16 January 2010

Review: Julie Garwood - Shadow Music

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Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (December 30, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0345500741
ISBN-13: 978-0345500748

Genre: Historical Romance
Main Characters: Gabrielle of St. Biel and Colm MacHugh
Book Origin: Personal Library

Cover Summary:
For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows–skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England’s most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle’s marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.

For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom–when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.

Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle’s bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle’s body nor heart is safe.

Gabrielle grows up in the loving embrace of her family and 4 guards, though her mother is sick and bound to her bed she still manages to tell Gabrielle all about her inheritance. She is after al a princess, it may be a small country but St.Biel is a content place to live and its history is rich for when the crusades started it was St.Biel that needed to be traveled through to get to the Holy Lands and with the wise King at the time made a pact with the crusaders. Crossing the country will cost gold but it will be send to the pope as a gift of devotion. But as the crusades died a rumor sparked to life; not all gold was given to the pope and a treasure was buried…

How Gabrielle was familiar with all these stories of treasures, the battle between St. Biel and England, the marriage between her mother, the princes and her father, the Baron. Though her mother died Gabrielle's love for St.Biel shined bright within her heart and her four guards from St.Biel where an ever reminder. When her father tells her she is to be married to Laird Monroe she prepares herself for the life as the wife of a Laird, little did she know that the journey to Scotland is the beginning of something unexpected…

I think anyone who has ever read Julie Garwood’s historical novels will recognize my initial outburst of utter joy and excitement that I felt upon discovery that she has returned to her roots. Not only a historical but also a highlander to boot, for me it is a much treasured theme and nostalgia of my youth rode me in waves as I received my copy of Shadow Music.

I took my time with it, wanting to savor every page, every character and every storyline. How did I get lost in the feelings of confusion? Because from the first page this story had a different vibe, which is not to say that that is a bad thing of course and I was set on giving it all my attention and time. I enjoyed getting to know Gabrielle, her guards and the history of her mother’s country only I got a bit restless at a certain point, when would the hero and heroine meet, when would the love story commence?? For me it felt like Julie Garwood took way too much time setting this story up, taking away time and pages from the main couple creating an almost stale and unconvincing romance.

The background story of the treasure was interesting, Gabrielle’s four guards: Christien, Lucien, Stephen and Faust were a joy to read and fabulous secondary characters. The greedy Barons with their own plans are a convincing lot and the woman in the shades one to watch out for. Colm MacHugh as the hero came across as this big gruff bear of a highlander with pride to match his build and a thundering voice to lure you in to a Scotland of long ago. He is an unadulterated highlander that I just crave to read about and especially the interaction with his brother and his neighboring Laird Buchannan made me smile.

The separate threads of this novel sometimes gave me that glimpse of Garwood skill I enjoyed in all her other historicals, though it was holding a promise but never truly giving it to me. When Gabrielle was exiled and Colm tried to do the chivalrous thing was for me the only true moment I could feel the talent of Julie Garwood as she once was. Colm and Gabrielle lack enough depth together, lack creating a delighted friction of two strong characters that sizzle into a passionate love which grabs me and makes me a part of the story. For me it felt that the background story and the secondary characters demanded so much time from the romantic pair, that there wasn’t enough time left for a breath taking romance to develop. And when I read a Julie Garwood historical I want a romance that can rival with all the legendary lovers of the past, endearing, passionate, bold and within their own way have a gripping punch to it.

Maybe it is unfair to Julie Garwood that I compare Shadow Music to her other historicals and I did try as best as I could to judge this book solely on its own, but when I closed the book I just thought: ‘Where did the awesome talent of Garwood go for the historical genre?’ The plot holds very little surprises, each character does play its part in the grant scheme of things that makes me interested enough to keep reading but all in all it is that Julie Garwood didn’t change for the better in my opinion, Shadow Music is at its best mediocre and at its worst a disappointment for those who’ve read other novels by her hand like: Ransom, The Wedding, The Secret and so on.

In the end, as I look back on reading this novel, I would say what I missed the most was the romance, the plot and the secondary characters held potential and they were meant to make the romance story of Colm and Gabrielle shine and this is something I just didn’t get nor feel.

Sometimes it just isn’t meant to happen and Julie Garwood just couldn’t create the sparkle of an endearing historical that nurtures the tale of a heart rendering love.  

2,5 stars

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  1. Such a shame, I love Garwood historicals, I have just finished reading Guardian Angel and The Gift which I LOVE.

    So many good books, I miss them.

  2. Julie Garwodd!!!!!! I heart her so much {opens arms wide}. I read Shadow Music last year and it had been such a long time since I had read anything by Garwood that I really enjoyed this one. But I'm in total agreement with you. It is not up to her usual Historical awesomeness. I'm just glad we finally got a Highland historical out of her, she's been on the romantic suspence band wagon for years.

  3. I totally agree, this one just seemed like something was missing. I absolutely loved her other medieval historical romance novels and was disappointed with this one. Well we can always reread the others, my favourite being The Secret!

  4. Sorry it did not grab you :(
    I must confess that I have never read a single book by her but I do hear she is excellent (well mostly anyway)


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