Wednesday, May 16, 2012

REVIEW: Saving Grace by Julie Garwood

[Published 1993]
TBR Challenge May 2012

The suggested theme for this month's TBR Challenge [hosted by Wendy the Super Librarian] is to read an old-school romance, published prior to 2000, from your TBR pile. Since I only started reading romance in 2006, I don't have many books that fit the 'old-school' criteria. However, thanks to some romance reading friends who have passed old school romances on to me [Mariana, Hilcia and Phyl], I do have a small handful. I believe I can thank Hilcia for this one? Anyway, when I saw Saving Grace by Julie Garwood among my TBR books, I knew right away it was just what I was in the mood for --a classic medieval romance and that's just what I got.

Saving Grace takes place in early 13th century England and Scotland--but mostly in Scotland. Lady Johanna was married off to the ruthless and greedy Baron Raulf when she was just a young girl. A favorite pawn of the wicked King John, her husband abused her in this loveless marriage, leaving Johanna wishing never to marry again upon his death when she is widowed at just sixteen years old. A few years later her adoptive brother, Baron Nicholas, convinces her to marry his friend, Gabriel MacBain, the Scottish warrior who is laird of the MacBain and Maclaurin clans. Not only is MacBain her only chance of safety, but perhaps even a morsel of happiness. More than that, the marriage also serves as a political move to keep the lands Johanna inherited from going to the evil English Barons under King John's rule and saves her from being married off by the King to another wicked Baron. It also puts Johanna under the protection of this strong Scottish clan since she happens to know of some incriminating evidence against the King.

So Johanna marries Gabriel MacBain and lives in this castle nestled in the Scottish Highlands, where the language and customs are so different from that of England--including her duties as wife to the larger-than-life Laird MacBain. He wishes for her to stay put in the castle and sew in front of the fire. She wishes to work the land, ride horses, practice her bow and arrow and make friends with the men and women of the MacBain and Maclaurin clans. It's a rocky road for this couple, and a lot is going on between them and the extensive but manageable cast of secondary characters, but in between exasperating discussions a few arguments and plenty of humorous missteps--usually on Johanna's part, they manage to make it work. Not only do they make their marriage work, but they both end up surprised to have found true love along the way. On this path to true love, Johanna learns that her new husband is fiercely loyal to and protective of those in his care and underneath his gruff exterior, he is a tender, patient man. As bits of Johanna's previous marriage to Baron Raulf and the absurd teachings of the Baron's Priest are revealed, Gabriel learns why Johanna is so timid and even a bit fearful of him. He also comes to know and respect the strong, independent woman who's breaking out of her shell and trying to live true to herself. So a lot of individual character growth going on amidst the growth of their love for each other.

Saving Grace is the third medieval romance I've read by Julie Garwood and I have to say each one has been an absolute delight to read. Garwood's writing is solid, the true history and politics of the time period are realistically woven into the story line ... and the love stories? Utterly romantic.

Saving Grace gets 4.5 out of 5 stars from me.

In the past year, I have read Garwood's The Bride, The Wedding and now Saving Grace. I can't wait to read more!

What's your favorite medieval romance by Julie Garwood?

Favorite medieval romance by another author?

You can visit author Julie Garwood at her website


  1. I love, LOVE Garwood's historicals. I have read them all, this one included. I think my favorite is The Wedding, have you read it? If you randomly pick one of her books, chances are you're gonna love it. She is that good. I also enjoy her romantic suspense stories.

  2. Oh this is probably my favorite Garwood! *happy sigh* I just love Gabriel and Johanna--he's indeed larger than life, but he's also so tender with her, so stubborn on his beliefs of what a wife of high birth should do and believe.

    [I thought she was nineteen when she finally marries Gabriel--she does spend at least a couple of years in court, sparring with king John Lackland over her late husband's lands.]

  3. I remember finding this one at the library several years ago. I liked it too. Some of these older books are real treasures.

