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 Judith, 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.
Judith 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.
Judith 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).
Judith 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 Judith 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 Judith in the end will get them to ultimately come together.
I loved the secondary characters in this one a lot. We have Judith's brother, servants galore, and Gabriel's trusted men. We also get to see though that Judith 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 Judith is great. The love scenes were excellent and I did love it when Judith 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 Judith 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.