Mar 23 2011 9:00am

Hot for the Scots: Top Three Julie Garwood Medievals

Pennant Bearer

Julie Garwood’s stories were the first medievals I read, which led me to becoming enamored with the medieval sub-genre: Hardy warriors and strong women eking out a living in a harsh environment in harsh times with grace and honor—what’s not to admire?

Those same fierce warriors brought to own up to their feelings for their stalwart women make for scenes that touch the heart and the mind with that swoony feeling.

Garwood’s medievals have become keepers on my shelves, my go-to comfort read of remembered pleasure and renewed appreciation. Her characters brim with personality and passion—and they don’t do anything halfway. They’re fully immersed in life, whether they’re making love or cutting off a man’s head.

Ransom by Julie GarwoodWhenever there’s any discussion about the top Garwoods, Saving Grace, Ransom, and The Secret are always mentioned. Of those, Ransom was my first and remains my favorite.

All three of these Garwood books are set in Scotland of the High Middle Ages (1066-1300) and depict lairds who are men of integrity with a strong code of honor and who succumb passionately to brides from much-hated England.

The women, for their part, remain steadfast and bring gentleness, understanding, and love into the harsh lives of these clan leaders. Both the men and the women seek to protect the other from dangers and both respect and cherish the other person’s thoughts and actions.

How do these women adapt to living life under such foreign and difficult circumstances? And how do these men overcome the women’s Englishness and the moral and ethical problems they left behind but which beckon them back?

Under this premise, Garwood tells three very different stories of three very different sets of couples:

“You’ve already made your commitment to me when you admitted you loved me. Nothing else matters. I don’t give a damn how complicated it all becomes. You’re mine now. Do you honestly believe I’m ever going to let you go?”

That’s the heart of who Ransom's hero, Brodick Buchanan, is: a protector and a champion of those whom he cares about. The heroine Gillian, in turn, is also a champion of young Alec, whom she protects at her own peril. Later, Gillian returns to the person who abused her in the past in order to protect Brodick from being harmed. Each seeks to protect the other, and each loves the other beyond everything else.

Saving Grace by Julie Garwood

Johanna turned her gaze to the floor. 'If a pup bit me, I would have a fair chance of surviving, but if a wolf bit me, I don’t believe I would have any chance at all.'

Gabriel McBain took a step towards her. She didn’t back away. He put his hands on her shoulders. His voice was a low, gruff whisper. 'Johanna? I don’t bite.'

Such gentleness from an otherwise ruthless warrior towards someone whom he cares for is who Saving Grace's hero, Gabriel, is. He fears Johanna might die in childbirth and doesn’t care if he reveals his fears to her. The care with which he introduces her to his hellhound Dumfries is another indication of his regard for Joanna and for Dumfries. In turn, Joanna courageously takes charge of fixing his beloved pet’s injury, despite the danger to herself from an angry, injured, ferocious animal. Her care of poor, battered Clare is another testament to her caring nature. Joanna successfully unites the two feuding clans—the MacBains and MacLaurins—whom Gabriel is laird over. Her constant attempt to safeguard Gabriel’s soul and entry to heaven by attempting to reform his character is met with little success, but she doesn’t give up.

The Secret by Julie Garwood

Judith hadn’t realized until that moment how much she admired Iain. He was always so certain about everything, so sure of himself. There was an air of quiet authority about him. He didn’t demand respect from his followers. Nay, he’d earned their loyalty and their trust.

'There’s a specific chain of command, and everyone in the Maitland clan adheres to the same rules,' Iain said. 'While you’re on my land, you’ll obey my order, because ultimately I’m responsible for you.'

'Why is that?' she asked.

He let out a sigh, 'Because I’m laird.'

The Secret's Iain Maitland is a leader to the bone; you couldn’t separate the man from his duty, no matter how hard you tried. He assumed his duty when he was made laird as if he’d been born to the job.

But when he meets Judith Hampton, who does not seek to impress him or cower like a submissive subject, she frees him from having to act the laird. Judith admires the leader in him, but to her, he is a man first, a desirable handsome man; everything else is secondary.

Judith is also born to duty: when she takes on a task, such as midwifery, even though it terrifies her, she accomplishes her duty with courage and conviction, giving her all. Both are leaders and cannot help admire and respect each other’s skills.

So am I right in supposing that Saving Grace, Ransom, and The Secret are Julie Garwood’s top three Scottish medievals? If not, which ones would you put on your list?


Keira Soleore is an aspiring Medieval & Regency historical romance writer and the comments moderator for IASPR’s Journal of Popular Romance Studies. On the web, she can found at Cogitations & Meditations, on her website, and on Facebook.

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Kiersten Hallie Krum
1. Kiersten
The Secret came out in the winter of my sophmore year of college during midterms. The moment I finished my exams, I sat in my ancient, high-back, threadbare chair and read it cover to cover in about 4 hours. Absolutely loved it.

