The Secret

The Secret - Julie Garwood When she was a very young girl, English Judith Hampton met Scottish Frances Catherine Kirkcaldy and their lives were forever changed. Neither knew they were supposed to be enemies and forged a lifelong friendship. When Frances Catherine was near time to deliver her first born, the laird of her clan who was her husband's brother, was dispatched to bring Judith to the Maitland land. Judith had promised she would be there to help Frances if and when she ever had a child.Judith didn't have a conventional upbringing as her mother was distant at best, and that's being kind. She had been raised by her aunt and uncle until she was four years old and thereafter spent six months of the year with her mother. She had learned to be self sufficient and independent, speaking her mind and not accustomed to being told what to do. My knowledge of the middle ages isn't that expansive so I couldn't judge whether the period was accurately represented in this story. It occurred to me however, that Judith's boldness may not have gone over very well in the 13th century but I decided to accept the story as presented. Until Judith, Iain had not met a woman he felt challenged by or particularly interested in. His focus was on his duties and responsibilities for the clan. It was fun to see him be disarmed by Judith's frankness and unwillingness to be told what to do, especially if it didn't make sense to her logical thinking.I really enjoyed this story as it chronicled Judith's immersion into a clan that resented her simply for being English, her developing relationship with Iain Maitland and her efforts to empower the women of the Maitland clan. Watching her dismantle some of the grumpiest and fiercest warriors was a lot of fun and helped provide more texture to the story. The childbirth aspects were truly daunting as I was reminded of just how dangerous giving birth must have been before modern approaches were developed. There is an abundance of humor along with some very touching moments as the women learned to bond to support each other as well as their husbands and families, even in the midst of some tensions. There were also some surprises related to Judith's heritage that impacted clan relations.I'm looking forward to the next book in the series to learn more about what happened to this couple and other members of the clan. This was a good story with interesting characters and dynamics.