This time, I’m kicking it old school…
I went through a romance genre phase after I graduated from university in 1990. I don’t think I read a so-called real book for about two years. My boyfriend at the time was ENDLESSLY horrified by my choices. Then, I woke up one day and went to the library for works by the Algonquin Round Table. That kind of awakening hasn’t happened so far, and as I’ve read what I believe to be everything good currently out there, I decided to go back and read an author from my last genre episode.
In the early 1990s, Julie Garwood was the best writer of historical fiction and, according to Wikipedia anyway, I can congratulate myself on my excellent taste as she was apparently important to the genre for introducing quirkier heroines and the use of humour. I read most of her historical output, and during my romance novel cleanse, her book The Gift was one of only two I kept. It was also the first thing I picked up when the current fever set in.
Here, in a nutshell, is Julie Garwood’s The Lion’s Lady:
Christina, is young, not quite 19, and bee-yu-ti-ful. As with all Garwood heroines, she has a sprinkle of freckles across her nose. Her mother fled an abusive marriage to a non-determinate European royal before dying and passing on her child to be raised by — wait for it — the Lakota Sioux. After a year of “Acting English” training, Christina has arrived in London to help her (villan alert!) aunt claim Christina’s inheritance before disappearing back to the Lakota. Oh, and her evil father is skulking in the wings twirling his moustache because of a subplot about stolen jewels. As Christina is Blondey-Blonde von Blondersen, I remember wondering in 1992, and again this time, why her skin apparently has no sun damage from 16 years living on the plains. Did her adoptive mother make her wear a bonnet?
The hero, the Marquis of Lyonwood (Lyon), is thirty-ish, the size of a door, very male, also patient.
I would describe this book as fluffy. The subplots are dead serious, but the love story is approached with lightness and whimsy. There is a playfulness to the writing which is quite charming. The love scenes were considered quite graphic at the time. They would still qualify as fairly explicit, but have nothing on what one can find today depending on one’s tastes. Last year, when I read my first romance with anatomically correct terms (The Devil in Winter) my eyebrows made it halfway up my skull.
I won’t be seeking out any more Garwood. The genre has developed since the early 1990s, and I have little patience for impossibly beautiful leads and a borderline creepy age difference. My recollection of the books at the time was that all the heroines were very young, chaste, beautiful Victims of Circumstance, and I greatly prefer the more mature Wallflower heroines that proliferate today.
(The other book I have kept all these years was Vows by LaVyrle Spencer. She was well-regarded in the genre for writing “real people” historical romances set in the United States in varying time periods. Spencer retired in the late 1990s, but her entire back catalogue is available for e-readers. Julie Garwood transitioned to contemporary hardcover romance and thrillers and is still publishing today.)