Desert Isle Keeper Review

Saving Grace

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.

English Lady Johanna was married very young to the abusive Baron Raulf, who belittled and beat her. The day she discovers she's a widow, she falls to her knees to thank God her life in hell is finally over. Her joy is short-lived, however, when King John demands she remarry, another brute of course, to secure her lands and loyalties. But Nicholas, Johanna's adopted brother, has a better plan. He respects and admires McBain, the warrior-lord who fought for and took possession of Raulf's castle and lands. Nicholas convinces Johanna to marry the McBain in order to secure without question her late husband's holdings, and to keep Johanna as far away from King John's clutches as possible. For King John has a politically incriminating secret, and the king suspects Johanna may know what it is.

Scottish warrior Gabriel, though illegitimate, is held in such high esteem he is laird over two clans, the McBains and the MacLaurins. Although united under Gabriel's leadership, the two clans behave more like rival siblings, each wanting the laird to like them best. When Gabriel agrees to Nicholas' plan to marry Johanna, he does so in the hopes the two clans will work together to repair the castle and maintain the lands, forming an emotional bond as the common goal is attained. He views Johanna, and thus her holdings, solely as a means to that end.

Initially fearing her new husband, Johanna comes to appreciate that Gabriel, all square-jawed and arrogant, is tough on the outside, but (here's the shocker) is really soft-hearted and tender. For Garbriel has recognized the bastard child, Alex, as his son even though the little boy may have been fathered by any one of a number of men. And, through Gabriel's tender care of her heart and her soul (and her body), Johanna comes to realize how much she loves her giant warrior. So much so that, ultimately, she places herself in mortal danger to save the people she has come to care about, trusting Gabriel loves her enough in return to move heaven and earth to get to her in time.

Not as sensuous as previous books, Saving Grace is yet threaded-through with the sweet love and gracious humor that are Garwood trademarks. Whenever faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem, Johanna reminds herself that, "There's always more than one way into a keep!" and then proceeds to analyze other ways to solve her problems. The McBains and Maclaurins each insist their lady wear their clan's plaid on alternating days, and Johanna is interminably being (gently) reminded she's wearing the "wrong" plaid. Tiring of this, Johanna uses her cleverness to resolve this problem for once and for all. So, while Johanna goes about her business being exactly who she is, Gabriel is falls deeper and deeper in love with his wife, much to his chagrin, and our delight.

When I was a little girl, I would sit before my birthday presents, surveying the brightly wrapped and ribboned packages, carefully opening each one, admiring it, thrilling over it, and then giggling and squirming over those I had left to unwrap. The presents I had opened were wonderful, but they were now known quantities; the gifts remaining to be opened could contain anything! Each time I read a Garwood book, I have the same delectable experience. I admire it, thrill over it, and then giggle at how many I have yet to read. I don't know what they will each contain, but I know they will be wonderful! Saving Grace is an enchanting little gift. When you read it, you'll see what I mean.

-- Marianne Stillings

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