Tag Archives: Juliana Garnett

Juliana Garnett – “The Scotsman”

27 Oct

Garnett, Juliana - The Scotsman
GENRE: Romance / Medieval
PUBLISHED: Bantam, 1998

WHY THIS NOVEL: Juliana Garnett was recommended by a friend.

She was the sworn enemy – and the woman he dared to love

Proud and fierce, Alexander Fraser fights for the lands and the title the English stole from his family–and for the Scots dream of freedom. Now he’s lost what’s closest to his heart: his younger brother Jamie, captured by the ruthless earl of Warfield. Determined to free Jamie, Alex boldly takes a hostage–the earl’s daughter Catherine. But the delicate maiden he locks in his craggy castle has more mettle than many men…and more passion than any woman he has ever known. Even as Alex and Catherine risk scandal and insurrection to indulge their desire, he knows he must someday give her up…or forfeit his brother’s life.

This is my second novel by Juliana Garnett and if her books were not oop (some are available as ebooks), I would try to get my hands on as many as possible. Both novels I’ve read so far by her drew me in with their sense for the time and history. The stories seem “real,” there is no sugar coating. Times were often harsh and required hard decisions, and therefore the characters’ plight seemed more moving and gripping even though the characters are part of a rather familiar plot for a medieval romance. The Scotsman was a joy to read.

Lady Catherine Wroth knows what her role in life is: make a favorable marriage for her father, the earl of Warfield. She knows she’s nothing more than cattle in this and that she has no choice in regard to that or other the important decisions in her life. Catherine must abide by what others decide for her no matter what her own wishes are. So when she is taken captive by a Scottish barbarian, to be exchanged for this barbarian’s younger brother who is her father’s hostage, it at first seems like she exchanged one prison for another – “a pawn in a game between two powerful men” (134).

Catherine spends the first few weeks in Scotland captive in a room. She’s allowed to read but other than her hostile attendant and an occasional visit from Alex, she has no diversion. Most of the time she’s alone. Alone with her thoughts and the realization how utterly worthless she is to her father who lets the ultimatum pass to exchange her for Alex’s brother even though Alex threatened with the loss of her virginity. And Catherine is alone with her growing attraction to the enemy and the realization that the enemy is human, too. And it is in this situation that she finally dares to – and has the freedom to – make a choice about her life on her own.

Alexander Fraser is caught between to evils: to lose his brother or to lose the woman he cherishes more than anything in his life. He is

[…] snared by his fierce desire to free Jamie and his fierce need for this woman. […] He could free Lady Catherine. And Jamie would die. Or he could hold her and pray that the earl would relent and consent to exchange hostages. And Jamie might still die. (161)

He knows that there is no future for him and Catherine with that kind of situation.

Too great is the hostility between Scots and English. Early on, there’s a scene with some Scots leaving the hall because Catherine is allowed to eat with them. It escalates after Warfield leads a brutal attack on the village near to Alex’s castle while Alex is away. Many Scots die that day.

This is months after Alex offered to exchange hostages and Warfield has yet of officially acknowledge it. The only one who tries to negotiate and get Catherine back is her brother Nicholas whom Catherine loves dearly. Nicholas is the only one (before Alex) who ever showed her affection. He even gets into trouble with their father because of their father’s relentlessness about the exchange of hostages.

The Scotsman takes place in the months leading up to the Battle of Bannockburn. The Scottish Borderlands were in turmoil, villages often attacked by both sides and burned, like Warfield did to the village near Alex’s castle and like Alex did to the villages near Warfield’s place. The times were harsh and the decisions one made had often dire consequences. Alex can’t promise Catherine that all will end well in such times and so he doesn’t say so. But he also can’t promise her that he would spare her brother should they meed one day on the battlefield. Times are uncertain and aren’t sugercoated and because of that, The Scotsman is the first book in a long time I wondered about how the HEA will be achieved.

