Thursday, 27 June 2013

Saving Grace by Julie Garwood

Saving Grace (1993)
Julie Garwood
Grade: A-
Genre: medieval romance
Sex scenes: sweet
Source: own

Married as a child and widowed not long after, Lady Joanna never wanted to marry again. Her husband was a brute of a man, prone to beat and rape her as he liked, channelling his frustration at her barrenness using his fists. He changed the staff every month, so that she would never have the chance to get close to anybody, and her confessor, Bishop Hallwick preached that God viewed women as lower in standing than oxen. Raulf was a favourite of King John, and thus privy to all sorts of damning information – one piece of which Joanna happened to overhear, and could get her killed.

Post-Raulf’s death, King John has been informed that Joanna might know his secret, and as a precaution, has her locked up in London, with daily interrogations to determine the extent of her knowledge. John wants her married to Williams, another like Raulf and Joanna can’t delay the inevitable forever. Her step-brother, Nicholas, has an alternative that will get her far away from England, and with the help of a substantial donation to the King, it is permitted. Joanna will now marry Gabriel McBain – a fierce Scottish Laird who once saved Nicholas’ life. McBain might be ruthless in battle and the running of his two clans, but he wants land that belongs to Joanna, and will marry her to get it.

Joanna never knew that marriage could be like this. For three years, Raulf had humiliated her and his verbal and physical abuse had forced her into submission, so that she could hardly think without Raulf criticising her ignorance. With Gabriel, Joanna no longer has to fear again. He might take ‘overprotective’ to new heights, but she can voice her opinions, and would never have imagined that sex could be this pleasurable. And unlike Raulf, Gabriel doesn’t care about her being barren. He already has an illegitimate son, and claims five-year-old Alex as his own.

Married life might be what Joanna and Gabriel both needed, but elsewhere, life isn’t so smooth. Gabriel has two clans that he needs to unite if he is going to appear invincible, and work on protecting his land is going much too slow. In addition, summons keep coming for Joanna from England, asking her to join the rebellion to overthrow the King, and their perfect life might soon start to collapse around them …

I loved this. All Julie Garwood’s medieval romances might be variations of the same plot, but unlike with other authors, this doesn’t bother me. It may be predictable, but Ms Garwood always finds a way to keep it fresh

Ms Garwood writes feisty heroines and when they clash with her uber-alpha heroes, there’s guaranteed to be sparks. Three years of submission may have made her particularly vulnerable and easily frightened, but she’s not a coward and will speak up for what she believes in. Knowing that Gabriel will never harm her makes her willing to challenge him as an equal, and I love her for it.

Ms Garwood has a unique sense of humour and this always shines through in her books. Her characters have little quirks or manners of speech and it’s something that I’ve come to expect and always look forward to seeing what a new book will bring.

Not often have Garwood heroines been married before, at least not in the small selection of titles that I’ve read. This was a new one for me and I enjoyed it, especially given the heart-crushing* story behind it. As a result, Gabriel is particularly sensitive (perhaps overly so) to Joanna’s past and current state of mind and it’s lovely to watch such an alpha male be humbled so.

Alex is cute. Not the cutest kid by any means, but he fits the purpose for which he was written into existence, and plays his part well. He’s absent for a good portion of the book which is a shame, but this only further increases the importance of his contribution.

Even though I now have oodles of time to read, I’m finding that there’s little that I actually want to read. Saving Grace refreshed my memory regarding how much I love Ms Garwood’s medieval and I can imagine her books being my next big glom. A must-read Garwood classic.

*I’ve recently treated myself to Bones Season 6 (horrifically behind, I know) now that I’ve finished exams. This necessitates a re-watching of Season 5, which I’ve almost finished. I’ve been reminded by the ever-pragmatic Dr Brennan that the heart is a muscle and so cannot be broken – only crushed.

Image courtesy of Another Look Book Reviews

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