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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book review: The Bride by Julie Garwood

Lately I found myself lecturing my intern on the importance in the publishing business of being open-minded and reading widely, and I pushed him to read some women's fiction and he didn't bat an eye. In the back of my mind, I felt guilty though, as I know I have my own preconceptions and although they have been frequently proven wrong over the years, they persist. So when I was looking at my shelves for what to start reading three days before my wedding, knowing I couldn't handle something that wasn't very light and fluffy, it occurred to me that I had a couple of romance novels hidden in the back of my bookcase, given by a romance-novel-loving friend, who wanted me to give them another shot (I read a handful in high school, and again a few in my mid-twenties when I was interviewing for a job at a publishing house that mostly published romances.) I read half of one but had never tried the other. And guess what the title was? The Bride. It was kismet.

The Bride was certainly light and fluffy and reading it zipped along at the speed of light. It was not great literature. No male in the book can speak in a normal tone of voice, instead they are constantly roaring, bellowing, shouting, yelling, and hollering. There were loose threads left dangling, particularly our heroine's family who never factor in again (aside from one sister whose story line was resolved very quickly and off-page.) But I was surprisingly impressed by the sex scenes. I recently discovered that probably forever, I have been at best skimming and probably usually outright skipping sex scenes in books (not being an avid romance reader, they don't actually come up all that often.) I was dreading reading those, but they were very well written, with not a throbbing member to be seen, and none of the icky awfulness usually seen in literary novels (and as that is a big part of these books, one would expect a higher bar, but it exceeded even my expectations.)

For the plot, Jamie, an English young lady, and her sister Mary are told by the king they will marry a couple of Scottish lairds who will come for them shortly, and they do making their father and twin sisters sad but we never see them again so who cares. Jamie is feisty and stubborn but Alec, her husband, is patient and willing to wait for her to settle in, especially so long as they continue to have acrobatic and frequent sex. Jamie is conveniently already skilled in speaking Gaelic, healing, archery, and horseback riding despite having been also raised to be a proper lady. She naturally gets into minor troubles here and there and yet by the end, despite thinking she has caused several impending wars with other clans, she has instead united them all. And won over her husband, who has won her over too, and they declare their love for each other (it's a romance novel so if I'm giving away any big secrets here, sue me.) There is a twist although it's not hard at all to figure out, and is a little hard to believe. And all of this plays out over about a two week period.

My romance-reading friend did tell me this book is nowadays considered rather old-fashioned, as being forced into marriage is not "in" right now (although arranged marriages then are historically accurate and there isn't exactly forcible sex, although there is persuaded sex.) And the author's note in the book mentions she broke with romance novel-writing tradition at the time by having the book be quite humorous (I think she overstates its humor a bit but I did appreciate it not being overly earnest.) Another friend said she couldn't overlook the bad writing, and it's interesting that it didn't bother me so much, being an editor and all, but I have gotten better at turning off that side of my brain, particularly when reading fluffy books. Yes there are stereotypes galore, characters aren't well developed at all, and the plot is fairly predictable, but none of those are crimes and I am willing to overlook them for a few hours of mindless fun.

I received this book as a gift from a friend.

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