Saturday, 9 May 2015

For the Roses by Julie Garwood

For the Roses (1995) (Pocket Books)
Julie Garwood
Grade: A
Genre: American historical
Sex scenes: hot
Source: own
Claybornes' Brides: (1) For the Roses
TBR RBC 2015: A book by Julie Garwood 

When four young street urchins in New York find a tiny, perfect baby girl thrown in a dumpster, their lives change forever. Though they’re little more than children themselves, Adam, Cole, Douglas and Travis shoulder the responsibility of bringing up the little girl they call Mary Rose Clayborne. All four have pasts they’re trying to escape from and so they head west, in the hope that they can find a place where they can erase the past and build the future that Mary Rose deserves.

Fast forward nineteen years and the Claybornes are well-respected in the tiny town of Blue Belle, Montana. Bringing up Mary Rose by themselves was a challenge and a learning curve, but the Clayborne brothers have strived to provide her with every opportunity as befitting a young woman of genteel upbringing. Enter Harrison Stanford MacDonald, a Scottish lawyer who’s worked in England for many years. He arrives in Blue Belle with a secret agenda and befriends Mary Rose, who adopts him for her own, much to the confusion and annoyance of her brothers. When Harrison’s news is revealed, it’s sure to turn this tight-knit family upside-down …

I loved this – I don’t know why it’s not on any AAR Top 100 Romances lists, or basically any recommendations for Julie Garwood’s books. It’s definitely one of my favourite Garwoods and one I will certainly remember and re-read again and again, partly because it’s a lot less formulaic than her others; I genuinely expected this to be a medieval romance because that’s just what I’ve come to expect. Julie Garwood does manage to keep making each medieval fresh in its own way, but a change in setting and time period was refreshing and just what I needed.

I know literally nothing about this time period (I don’t think I’ve ever read anything from this time) – I had to look it up on AAR. For the Roses is set between 1860 and 1879, making it an American Historical or Victorian when they get to England. I have no idea how accurate Julie Garwood’s representation of this era is, but I couldn’t get enough of it. Montana isn’t yet in the United States and the racial tensions between the North and South are a very real threat. Blue Belle is a tiny town and over the years, the Claybornes have been accepted and integrated into the very fabric of the community. It’s really cute to watch.

One of my favourite parts of the book was chapter 1, when the young boys stumble across the basket that Mary Rose has been left in and make a pact to keep her safe and do what is right by her. Their ages range from only eleven to fifteen, yet they realise how important it is for Mary Rose to have the opportunities that were denied to them. Even better, each chapter ends with a letter from one of the boys to ‘Mama Rose’, Adam’s mother and their collective adopted mother. Watching Mary Rose grow up in this way is almost unbearably cute. I fell in love with the family at the first chapter and with every page, they prove that family isn’t just about blood ties.

Julie Garwood writes heartbreak perfectly. Once Harrison drops him bombshell, Mary Rose has a major decision to make. Ultimately, she sacrifices her own happiness to the benefit of those around her and it destroys her very identity – we literally see the generous, loving and full-of-life Mary Rose that we know crumble before our eyes. It almost made me want to cry. As always, no way does Harrison grovel enough.

This was completely different to all the other medieval, historical and contemporary romances that I’d read from Julie Garwood. She’s proved that she can cross genres, but this was by far the best yet. These were characters that I could seriously root for and while I’d loved some of her previous heroes and heroines, it was nothing compared to what I felt for the Claybornes in For the Roses. You can guarantee that I’ll be re-reading this many times before the year is out and for years and years to come.

Image courtesy of Book Depository. 

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