Though Julie Garwood apparently wrote THE SECRET after GENTLE WARRIOR, I found THE SECRET pales in comparison in all respects. The one thing I liked about THE SECRET though: Garwood has her hero and heroine give to each other, both in affection and love. I found the rest of THE SECRET however an interminable series of inane conversations about clan gossip and the bureaucratic operations of a Scottish clan. Unlike GENTLE WARRIOR, THE SECRET falls short in plotting, pacing, settings and prose. I also found GENTLE WARRIOR's passion between its lead pair stronger than this novel's. The main reason I wanted to read this novel: it's the precursor to Julie Garwood's highly recommended THE RANSOM.
The Story, possible SPOILERS.
Frances Catherine (Scottish) and Judith (English) have been best friends since they were 4 years old, constantly meeting at the Festival Games on the border. Frances Catherine's mother and grandmother both died from childbirth and fearing the worst, Frances Catherine secures a promise from Judith to come during Frances Catherine's time of pregnancy.
Now married to Laird Iain Maitland's brother Patrick, Frances Catherine stands before the Maitland Council of Elders for permission to allow Judith to visit. Iain travels to the border to fetch Judith himself. They share an instant attraction and Iain jealously refuses to allow her to travel horseback with any of his companions.
For years, Judith has been gathering information on childbirths from midwives so she can help her friend Frances Catherine. Once she arrives to the Maitland holdings, it's one clan gossip conversation after another. And it's like every woman is pregnant because Judith ends up taking over midwife duties and assists 3 mothers with their childbirths before Frances Catherine. The dumb conversations to impact a change in the clan's traditional way of thinking was painful to read, and romance between Iain and Judith even dumber.
The big secret deals with Judith's troubled past, and it isn't much of a secret since we find out fairly early on. Judith is daughter to the MacLean clan, fierce enemies of the Maitlands. After the series of insipid conversations and birthings, we have a boring ending as Judith finally meets her father Laird MacLean.
Nothing here, moving on...