BUT I have to disagree. Clearly the best Julie Garwood historical is The Bride, followed very closely by Lion's Lady, Guardian Angel, and Honor's Spendour. I had rabid love for those early historicals and they still rest patiently in the book boxes that fill my closet, waiting for me to visit.
Kiersten Hallie Krum
2. Kiersten
And now I realize that you were specifically targeting the medieval historicals. Whoops. Still have to go with The Bride but next would be Honor's Splendour.
Alyssa Cole
3. Alyssa Cole
I haven't read The Ransom and The Secret yet, but Saving Grace is my favorite! My second fave Scottish medieval from her is The Bride. I'll have to check out the other two you recommended, though!
Keira Soleore
4. KeiraSoleore
@Kiersten and @Alyssa: It's great to see that both of you enjoy Garwood's historicals. There's something so appealing about the innocence and warm fuzzies in her books. I love to take them down from my shelves and re-read them. Why is "The Bride" among both of your favorites?

In the days when self-checkout hadn't arrived at libraries, I remember checking out the latest Garwood and the librarian looking covetously at my book and saying she wished to read that very badly but couldn't put a hold on it herself at the library. It was hardcover so she couldn't buy it. I bet she was first in line at the store when the book came out in paperback.
Alyssa Cole
5. ms bookjunkie
Saving Grace and The Secret, yes, but the third in my top three is The Prize. The Prize was my first Garwood, and as such, close to my heart. And The Bride is up there at the top, along with Honor's Splendour, Gentle Warrior …and I think that's it for my favorite Garwood medievals. *warm fuzzies*

Ransom doesn't quite make my list, and it's very possible it's because it came out later. I was a different person than the who gloried in those early Garwoods, and didn't make the same connection to it. *shrug* Dunno.
Keira Soleore
6. KeiraSoleore
@msbookjunkie: Warm fuzzies, indeed. I came to Garwood late, so almost all her historicals had already been published and since I borrowed them from the library (I now own them), I read out of order. Thus "Ransom" was my first and has remained my favorite, just as "The Prize" is yours.
Donna Cummings
7. Donna Cummings
I have lots of warm fuzzy places in my heart for Julie Garwood's historicals. :) I don't know that I can choose a favorite, though, since it's been so long since I've read them. Guess I'll have to add those to the re-read list!
Keira Soleore
8. KeiraSoleore
@Donna: It looks like you're due for a cozy re-read. A few months will go by, and something will jog my memory of a book, but then I am not able to remember a particular detail, so I go to the book and end up reading the entire thing. They are unputdownable.
Alyssa Cole
9. Alyssa Cole
Hmm, why is The Bride one of my faves? There's just something sweet and fun about it. The main characters work so well together, and the story is engaging. I don't know the pub dates, but I like to think of The Bride as a sort of proto-Saving Grace (i.e., the characters/story in Saving Grace, although not the same, are the best embodiment of what Garwood was shooting for in The Bride). That's just my theory though. Either way, I love re-reading both of them!
Alyssa Cole
10. Janet W
I wouldn't exactly say my recall is fuzzy ... and seriously, my keeper shelves are laden with Garwood ... but for me it's The Bride. Beginning, middle, end. What a fabulously matched couple. Oh, when she speaks Gaelic (I think it's Gaelic), wears the kilt ... I just find the whole book puts me in a bubble of happiness.
Alyssa Cole
11. Hilliary
The bride is My favorite, I love all her books, but there is something about Alec Kincade and Jamie that I adore. Maybe it's because Jamie reminds me of myself in a lot of ways.

Slightly off topic, I've heard a rumor that Garwood has 2 new books coming out this year?!?

Also, I just saw something about "
Gentle Warrior, Honor's Splendour, Lion's Lady, and a New Excerpt
Someone please explain and tell me about the New Excerpt?? I own every one of her books, so I am wondering if I need to go out and but those again just to read it.
Alyssa Cole
12. phytoPlankton
Came across this page as I just started re-reading the secret. then i started wondering if i should atleast try and find another book or author who wrote similiarly. hence google sent me here.

I have to say honor's splendor and the prize along with the secret and saving grace figure in my top of top garwoods. I also liked ransom but honestly, Gillian stole the march on Brodick in that book.

Iain* will always be my dream guy though Duncan comes a close second!

*melting into a puddle now*

if anybody knows a similiar author who could do justice to garwood, please comment back!
Alyssa Cole
13. rosrodz
I love Julie Garwood even her contemporary novels because of the wit and humour in her dialogues.. II enjoyed The Bride and The Secret in her historical.
Alyssa Cole
14. Colleen Gold
I LOVE all her historicals. I've read her for years. I have paperbacks held together with rubberbands from being read so often. Now I have them in my Fire
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