Here’s a lengthy quote that showcases some of the things I love about Garnett’s way to write:

[Alex just demanded that Catherine swears to obey him and do as he told her to do if something happens]

Irate, she glared at him. “I was not in the habit of obeying my father, sir, so I see now reason why you wouldst think I will obey you. But”–she put up a hand to ward off his angry interruption–“as it will no doubt distract you in a fight to think I might come to harm if I do not remain hidden, I will do so–at your request.”
Outrage was reflected in his eyes, and his mouth thinned into a taut slash. “By all that is holy, Lady Catherine, if you do not swear to me that–”
“Hold.” She tightened the reins and her palfrey gave a skittish jump that removed Alex hand from her knee. She stared down at him coolly. “Do not make idle threats, Alex Fraser, for I do not stomach them well.” Pent-up anger and frustration burned her, and she returned hot stare for hot stare until he swore softly beneath his breath.
“Christ above…if ’tis what ’twill take to wrest an oath from you, I will respectfully request that you swear to me you will do as I bid you do.”
She smiled sweetly. “On my honor as Lady Catherine of Warfield and subject of King Edward, I do swear to you, sir, that I will obey your command should we be attacked.”
Resentment simmered in his eyes and tone. “If you find it that easy, I see no need for your delay.”
“Sir, I see no need for your demand, when all that ws required from you was courtesy.”
He drew another harsh breath, but an unwilling smile touched the corners of his mouth. “Check?”
An answering smile curved her lips upward. “Aye, and checkmate, sir.” (290/291)

[word in bold originally in italic]

No tossing curls or stamping of dainty feet in sight, no thought that she could help and by God she would. Instead, Catherine makes her point and gets her way in a manner I find much more appealing. I love that they use “sir” and “lady” when they talk to each other in public. They are both aware of appearances and their station. And I love that they are able to resolve a small misunderstanding by talking about it.

Verdict: I really, really liked it. (4,5/5)

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October, 15, 2009

15 Oct

Currently Reading

Garnett, Juliana - The Scotsman

Juliana Garnett – The Scotsman

I started Juliana Garnett’s The Scotsman yesterday and I’m now on page 59. So far, it looks like another good read, maybe even better than her novel The Vow which I read recently. But I thought Juliana Garnett a good writer then so that’s not really a surprise for me.

The Scotsman is another medieval romance – yay! – and takes place on the Scottish Borderlands. It’s the time of Robert the Bruce and the Scottish battle for Independence. Catherine is the daughter of the English Earl of Warfield and Alexander Fraser’s younger brother was taken hostage by Warfield. Alex wants to get his brother back (he’s all the family he has left) and while he explores the surroundings of Warfield’s castle, he stumbles upon Catherine. When he realizes who the woman is, he takes her captive. He hopes to make a bargain with Warfield and exchange her for his brother. Only problem: Warfield holds his daughter in very low regard. She’s just a woman and as such has no use to him, especially compared to the use Alex’s brother gives him as leverage against the Scots.

The premise is familiar but Garnett makes it come alive. The hatred between Scots and English seems very real. If Catherine and Alex want to be together, they will have to overcome years of believing the other the worst kind of people. In fact, before they will think about being together, they first must overcome this to actually be able to fall in love with the other. And although they are attracted to each other nearly right away, it doesn’t look that they mistake this for love.

I think there are good times ahead!

Other things

  • Owens, Robin D - Heart FateWhen I ordered my books on the weekend, I also looked at Robin D. Owens Heart Fate, book #7 in her Celta HeartMates series. It’s a funny thing with this series. There is much that annoys me with it and yet, I still like to read it. I was especially looking forward to reading Tinne’s story because he was a secondary character in nearly all the books before.
    Heart Fate was published last year but as it cost more than 10 €, I decided to wait. I very very rarely am willing to spend more than 10 € on a book. So when I looked again this weekend, it was still around 10€. Huh? I had thought that there would be a second edition by now, comparable in price to the ones they published before. So real bummer, still no Heart Fate for me.
  • Once again I deleted a huge amount of marked posts in my feed reader (posts I wanted to read or maybe even leave a comment). When will I learn that I very rarely look at marked posts again?

Juliana Garnett – “The Vow”

13 Oct

EDIT: Corrected the author’s name in the post title.

Garnett, Juliana - The Vow
GENRE: Romance / Medieval
PUBLISHED: Bantam Books, 1998

WHY THIS NOVEL: Jace recommended this author.

Sent by William of Normandy to quell a brazen Saxon rebellion, Luc Louvat believed his mission would be easily accomplished. For what foolish Saxon lord had any hope of triumphing against an army of seasoned Norman knights? But the great warrior was in for a shock..surprised first by the ferocious battle the wily old lord waged–and then by what he discovers when he meets his adversary face-to-face: no crusty, aging nobleman this, but an exquisite princess with a face as fragile as a flower–and a will as steely as the sword she wields. Suddenly Luc finds he’s waging a dangerous new war…aimed at the defenses of a fierce Saxon beauty who threatens to conquer his warrior’s heart.

