I had plans to read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017, but I already read a book for Man in the Kilt, so this book is just something that I read for my own enjoyment.
As a long time Julie Garwood fan, I have to say the saddest day for me was when she stopped writing her historical books. I have tried to get into her contemporary works, and each and every time ended up DNFing the book. I still have most of her historical books on my shelves at home, so it was great to read this and "Saving Grace" this past weekend.
I really liked the whole aspect of this book from beginning to end. We have a heroine and hero come together from different sides (she's English and he's a Scot). The heroine we find out due to her love of one of her best friends has find out everything she can about midwifing (is that a word? Cause I am using it anyway) due to her friend's mother dying giving birth and her promise that she will make sure that her friend lives. Maybe that seems a little silly to us in modern times, but due to the time period of this book, many women died giving birth, and some died weeks and even months later due to fevers and infections. We have a secret (hence the title) which threatens to tear apart the hero and heroine. And heck we even have some acknowledgement of alcoholism and abuse. There are great secondary characters in this one who later on appear in Garwood's sequel to this one, "Ransom." There is a third book, "Shadow Music", but due to a lot of my friends' reviews on that book, I just never read it.
Judith Hampton is a very unique Garwood heroine. I don't want to say the others are useless. But we find out pretty early on in the book that Judith has a special set of skills which makes her very important as she journeys to her best friend's home in the Highlands. Judith meets her best friend, Frances Catherine when they are girls. Through the years the two of them have kept in touch and visited each other when they could. When Frances Catherine marries and becomes pregnant, Frances Catherine and her husband go to the Laird of the Mclean Clan to get permission to bring Judith back to the Clan to stay until Frances Catherine gives birth. The big issue here is that due to Judith being English, there are worries that she will not agree to come. When the Laird and others show up to Judith's home, they are in for a surprise of their own though. Judith has every intention of going to the Highlands. And due to a secret she's keeping, she has more reason than any to go.
Iain Maitland is the Laird of Clan Mclean and we find out has a very weird clan structure that is causing problems for him. He needs to have the older people in the clan vote on everything he does. So that causes a lot of clashes with him.
Man I miss Highlander the series. Quick aside: I miss the series before it went off the rails with that Dark Quickening mess.
We do get to see Judith and Iain fall in love slowly with each other. I liked all of their scenes together. There is definite teasing, but you also see how careful Iain is with her once he finds out about some of the things that Judith had to endure while growing up.
The secondary characters are a hoot. I loved Brodrick! He is in the next book and I loved seeing him again in that. It was nice to revisit the first book in the series and read the second one to see how everyone is doing now. Ahem. Back to this book.
The secondary characters like Frances Catherine, her husband, the women in the village, the men who make up the committee that Iain has to go through to get decisions made are great. I laughed a lot while reading this book, and I think that you will too. We also get some issues with a rival clan that is connected to one of the characters we find out about early on in the book.
The one reason why I have to give this book just 4 stars is that I found that Iain too modern in his thinking. Heck even Judith was a bit too modern. I cannot see many men listening to Judith's opinions about anything. I know Garwood always paints the Highlanders in her books as so much better than the Brits. But, I am going to raise an eyebrow about some of the scenes with everyone finding Judith to be uber attractive though I would think many would have problems with an English woman in their midst.
This book takes place once again in the 1200s, so the things that Judith does for childbirth were way ahead of her time. Things like washing her hands, not using a birth stool, and also refusing to listen to the Church's belief that women should be in pain during childbirth and need to show that by screaming. Yeah that scene in the book where a rival woman in the clan accuses Judith of witchcraft and being in league with the devil had some air of truth about it. FYI, until I read this book as a kid, I also never heard of a hook and birthing stool before and never want to again. I maybe patted my lady parts in sympathy a few times.
The dialogue among characters didn't seem to match the time period, then again I am sure that Garwood wanted to make sure that readers get through the book without having to bust out a dictionary every five minutes. The flow was pitch perfect though. The ending was a bit of a letdown. Not because it wasn't good. I just think it ended pretty abruptly. That's why I always recommend people read the second book in the series if they can.