Okay, I am totally turning into a Julie Garwood fangirl! I really liked The Secret. Hmm...I wonder why: sexy highlanders, fiesty heroines, hot kisses, tender love scenes....mmmmmm...
Oh, where was I? Oh, yes, the book. Ms. Garwood weaves great stories. I love her heroes, her heroines, and her supporting characters. I do wonder about some of the dialogue, whether it's too modern, but thankfully she doesn't do the doonae's and hasna's. But you know what? I don't care! She writes a great story.
The Secret is set in 12th Century Scotland. Judith and Frances Catherine were small children who met at a seasonal fair set on the border between England and Scotland. Judith was from England, Frances Catherine was from the Scottish Highlands. Each year they would meet at the fair and became fast, fast friends, even though the English and the Scots were bitter enemies. Frances Catherine's mother died in childbirth, and her granmother did as well. Frances Catherine was terrified the same fate would fall to her. As a child, Judith swore to help her when they grew up and had babies, she promised she wouldn't let her die.
Fast forward a few years and Frances Catherine is married and pregnant. She is married to her Laird's brother, Patrick. When they got married she made Patrick swear that he would bring Judith to help her with the delivery. The clan elders do not believe Judith will come, but they send someone to ask her to come anyway, so Patrick's vow to his wife is not broken. It's an eight day journey to Judith, and they are shocked when they arrive and she is packed and ready to go. She can't wait to see her friend! The Scottish escort is rough and unfriendly, but Judith wears them down with friendliness and spunkyness. She rides to Scotland with Iain, the Laird, who quickly becomes captivated by her, as do the rest of his soldiers.
By the time she arrives in Scotland, Judith realizes she has feelings for Iain. She has a wonderful reunion with Frances Catherine and starts to settle in. When word gets around that she's there to help with the pregnancy and birth, she receivesa request to assist another woman. Turns out the midwife is a real piece of work and has scared the other expectant mothers silly. Judith learned about midwifery as soon as she found out Frances Catherine was pregnant, but has not ever actually witnessed a birth, so needless to say she is terrified when they come to her for assistance. All goes well, however, and she ends up assisting in a few more births.
The midwife becomes jealous, as Judith is becoming sought after and she is not. Also, the midwife wanted Iain to marry her daughter, and is not happy about his attentions to Judith. She has another small episode with the midwife's assistant, but handles it cleverly and turns her into a staunch ally instead.
Meanwhile, Judith has a secret about her father that no one but Frances Catherine knows. When Judith was an infant, her mother left her father, the Highland Laird MacLean, to go back to England. She told Judith her father was an English baron who died fighting the Scots. Judith didn't find out the truth for many years. The only memento she has of ther father is a ring with his seal on it that she wears around her neck. Her father is one of Iain's enemies.
Ian accidentally finds out who her father is, and convinces her to marry him before it becomes common knowledge for fear his council will object. She begins to enjoy her life with Iain and endears herself to his people.
Then, one afternoon, Judith goes for a ride with a few guards, and they are overtaken by MacLean soldiers and kidnapped. The Laird MacLean intends to use her as bait to kill Iain, but Judith surprises him by telling him she is his daughter and showing him the ring. He asks many questions and embraces her as his daughter and Iain makes an alliance with him without the council's approval. Frances Catherine goes into labor and has some problems, but delivers with Judith's assistance and all is well.
The council has a meeting to discuss Iain's alliance and his wife's relationship to MacLean, and Iain resigns as Laird. Judith prepares to leave and doesn't know Iain has resigned. As they prepare to leave, one by one the rest of the clan states their intent to go with them. There is a scene where they discuss the wants and needs of the clan, and Iain ends up remaining Laird, with Judith at his side.
Loved this story, there is no way my review does it any kind of justice. Her characters are so well-rounded and the storyline is so full! Great read.