Julie Garwood's The Bride was our book pick for Dcember in the Unapologetic Romance Readers group on Facebook. It is evidently a classic in its subgenre, which is that of Scottish historical romances. The most famous of this subgenre is, of course, Outlander, but that takes place in a very different period than this, which is set in the 1100s rather than the 1700s. The story follows Jamie, a young Englishwoman who's been raised by her stepfamily (who treat her as a maid/girl of all work, though I wouldn't say that this is a Cinderella story because they're not mean to her and Jamie doesn't mind but rather views it as her duty, which is weird but okay) who ends up married to Alec, a Scottish lord (laird, ugh, I hate that word, so many cheesy fake Scottish accents ringing in my head) by order of King Henry after her stepfather doesn't pay his taxes.
There isn't a heck of a lot of story here, and this wasn't a book I particularly enjoyed. There's a weak murder sub-sub-plot (yes, two subs, it's not even prominent enough for one) in which we learn very early that Alec's first wife was killed, and the killer has it out for Jamie, too...but not a lot actually happens with this. Most of the time is spent with Alec and Jamie bantering back and forth. While Jamie isn't a weak-spined woman, she can be incredibly clueless at times, and both her and Alec's ways of talking (constantly calling each other "wife" and "husband," and Alec once calls her "baby," which is just so creepy) grated on my nerves. They also fell into the trope of "we instantly fell in love but yet we hate each other" which is one that I don't think actually works well anywhere. Having a character come around to care for someone they once despised is one thing, but having them do it while they're already in love with the person is just a strange dynamic that doesn't make any sense, and I don't think it works.
I also had a real problem with Alec in this book. For much of the story, he is outright mean to Jamie, and deliberately so. I get it, he's supposed to be an alpha male character, but there's a difference between that and being mean. I think Garwood lost of track of what is teasing and what's being outright cruel to another person's feelings here, and that really bothered me. And yes, it's the medieval period--but it's also fiction, and romantic fiction at that, and a guy who deliberately disregards his wife's feelings is not romantic at all.
I do have to give Garwood kudos on one thing here: despite the book taking place in Scotland, she avoids the horror that is a phonetically-written Scottish accent. Those are pure agony to read and one of the reasons I tend to avoid this subgenre like the plague. But Garwood uses a few choice words to illustrate her point, as well noting when conversations take place in Gaelic (which Jamie [who is of course good at everything including riding her horse bareback, while standing up, and archery] understands, even though she is English) in order to distinguish them without resulting to a muddle of letters that's difficult to read.
Overall, I found this a rather simplistic story that didn't have anything to really grip me. I'm not entirely sure why it's apparently such a foundation for the genre, but it was okay, I guess.
2 stars out of 5.