I found Julie Garwood's RANSOM listlessly mild, barely holding my interest, and too amateur in terms of writing, plotting and pacing. You can always count on Julie Garwood for mutually giving lead romance pairs and her characters blend together after you've read one of her books. There's really no difference in the lead characters of her books: sweet, loving, innocent virgins and fiendishly big, gruff, yet gentle warriors. Garwood loves her Highlanders, and I didn't appreciate this book's predominantly patronizing and superior attitude with respect to the English. Yes, we know Highlanders detest the English, but why are all the English warriors weak, fat and short and all the Highlanders statuesque giants? Are there no real warriors in England? Like every other romance novelist, Garwood is big on experience in many respects, and not only do Highlander lairds like Brodick Buchanan and Iain Maitland (from THE SECRET *) easily dispose English warriors, but they also patronize their own Highlander young men. For example, Brodick's warrior Dylan patronizing the young MacPherson warrior Proster. In combat, sometimes youth is better served over experience, but you'd never know it from this amateur novel. Not only are Garwood's towering giants preternaturally strong, but they all move as fast lightning! I call bullshit! Ordinarily, agility and stamina don't go hand-in-hand with strength and brute force! Big brutes like Garwood's Highlander lairds usually sacrifice quickness and stamina for brute strength. A smaller warrior will almost always win the endurance and stamina game against bigger, stronger warriors. The bigger they are, the harder they'll fall. Garwood makes her Highlander heroes seem like cartoons the way they discard weak English foes.
This 486-page hardcover contains too much interminable conversation, it dwells on many routinely disengaging plots, and its writing is the basest kind of amateur (I saw the word "bossiness" used). When I compare Garwood's plots and writing with a Laura Kinsale or Madeline Hunter, Garwood's books leave much to be desired. Again, the lead characters here are sweet but they're the same as every other Garwood novel, and you can only take so much of the same thing over and over.
The Story, possible SPOILERS.
RANSOM is actually a sequel to THE SECRET (*) which features Iain Maitland and Judith. RANSOM returns Iain's warriors Ramsey Sinclair and Brodick Buchanan, both lairds of their own clans now. Our hero is the fearsome heathen Brodick Buchanan while our heroine is the sweet, innocent virgin Gillian. In the prologue, our evil English villain, Baron Alford, assaults the English manor Dunhanshire. Gillian is a little child and Gillian's father entrusts a valuable jewelry box to Gillian's older sister Christen. Both Gillian and her older sister Christen flee the sieged castle via secret passageways but Alford's evil English warriors apprehend Gillian and her escort. Romantically, the jewelry box belonged to King John's true love, the deceased Arianna, and holds some secrets.
Years later, we find the young woman Gillian rescuing a young boy, Alec. Alec is none other than the Laird Iain Maitland's son, the hero of THE SECRET. Baron Alford releases Gillian to find and retrieve her sister Christen who he suspects resides amongst the Highlanders. Alford ruthlessly desires the jewelry box entrusted to Christen. If Gillian fails to retrieve her sister and the box, Alford will kill Gillian's beloved Uncle Morgan. Along the way, Gillian runs into Alec's protector Brodick Buchanan and the two share an instant attraction. After running around the highlands, gaining allies, and getting married, Gillian returns to Dunhanshire within Alford's allotted time. There's a secondary romantic pairing between Ramsey Sinclair and Bridgid KirkConnell as well. Everything concludes romantically as King John discovers the real culprit behind the death of his One-True-Love, Arianna.