Monday, July 13, 2009

Julie Garwood: Gentle Warrior


Gentle Warrior
Author: Julie Garwood
Release Date: December 1, 1990
List Price: $7.99

Read: July 12-13, 2009

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Another great Garwood romance with a fantastic cast of characters, though hero was a little too much at times

1086, England

Gentle Warrior is another great Julie Garwood medieval romance. I had to give it four stars instead of 4.5 or 5 because at times the hero, Geoffrey, was a little too caveman-like for me. Actually, it wasn't even really caveman-like - he was just too forceful, angry, badly tempered. Overall, he was generally a good hero though, and the other cast of characters was absolutely terrific. The subplot (was kind of a mystery, but not really) was interesting and as it was central to the plot and how the story develops, it didn't feel like an add-on and detractor from the romance. The resolving it was completely anti-climactic - twice you feel like you'll get some big to-do ... and then don't. Still a good read, though, that any Garwood and/or medieval historical romance fan should at least check-out from the library.

SUMMARY (from back cover)
In feudal England, Elizabeth Montwright barely escaped the massacre that destroyed her family and exiled her from her ancestral castle. Bent on revenge, disguised as a peasant, she rode again through the fortress gates ... to seek aid from Geoffrey Berkley, the powerful baron who had routed the murderers.

He heard her pleas, resisted her demands, and vowed to seduce his beautiful subject. Yet as Elizabeth fought the warrior's caresses, love flamed for this gallant man who must soon champion her cause .. and capture her spirited heart!

THE HERO, Geoffrey (27)

What bothered me about Geoffrey were his actions and thoughts that seemed to be relics of the 80s historical romance heroes, though to be clear there are *traces* of this - not the full-fledged real thing: there are no rape scenes that are supposed to pass as love scenes and Geoffrey never hits Elizabeth nor is he ever physically threatening/cruel, so don't worry about that; if any of those things had happened, regardless of what else was in the book it would have earned an automatic one star from me (or 0 if that was possible). The book was originally published in 1990, though, and I think that's why this hero is so much more borderline than Garwood's other heroes that were written later.

Basically, Geoffrey was a little too ... warrior-like. I know he's this big, bad knight, but normally Garwood's trademark heroes are big, bad warriors - who fall under the spell of some gentle courageous woman and become big teddy bears who can still be warriors in battle. Geoffrey took a little too long (IMHO) to show his teddy-bear side and in the beginning, I wasn't even sure I was going to be able to warm up to him at all - he is so dictatorial, so authoritative, and practically a tyrant ... yeah, basically nothing very romantic, dreamy, or sigh-inspiring.

There are many humorous moments, however, when Geoffrey and Elizabeth clash and as readers we are able to enjoy them all the more since we're privy to both of their thoughts. It's sweet - and at times quite funny - to watch their relationship develop: the confusion they feel over their feelings for one another, the teasing that quickly develops between them, and the battle of wills that takes place between these two strong and stubborn people.

THE HEROINE, Elizabeth
Elizabeth is a standard Garwood heroine - she's strong, courageous/brave, intelligent, gentle, compassionate, affectionate, friendly. One minute she'll be saving her husband's vassal with her bow and arrow and then by jumping into a lake even though she can't swim, and the next she'll be hiding her tears from her husband because he's being gruff or shouting at her or acts somewhat meanly in an attempt to avoid the fact that he's in love with her. Basically: standard Garwood.

Elizabeth isn't too weepy though, and considering that when we first meet her she has recently witnessed the massacre of her entire family (save her baby brother), one can't help but feel admiration for how she acts and the inner strength she displays. Instead of being completely despondent, as would be wholly understandable, she's intent on avenging her family and taking revenge on the man responsible for their deaths, while also doing her best to protect her younger brother, who is in danger since he's the heir to their father's holding and was one of the intended targets of the massacre.

Garwood rounds out her cast of characters with her usual wonderful additions - the hero's soldiers, whom we like almost immediately and treasure for their kindness to the heroine. There is also Geoffrey's vassal, Roger, who adds humor and gentleness to many scenes. Elizabeth's grandfather, Elslow, was absolutely wonderful and I'd be surprised to meet a reader who wouldn't want a grandfather like him - he's funny, witty, so sweet and gruffly affectionate with Elizabeth and her younger brother, and just all around fantastic.

Overall, Gentle Warrior was a very enjoyable - and often laugh-out-loud humorous - read that I would definitely recommend. Despite my annoyances with Geoffrey, the hero, it will be added to my reread shelf and should not be missed by medieval historical romance fans.

Other great medieval historical romances of hers include Honor's Splendour (one of my favorite historical romances of all-time) and The Prize. Garwood also has a wonderful Regency series, "Crown's Spies": (1) The Lion's Lady; (2) Guardian Angel; (3) The Gift (another one of my all-time favorites); and (4) Castles.

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