Monday, June 14, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: His Border Bride by Blythe Gifford

Harlequin Historical May 2010

288 pages By Blythe Gifford


Gavin Fitzjohn is the bastard son of an English prince and a Scotswoman. A rebel without a country, he has darkness in his soul.

Clare Carr, daughter of a Scottish border lord, can recite the laws of chivalry, and knows Gavin has broken every one.

Clare is gripped by desire for this royal rogue— could he be the one to unleash everything she has tried so hard to hide? These persuasive urges have stayed safely dormant—until now….

Ever see 'The Long, Hot Summer'? A 1958 movie starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, based on the 1940 William Faulkner novel 'The Hamlet'?

How can I say this, I have read romance novels that remind me of old movies and such, I even smiled at the tip of the cap toward a beloved movie scene or character. But wow, this book was Faulkner's story all over. Instead of Paul Newman being called 'Barn Burner', our hero in this book is called 'Fire-raiser.' And there are entire scenes lifted from the movie/book as such, it got so I was picturing Paul Newman through this whole book, especially when Gavin's blue eyes were described as clear as the sky. Yep, Paul. Now, this is not a bad thing, not at all. I am not slamming the author. Far from it. Writers certainly get inspiration from past works, heck, I do.

But instead of Mississippi, this takes place in Medieval Scotland, Gavin Fitzjohn is an outcast, accused of a heinous crime he did not commit, hence the 'fire-raiser' moniker. He meets Clare Carr, and immediately they butt heads, but under that, is an underlying passion that fairly sizzles. Like the movie, Clare has a simpering, effeminate suitor, one she hopes will take her away to France and the overbearing rule of her father.

Her father however, has other plans, he wants grandchildren, a strong man to take over the guarding of Carr's Tower at the Scottish border. He sees Gavin Fitzjohn as that man. Clare is not impressed. Gavin could be a traitor, he is half-English, nephew to King Edward.

While Gavin and Clare are at loggerheads, one thing brings them together, their love of Falconry. It is apparent Blythe did her homework here, I was completely caught up in the training and hunting skills of these birds. And I loved the sexual overtones the both used toward each other when talking 'Falcon speak' as it were.

GAVIN: "Let me teach you to soar as you were meant to. I can teach you to fly faster, Higher...further."

Yow. Gavin is very appealing. But, he has his dark, tortured past, and this keeps Clare from trusting him completely, much to Gavin's hidden heartbreak.

An example of the Long, Hot Summer: (from the movie script)

You look mighty young there, Miss Clara, all curled up in your bed...
like you just washed your hands and brushed your teeth...
and said your prayers like a little girl.
I'll bet you was a mighty appealin' little girl.
I'll bet you knew where to look for robins' eggs and blackberries.


You look pretty sitting there, like a wee lassie ready to say her prayers, and drift off to sleep without a care in the world. You should be happy and carefree as you
were when you were a little girl with nothing to worry about but lookin' for robin's eggs.

See? Wow. And there are a couple more examples, but as I said, I am not slamming the author. Did it detract from the enjoyment of this book? Not really. But at times to me, it was distracting, as I kept picturing Paul Newman from the movie. A very minor point.

Back to the book, Gavin and Clare are finally married, it is a bumpy ride, Gavin with his hidden insecurity about his past and identity, And Clare with her own doubts about Gavin's loyalty. Both are complex characters, richly drawn, though at times Clare's stubborn hard-headedness was infuriating at times. However, ultimately, they get to their HEA, and it was a fascinating ride. Adventurous and sensuous, what more would you want in a Historical?

3 and 1/4 stars out of 4 for the book

KOVER KUDOS: I love this cover, we see both the hero and heroine, both are similar in looks as described in the book, wonderful, sensuous pose, lush colors. Great job, Harlequin!

4 out of 4 stars for the cover


Blythe Gifford said...

So glad you enjoyed the book. (And yes, the cover is spectacular, isn't it?!)

Deb said...

Karyn, I've been wanting to get this book and still will. But, and I almost hesitate to bring this up because the first commenter is Blythe, but aren't some of the book's scenes bordering on plagiarism of the movie script? Yes, words are changed a bit and such, but it still is borderline. Just my opinion.

Karyn Gerrard said...


It's obviously a homage. For writers, such homages speak to us on themes and ideals that are universal. How many times have romance writers used the Cinderella theme or consider characters from literary or cinema fiction when penning their own tomes.

The book is a very good read, I think you will enjoy it.

Karyn Gerrard said...


Thank you for stopping by, I did enjoy your book, and the cover says it all.

Deb said...

Yeah, universal themes are used and I understand authors paying tribute to other books and movies (such as play on titles from movie titles, etc.), but there are some words here that are the same as the script. Why did the hero have to say "robin's eggs"? Why not use another bird or even another analogy that little girls do? Like, making a daisy chain or something. I don't know, Karyn, I'm still out on this one, relfecting on it. (Sorry, friend.)

But, your review, as usual, was awesome and I still want to read this book! :)

Karyn Gerrard said...


Your words succinctly reflect and summarize my main point of my review.
Thanks about the review, means a lot!

Blythe Gifford said...

Karyn and Deb: I appreciate your sensitivity in handling in this discussion. No author likes to hear the “P-word.” Indeed, the story was inspired by the movie, but as I went along, of course, it took on its own life until I was much more aware of the differences than the similarities. The story is, indeed, about borders of all kinds. I’m sorry if you felt some phrasing was close to the line.

Karyn Gerrard said...

Inspiration given by previous works, especially the great ones, is the fuel that powers our creative edge.

Who among us doesn't feel appreciation for words put together by a master wordsmith? Indeed, whether they be words on a page or brush strokes on a canvas, anyone with creative talent draws upon such works. Without it, what can we aspire to and what more need be said?

Anonymous said...

Interesting, Karyn, that you bring this up now as I've just begun reading a book for a book club meeting later this week. I'm finding the beginning a bit distracting to read because of this same topic.

Have you ever seen the 1997 movie, "The Christmas List" starring Mimi Rogers and Rob Stewart? If this book wasn't inspired by that movie, then this is one amazing coincidence at work here, I wouldn't say lines are lifted, but some come darn close.

That said, I've written things and then later picked up a published author's book and thought, "Oh God, someone's going to think I stole that idea." Which was impossible because I wrote mine before I read the book. Also, I've written things knowing I was inspired or borrowing the idea from someone - usually in that case, I try very hard to make it my own.

So, what's inspiration, what's stealing and what's just the fact there are no new ideas, if you can think of it, someone else can too? :)

Devil's advocate here, only.

I've never seen "The Long Hot Summer" or read the book, not being a Faulkner or Newman fan, so I would have missed the inspiration completely. I guess it's touch and go that way. And a good read is a good read. I mean how many Romeo and Juliette stories are running around out there?

I guess there's a lesson here for writers, if you know you're working from something that inspires you, be careful to make it your own. We're all going to be inspired by something be it a movie, a book or a newspaper article.

Karyn Gerrard said...


Sorry it has taken me so long to get back you.

I have just started a paranormal romance and the opening is a scene right out of Terminator 2, he even rides up on a motorcycle, holds out his hand and says 'Come with me if you want to be safe'

Line in the movie? "Come with me if you want to live."

And I have done that too, written something and see something like it in a book.

Definitely a lesson here, one I have taken to heart, you can be sure. "Make it your own", Good plan.