Tag Archives: Julie Garwood

My Favourite/Favorite Romance Novel Couples

There are books and novellas that I recommend. There are novels I loathed.

This list is my favourite romance novel couples and there is a separate one for my favourite heroes and heroines as individual characters. If I put them in order, I’d never get this list published, so they aren’t.

If you’re uncertain, I suggest leaning towards the couples list for a starting point.

Balogh, Mary Slightly Dangerous CLASSIC
Bowen, Sarina Blonde Date novella  CLASSIC
Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Him
Bryce, Megan To Tame a Dragon
Chase, Loretta Dukes Prefer Blondes  – LOVE THEM
Cole, Kresley Dark Desires After Duska guilty pleasure THUNDER SEX™!
Dare, Tessa One Dance with a Duke
Dare, Tessa Any Duchess Will Do
Duran, Meredith Fool Me Twice
Florand, Laura All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Kiss
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Touch – Top 5 romance and couple
Florand, Laura The Chocolate Heart Whoops! One of my least favourite couples.
Florand, Laura Chase Me
Gabaldon, Diana Outlander  OBVIOUSLY, plus the series
Garwood, Julie The Gift – Old School
Hoyt, Elizabeth The Ice Princess
Kelly, Carla The Lady’s Companion
Kelly, Carla Marrying the Captain
Kennedy, Elle The Deal
Kinsale, Laura Flowers from the Storm
Kleypas, Lisa Dreaming of You
Kleypas, Lisa Where Dreams Begin
Kleypas, Lisa Again the Magic
Kleypas, Lisa Secrets of a Summer Night
Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter 
Kleypas, Lisa Love in the Afternoon
Lauren, Christina Beautiful Player
Lauren, Christina Dirty Rowdy Thing
Linden, Caroline One Night in London
Long, Julie Anne Like No Other Lover
Long, Julie Anne What I Did for a Duke  CLASSIC
Long, Julie Anne A Notorious Countess Confesses 
MacLean, Sarah One Good Earl Deserves a Lover
McNaught, Judith Almost Heaven  OLD SCHOOL
Milan, Courtney The Duchess War
Milan, Courtney The Suffragette Scandal  IF YOU READ ONLY ONE…
Parker, Lucy Act Like It
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth Natural Born Charmer
Quinn, Julia An Offer from a Gentleman
Quinn, Julia Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
Quinn, Julia It’s In His Kiss
Reid, Penny Neanderthal Seeks Human
Reid, Penny Beauty and the Mustache
Spencer, LaVyrle Vows
Thorne, Sally The Hating Game CLASSIC
Willig, Lauren The Seduction of the Crimson Rose 

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

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The Complete Reading List by Author

Short Version: Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked, these are ruthlessly streamlined recommendations lists –

So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance
Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started
Plus just for funsies: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

I have more content based lists over there on the right  –>

Annual Reading Tallies & Author Commentary 2012 – 2017
On reading romance: Emotional Version and Pseudo-Intellectual Version.

My AUTOBUY List (Links Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)
Tessa Dare (on double-secret probation right now actually)
Laura Florand
Lisa Kleypas
Julie Anne Long
Courtney Milan – The. Very. Best.

-A-
Albert, Annabeth Waiting for Clark (Bryce/Clark)
Alexander, R.G. Ravenous novella (Declan/Trick/Jennifer)
Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/ Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Alvarez, Tracey In Too Deep (West/Piper)
Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth) – GENRE OUTLINE
Ashley, Jennifer Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage (Mac/Isabella)
Ashley, Jennifer Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Cameron/Ainsley) – GUILTY PLEASURE
Ashley, Jennifer The Duke’s Perfect Wife (Hart/Eleanor)
Ashley, Jennifer Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift (Ian, Mac, Cam, Hart)
Ashley, Jennifer The Seduction of Elliott McBride (Elliott/Juliana)
Ashley, Jennifer The Untamed Mackenzie novella (Lloyd/Louisa)
Ashley, Jennifer The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Daniel/Violet)
Ashley, Jennifer Scandal and the Duchess novella (Steven/Rose)
Ashley, Jennifer Rules for a Proper Governess (Sinclair/Roberta “Bertie”)
Ashley, Jennifer A Mackenzie Clan Gathering (Ian/Beth)
Ashley, Jennifer Bodyguard (Shifters Unbound) novella (Ronan/Elizabeth)

The list has gotten SO VERY LONG, please click on the jump.

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The Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood

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.)

Saving Grace by Julie Garwood

About a week ago, I woke up and all I wanted to do was read a romance novel. I am not proud, but I am trying to own my shame. I blasted through the two books I had in the guest room closet and have moved on to both the library and the bookstore for more. If you have never read “historical romance fiction”, I can fill you in:

All the lead characters exist on a kind of mix’n’match continuum as follows:

The Men

A. Reformed Rakes Make the Best Husbands (gorgeous cynical bastard)
B. Laconic Warrior (gorgeous gruff protector)
C. Ordinary Guy (If you are looking for him, go find LaVyrle Spencer)

There’s also a whole cowboy thing, but the Old West is too dusty.

The Reformed Rake will have lean muscle mass and feline grace. He is a charming companion and an excellent dancer. His cynical bastardism may be a result of a feminine betrayal in his back story.