The Vow is a leisurely told and subtle novel. The unifying element is of course the romance between Ceara and Luc. It marks the beginning and the end of the story. It also goes hand in hand with the suppression of the rebellion. But despite these clearly marked beginnings and endings, what happens in between seems only loosely connected and episodic in character. Reading The Vow was like watching a life unfold. The story covers quite some time and there is no rush between the major events.

Ceara and Luc meet when Luc is sent to end the rebellion. They soon realize they are attracted to each other although Luc is the enemy Ceara has vowed to hate and while Luc treats women well, he doesn’t like them because of his past experiences and is only interested in sexual relationships. Of course, Ceara and Luc are forced to spend time together and slowly, they fall in love with each other without descending into too much hate you-love you dynamics. Their love creeps up on them.

Along the way, there is a woman from Luc’s past who wants him for herself after he now is no longer just a mere knight (adding romantic conflict) and who shows up at Luc’s new castle together with Luc’s best friend. Then there is Luc’s brother who suddenly shows up and might or might not betray Luc again, Luc’s mysterious past, Ceara’s pet wolf, and of course the still simmering Saxon rebellion in the North with Luc and Ceara in the midst of it.

Ceara starts the novel as a young woman who accuses her father of cowardice because he swore fealty to William. After her father’s death, she can have her way. She’s a feisty package but despite that I never really understood why Ceara hated the Normans that much (beside her being a Saxon) I actually was okay with her. Her seemingly unfounded hatred of all things Norman might make her look feisty but she’s also a strong and often insightful woman. She knows what she wants and how to get it, and she isn’t chummy with everyone just because she’s the heroine:

“Do you dare risk being alone with me, my lord? I might be dangerous.”
Luc laughed softly at her testy tone. “You are most definitely dangerous. But I am a man who loves a challenge, unlike poor Giles. You have terrified the man.”
“Good. He is a spineless cur. I doubt he has ever used his sword for anything other than shaving, for he is as clumsy a cow as ever I have seen.”
“Nevertheless, you will cease tormenting him.”
“Why? It amuses me. And I have done nothing to him, save point out a few of his weaknesses. He will be a better man for it. You should thank me.” (79)

And for that I liked her. In addition, the story doesn’t gloss over the harsher aspects of war and rebellion and Ceara learns that not everything is as black and white as she believes at the start.

Luc has a past full of treachery (his father) and abuse. He starts the story as a mere knight. His order to crush the rebellion in the North is his chance to finally leave his tainted past behind and redeem himself. Luc’s determined to take it. He’s willing to deal fairly with those who swear fealty but he has no problems to take other, more drastic measures with those who don’t.

Even though I sometimes wished the romance and the rebellion plot would provide a more apparent focus for the story, The Vow is a well-written novel. I liked the way wolf imageries were used in the story, and I loved the way the characters talk and that characters were not always what they appeared (good/bad) to be. The Vow is a good medieval romance, especially because it creates a strong sense of history and atmosphere for that time.

Verdict: I liked it (4/5).

October, 4, 2009

4 Oct

I finally seem to be getting interested again in reading. Yeah!

And in buying books again. Double yeah! (Huh? Is that really a good thing? – Yes!)

The situation was dire indeed. I have a 5-Euro-off coupon valid until 10/10 for several weeks now but it was only a couple of days ago that I really thought about which books to buy with it. But now I’m making lists and all is good again. *g*

Currently Reading

Garnett, Juliana - The Vow

The Vow by Juliana Garnett

Sent by William of Normandy to quell a brazen Saxon rebellion, Luc Louvat believed his mission would be easily accomplished. For what foolish Saxon lord had any hope of triumphing against an army of seasoned Norman knights? But the great warrior was in for a shock..surprised first by the ferocious battle the wily old lord waged–and then by what he discovers when he meets his adversary face-to-face: no crusty, aging nobleman this, but an exquisite princess with a face as fragile as a flower–and a will as steely as the sword she wields. Suddenly Luc finds he’s waging a dangerous new war…aimed at the defenses of a fierce Saxon beauty who threatens to conquer his warrior’s heart.

The Vow follows a often seen pattern in medieval romance: a love-against-their-will between the conquerer and the conquered but it does so in an appealing way. So appealing in fact that I’m nearly finished with this novel and only have around 100 pages left to read.

I liked this snippet, for example:

It occurred to him as he watched her that perhaps he was becoming too involved with her. And when she glanced up at him with wide eyes and a tremulous smile that made his belly tighten, he knew it for certain. (74)

I like medievals and I like Juliana Garnett’s prose so The Vow looks like a winner. Garnett even makes me care about a heroine who in less capable hands would probably make me think that she’s too feisty to live. Good indeed.