"She didn't think she'd ever seen such a magnificent sight in all her life. The man fascinated her. He was certainly the biggest of the lot. His broad shoulders fairly blocked out the sun shining down behind him, and only the rays of light surrounded him, giving him an invincible, magical appearance. He was only a man, a ruggedly handsome man at that, and surely the most muscular warrior in the group. The plaid he wore had opened on the side of his left thigh. The bulge of sleek muscle there looked as hard as roped steel. Lord, she thought, she could be content to stare at the warlord for the rest of the day. His hair was a dark, rich brown in colour, with just a little hint of curl to it. His bare arms were as bronzed as his face. He had a striking profile. Oh yes, he was a fit one all right, but in truth it was the colour of his eyes that held her interest the longest. They were a beautiful, brilliant shade of gray."Mmmmmm......oh, I'm just visualizing. (You know visualizing is a comprehension strategy used by good readers and I consider myself a very good reader!) The plot of this novel is a different one for me. Judith Hampton had promised her best childhood friend that she would be at her side for the birth of her child. Judith's journey from England to the vast Highlands of Scotland becomes an adventure, not only for herself, but also for her escort, Laird Iain, and his loyal warriors. An Englishwoman welcomed on Scottish land was unheard of at the time. But Judith is not your typical lass. She is fiercely loyal to her friend, independent, outspoken(my favourite trait!), and very beautiful. This is a mixture that even the strong-willed Iain cannot ignore. He is captivated by her, but of coarse, he denies any feeling he has for Judith other than a physical longing. Yet, he finds himself wanting to be her protector. And after one kiss, he cannot think of anything but this feisty Englishwoman. Little does he know that Judith is holding on to a secret that could shatter his world and that of his clan's.
I really enjoyed this tale. There are many layers to these characters that the author unfolds throughout the telling. The hero and heroine's attraction to one another is palpable and their playful bantering had me laughing out loud. I loved how Judith could show her vulnerabilities to Iain, but she always mustered the courage and strength to do what she believed was right, even in the face of fear. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the fight for women's rights was woven into the story, but was not preached to the reader at any point. This is a story where prejudices are overcome and love, loyalty and security are found. It is a story filled with inspiration and life-long lessons, such as the one Iain shares with Judith, and she with he at the end of the book.
"I was railing against all of the injustices in this world, and I specifically remember your suggestion to me. You said that if I didn't like something, I should work to change it. One whisper, added to a thousand others, becomes a roar of discontent."
If you don't like something, change it. And she does. And so should we all.
"The Secret" is book #3 in the 2011 Highlander Reading Challenge.