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Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted: Tue September 2nd, 2008, 4:41 pm
by Misfit
Julie Garwood FINALLY writes another Scottish Historical and this is what we get? In this sequel of sorts to Garwood's Ransom, Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, a daughter of an English Baron, is sent by King John to marry an older highland Laird to keep peace between the borders (??!! more on this later). Two of John's scheming Barons with their nefarious (and ridiculous) schemes get involved and Gabrielle's intended is murdered, she is disgraced as a wanton woman and disinherited and banned from England (this from one woman accusing her of entering a wounded man’s bedroom??). She meets up with Laird Brodick Buchanan who is her cousin by marriage, as Brodick is married to Gillian a distant cousin of Gabrielle’s father. Accompanying Brodick is the fearsome Laird MacHugh who takes her into protection after her banishment. There is also a big mystery about the search for some missing gold that is all too predictable, I figured where that was at the first mention of.... well I won't be a spoiler but trust me you'll spot that one a mile away.

Sound exciting? No, it's not, it's actually quite awful and I'm having a hard time believing Garwood wrote this. Although her older historicals are not high fiction, the healthy dose of humor she throws in along with the romance usually makes for an entertaining read. Unfortunately, along with an embarrassingly bad plot Garwood forgot to throw in the humor that might have saved a story that's predictable from the first page to the last. Even worse, there is little description of the sights, sounds, clothes, etc. to give the reader a good sense of the time period. I don't think I heard mention of any Scott wearing a kilt until well towards the end of the book, Gabrielle's clothing was only noted by the color of the dress she was wearing, etc. I won't even get started on the way Brodick was ruined -- without the banter between he, Gillian, Ramsey and Ian what was an awesome hero in Ransom is reduced to nothing but mush. We don't even get a glimpse of Gillian, only occasional mentions of her being home and pregnant. And worse of all, there is absolutely no chemistry between our two main protagonists, an absolute death knell for any romance book.

And finally, although I don't expect an historical romance to be historically accurate, I appreciate it when an author makes some effort to have knowledge of the period they're writing in. I wish I'd taken notes, because I'm not able to remember all the boners in this book to recount them here. Examples, and since I’m not a history major anyone may correct me if I’m wrong:
  • Gabrielle's native country St Biel (somewhere in Europe where the crusaders passed through), is invaded and occupied by King John !!??? John Lackland who couldn't even hold on to Normandy?
  • What is it with the women running around with their long hair flowing loose? No woman in medieval times, especially a noblewoman would be seen in public without a proper head covering.
  • Gabrielle's original marriage was to settle the border disputes between England and Scotland. Hellooooo, if I recall correctly John was too busy trying to subdue the Welsh to be bothered with Scotland. And what help does a marriage to a highland Laird have to do with any border wars? The borders are in the lowlands - you'd think a marriage to someone with closer ties to the border would make more political sense.
All in all, this is pretty close to one of the worst books I've ever read – not quite but almost. Boring, predictable and downright silly. Garwood would have done much better by making her sequel to Ransom writing about the Buchanans, Ramsey and Sinclairs and putting those people together into her story. Better yet, put their grown children together into a tightly woven story with that sadly missing dose of humor and she might have had something here. As it is, this is a bad way to spend $18 on a hardback and a serious waste of a tree. If you are dead set on reading it, get it from the library (as I did) or wait for the mass market paperback.

Last complaint – what the heck is with the book cover? The man and woman in the bottom corner are in evening dress and the building with the onion dome looks like something out of the Far East, and certainly not a castle that one would find in Scotland.

Posted: Tue September 2nd, 2008, 8:32 pm
by EC2
I wall-banged Ransom really hard and haven't picked up a Garwood since. Mindsets and attitudes were just totally wrong for the period, not to mention the history and the detail. I realised that it was a romance and that often readers wanted the fantasy fluffy bunny Disney history. This wasn't for me so I have not bothered with Garwood since.
John did have dealings with the Scots and now and then they did overrun his borders. He butchered everyone in Berwick at the end of his reign during a vicious campaign to put the King of Scots in his place. Kilts didn't come in tartan in the middle ages and certainly not all Scottish men wore them. I could be wrong, but wasn't Sir Walter Scott responsible for all the clan tartans we have today? Perhaps Garwood was thinking of John's successful campaigns in Gascony and Poitou in the middle of his reign?
Not a book for me though - thanks for review!

Posted: Wed September 3rd, 2008, 12:24 am
by Misfit
"fantasy fluffy bunny Disney history"

ROFL, I like that phrase. Most of the Garwood I read was about five years ago or so just before I got into HF. I dread going back to read some of her books - I suspect my opinion will have changed, as it has with McNaught.