The Laconic Warrior will be heavily-muscled and rip doors of their hinges: Giant oak doors with giant iron hinges. There is an excellent chance he will also be a Highland Laird. He will sleep out of doors and bathe in the lake, even in the dead of winter. He will be intimidating and often frighten women, but not the heroine, no, she will take one look and see the handsome man no one else has been able to see underneath all the tartan and scowling.

These men are overwhelmed by the protective impulse they feel for the enchanting bit of fluff they’ve just met. These are Men of Action and are not distracted by such trifles as feelings.

The following elements will usually appear in some form:

1. Clenched jaw with visible muscle twitch to show anger
2. Clenched teeth as he clings to restraint in the face of the lust she has innocently aroused in him, and he is holding back lest he overwhelm or harm the woman with the strength of his passion
3. No matter where he lives, he will be tanned from head to toe. This bronzed glow will be surprising, and pleasing, to the heroine.

The Women

A. Victim of Circumstance (beautiful pawn)
B. Wallflower (otherwise ignored fabulous woman)

They are slim, but curvy goddesses as a rule. They always have more book learnin’ than is historically accurate, but I appreciate this token feminism. The Victim of Circumstance is either rich and exploited, or poor and exploited. The Wallflowers just need someone to finally notice them.

The following elements will appear in some form:

1. Cascading hair
2. A naturally tiny waist not really requiring a corset.
3. She holds herself like a queen, or
4. She is accident prone.
5. The Reformed Rake will require a lot of forgiveness.
6. The Laconic Warrior will require her to recognize he loves her before he is able to give in to this vulnerability and tell her.

Things You Have to Overlook

Blatantly anachronistic elements mostly with regard to social and sexual mores. If I wanted historical accuracy, I’d read Jane Austen. Incidentally, the things the hero and heroine do during their intimate moments has gotten much more adventurous since I started reading these books in the 1980s. I find it distracting. I blame the mainstreaming of porn.

No one can get out of that period clothing so quickly. Just once, I wish the heroine would be inwardly cursing all the damn layers that are taking so long to remove.

The age difference of at least 10 years, specifically the youth of the women.

Consistent Narrative Elements

Blazes of sensuality
Synonyms for heat
Oblique references to male body parts
Even more oblique references to female body parts
There is a lot of arching
Verbal sparring
Losing control
Sighing
Someone will be “vexed”
Something will be “sinewed”
Many things will be sensual
Being a pirate is cool

I think you should be up to speed now, but before I start, I must tell you that the book included a bonus chapter from another of the author’s novels. It was set in present day Boston and our hero (read: Kennedy) meets his prospective partner at a charity event when he THROWS UP ALL OVER HER as he has appendicitis. Then, because she is a doctor visiting from out-of-town, she performs the appendectomy. That’s right: she performs a random minor surgery at a local hospital at which she has no privileges. This is why I stick to historical romance novels.

Interjection December 2013: This was a pretty good summary of the tropes of the 1990s, but things have changed since then. The hero and heroine types have not changed but the women tend to be older and more experienced now.

And now to the business at hand:

God’s truth, I can’t even remember the heroine’s name. Let’s see if it comes back to me. The setting is England in 1206. Something exciting has happened with King John and his barons. Johana (!) is recently widowed after years of torment at the hands of her verbally and physically abusive husband, and the family priest. Childless despite her years of marriage (That’s right! She’s not a virgin and she never knew it could be like this), she is a valuable pawn as she has land holdings in Scotland that have been in dispute. Having avoided remarriage as long as she can, she ventures with her loving brother, Nicholas, to make a political match by marrying Laird Gabriel MacBain, a gruff and gorgeous warrior. By marrying her, he gains full title to his clan lands, and she is safely removed from the proximity of those who would exploit her for her wealth (I know). Although he now has the land, he is cash poor and that’s where the whisky subplot comes in. There is also some stuff about clan infighting and which plaid she is wearing.

As Johana settles into her new life with the imposing Laird, his love and gentleness, honestly, he really is a teddy bear, help her to heal and find her own identity and role as his partner. Along the way, she kills a group of wolves with her bow and arrow, she learns golf, and she gets over her fear of his wolf hound. I have to go back to the wolves for a second. She kills 4 wolves and her husband sets the bodies on fire rather than making a blanket out of the wolf pelts. I’d want a wolf pelt blanket myself.

I chose this book because I was familiar with the writer. It’s dangerous to take a chance on these novels because they often used to include an assault in which the heroine’s “body betrays her” and she gives in and enjoys it, OR, or the hero starts raping her, realises she is a virgin and then, AND ONLY THEN, feels guilty for the assault. You can see how I’d want to avoid that. The entire genre is very repetitious in plotting (obviously) and Garwood loves a nice, obvious subplot involving court intrigue. Generally, I skip ahead to get back to the romance. It’s really what I’m looking for and she does a good job with it. I’m actually not a big fan of the Laird/Highlander genre. I prefer the cynical bastards; they are generally witty, charming and fiercely intelligent, and I like that in a sexually-objectified man.

I’ve already started reading my next book Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught. I loved it when I was 20 and expect I will love it again now. It features a gambling roué named Ian Thornton, rumoured to be the illegitimate grandson of the Duke of Stanhope.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.