Desert Isle Keeper Review

Saving Grace
(This DIK review was written by a reader)

Julie Garwood
1994 reissue of 1993 release, Medieval Romance (Early 1200s England and Scotland)
Pocket, $7.99, 432 pages, Amazon ASIN 0671870114

Grade: A
Sensuality: Warm

There are two reviews of this book.

During my reading marathon in this month of January (I'm making up for my lost reading time during the busy month of December!), I paused in between new books to revisit some of my favorite novels by Julie Garwood. The stories were as refreshing and funny as the first (and even second and third times) that I read them, and I was as sorry to see them end as the first time around.

Saving Grace is a wonderful example of Ms. Garwood's medieval romances. Johanna, a young, golden-haired English Lady, had been married to a cruel, abusive man while barely out of her teens, and while her self-confidence and spirit were nearly beaten out of her during the loveless marriage, she retains enough of both to defy her king when he tries to wed her to another unworthy baron. Through clever manipulation, Johanna manages to delay the unwanted marriage. Her brother, Nicholas, knowing that her reprieve cannot last long, manages to ultimately save her from the king's clutches, and persuades her to move to the Highlands to wed the recently appointed laird of a burnt-out castle.

Her initial meeting with large, dark and gruff Gabriel McBain does not go well. Nicholas had described the laird as a kind and gentle man; she finds, instead, that he is arrogant, demanding, and prone to giving orders.

Gabriel, on the other hand, while enchanted with Johanna's beauty, pronounces her too timid, too frail for the rough Highland weather, naive and full of daft opinions.

However, it takes only until the next day's wedding ceremony for their impressions to begin to change. Johanna's acceptance of Gabriel's illegitimate son softens his heart. The fact that Gabriel took in and is raising the boy when he could have denied his existence warms her considerably. The events that follow throughout their first months together continue to reveal their true characters to each other, and an unshakable bond of trust and love is formed that in the end helps them to defeat a royal plot set up against them.

While I often do not stop to analyze why I love particular books, it has always been clear to me why I enjoy Miss Garwood's works. Using Saving Grace as an example, I appreciate the fact that her hero and heroine do not waste their time and intelligence (or mine, for that matter) with unfounded presumptions or needless inner conflict. The heroine is not afraid to state her opinions or to show her displeasure. The hero, while seemingly brusque and insensitive, is almost from the first accepting and possessive. And when he realizes that he's fallen in love (something that does not take until the end of the book to occur), he doesn't deny it or abhor it. Rather he is determined that the heroine will start feeling the same malady!

"She'd snared him all right, blindsided him she had....
"There was only one course of action left to him. Johanna was going to have to love him. By God, he wasn't about to let himself become this vulnerable without gaining equal measure."
What a wonderful change from the oft-repeated "I'm a warrior, I will not be made vulnerable by such a foolish and soft emotion such as love".

I also find it delightful that Gabriel and Johanna are committed to each other from the moment they are bound together by marriage vows, and the learning process of compromise and capitulation is heartwarming and more often than not hilarious.

In Saving Grace, Ms. Garwood had me turning the pages as quickly as I could read them. Not only has she created wonderful and endearing characters, her humor had me laughing out loud at the most unexpected moments. Her villains were truly hateful, one of which is, unbelievably, a bishop of the church (his views on women are guaranteed to make your blood boil).

If you haven't given Saving Grace a try, do it! A very highly recommended novel and one of my all-time keepers.

-- Margie Wilhelm

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