  4. Brie ... I read The Wedding last summer and loved it, too! I also read The Bride. That was my first Garwood romance. *sigh* I can't wait to read more. I've discovered that I just love medieval romances. :)

    azteclady... Obviously I adored this one, too! The humor is so good, too. Thanks for catching that error in my review. You're right. Johanna was 16 when she was widowed but then was in the King's court for 2-3 years so she was 19 when she wed Gabriel. I edited my review to reflect that. Thanks. :)

    Phyl... Some of these older books are real treasures.
    Isn't that the truth!

  5. LOVE LOVE LOVE Garwood. I could never pick a favorite from her older stuff, but Saving Grace is at the top. I re-read them like mad :) I'm glad you love them as well.

  6. *grins*

    this one is definitely my favorite Garwood book!
    I love Gabriel and Johanna! I think I re-read their book once or twice a year. It's just such a pick up for me.

    What I've never gotten understood is where does it say Johanna is just sixteen? I always miss that part lol - though I know it says so on the summary of the book. I think that's my only pet peeve with the book.


    anywya I'm so happy you liked it

  7. Alex, if memory serves, at the beginning we are told that she was 11/12 when she was married off, and that she was married five years before her husband gets himself killed while doing the king's bidding somewhere else--so that's the sixteen. Then the couple or so years in court, we are told that she is nineteen when she's forced to marry Gabriel (more or less willingly--it's either him or someone of the king's choosing)

  8. Wooohooo on making it as well Christine! You get a bonus point because you stuck to the theme while I didn't ^_^;

    Glad you really enjoyed the book. I've actually never read Ms Garwood - well not her medieval books at least. I'm not a fan of that time period, although so many loves her books.

    Maybe I'll get this one a try though :)

  9. Mariana.. I know you do! :) You're from whom I've gotten all her books! Or Hils.. it's kind of blurry which one of you handed them to me when we were sitting together with bags of books! ;)

    Alex... I think, like azteclady explains below, that it is written that she's twelve when she was married off to the icky Baron. Then if you do the math from various clues within the first couple of chapters (married three years, widowed, kept in King John's court) she's just about nineteen when she's brought to MacBain's castle.

    azteclady ...Thanks for the clarification! And gee wow, what a good memory! :)

    nath ... Thanks! We're hanging on with this challenge! I can't believe it!!!! If you don't enjoy medievals, why bother? There are so many books and too little time as it is. You may as well read what you like! ;)

    p.s. Next month's theme is westerns. Just fyi. ;) haha

  10. Oh I love this one! This makes me want to read it again, and let me tell you, re reading is really appealing this week!

  11. Lisa.. Pull it out and read it then! It would definitely be a comfort read. xo

  12. I'm sure I read these back in the day but I'm afraid I don't remember them very well... sounds like a re-read is definitely in order!

  13. I haven't read a medieval in ageeeees! Hmmm. Favourite Julie Garwood medieval? The Prize :)

  14. Nicoloa O. ... I think Garwood's medievals are comfort reads for a lot of people. Hope you re-read one. :)

    orannia... I just checked--My library has The Prize! It's on my queue. :)

  15. Every time I read a review for Julie's historicals, it makes me want to re-read them.

  16. I can't wait to hear what you think of The Prize :)

  17. LOL, I know, Christine! I've already chose my book and have been carrying it in my purse. Hopefully, I'll make it :P

  18. ames.. I can see why! They're very much comfort reads, I think.

    nath... Oh you are one step ahead of me for June already. I have to look through my TBR pile [aka boxes] to see what westerns I have. I think I only have 2-3 from which to choose.

  19. I'm not a reader of romance novels, but recently one of my good friends, who reads widely in that genre, said that I must sample what she considers to be the cream of the crop in romance. Reluctantly I paged through the several novels she lent me, and Saving Grace turned out to be the only one I could finish. I found it really enjoyable.

  20. Hi Eesti! I'm so sorry I didn't reply to your comment sooner! You slipped through the cracks on me!

    It's so nice to hear that you were willing to take a chance on a genre you don't normally read.. a lot of people don't even try! Even better, it's nice to hear you enjoyed Saving Grace by Julie Garwood. :))

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. :)


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