricity, there is also a huge subplot dealing with the politics of the day with King John and the anger that the barons had concerning him during this period. Some readers may not know, but some of the fictional actions in this book are looped into real events with King John dealing with the rebellion of barons under him which led to the Magna Carta. This book has King John secretly killing his nephew Arthur.