Classic Romance - Which One First? Julie Garwood Edition

Julie Garwood is a romance author whose books often are mentioned along with my very favorite noise, “Good Book Noise.” There are MANY of them, too! She used to write historicals, and now her focus in on romantic suspense. So if you’re looking at Garwood’s books and trying to pick one to read, it can be daunting.

My favorite Garwood’s are all historicals. I love The Bride like nobody’s business, and could re-read that book any time, even when I have 2 minutes before the world ends. My copy is in two large pieces. I think it might be time for another copy. Or some duct-tape, as I love the gold cover. It was my standard for what bridal gowns should look like, ever since I read that book as a young teenager.

So, let’s build a recommended list, shall we? We’ve done lists for Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey. Let’s do a Garwood list, shall we?

Which Julie Garwood novel would you recommend first? Which would you pass to a curious reader? Feel free to recommend both historical and romantic suspense, as those are two very different genres!

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  1. 1
    Copa says:

    I listen to a lot of audiobooks from my library, and they have The Bride available right now. Has anyone heard the audiobook version? is it any good?
    The reader can really make or break a book in that format.

  2. 2
    Overquoted says:

    I’m exempting her contemporary suspense novels from my recommendations, mainly because they’re so different from her earlier works. Much of her books feature heroines were very similar traits. And if I recall correctly, The Bride, The Wedding and The Secret featured cross-overs. I may be wrong about The Secret, but definitely not the other two.

    But I’d say start with The Wedding. “Now? You want to marry me now?” The heroine spends most of the book astonished at the speed of things, and probably at her own inability to delay them. And everyone around her is constantly interfering, making sure she doesn’t wander off, making sure she doesn’t annoy her new husband (who finds her amusing rather than annoying), etc. It’s cute, funny and a very strong representation of much of Garwood’s backlist. The last time I read it, my roommate had to ask me why I was snorting so much.

  3. 3
    ShellBell says:

    My favourites are For The Roses (still can’t believe that For The Roses was turned into the dreadful Rose HIll starring Jennifer Garner); The Prize (my second favourite medieval romance following Jude Deveraux’s The Black Lyon) Ransom; Gentle Warrior and The Secret

  4. 4
    Michelle R. says:

    The Gift, definitely The Gift.  They had an arranged marriage when she was 4 and he was 14, and haven’t seen each other in years. He keeps calling her “bride,” and she tells him to stop. He tells her he can’t call her “wife” since the marriage has yet to be consummated. She allows that he can call her bride. She punishes him in a rather unique way for being unsympathetic to her cramps. There’s lots more, but I don’t want to spoil.

  5. 5

    My first JG book was RANSOM and loved it.  A quick check on her website indicates it is the second book in her medieval series after THE SECRET … so I recommend a new reader start there.

    Off topic – Hau`oli Lā Hānau – Happy Birthday to the US Marine Corps.  The “always faithful” are 236 years young!

  6. 6
    Lisa J says:

    The Secret, Ransom, The Bride, The Wedding, Honor’s Spendour, and Saving Grace are all awesome.  My favorite is Prince Charming set in the American West.

  7. 7

    I think these books qualify for the crack award.
    A friend in America sent me a bunch of Garwoods in return for a bunch of British style sagas, and I set to.
    I hated them. Every single one of the wisecracking American heroines (they were all American, despite what the books said) and the beefy, stupid, heroes. Read this one, she said, you’ll love it. I hated it.
    Then I lent them to my friend who is as British as I am. Before this, you see, I thought the tone was too American to appeal to a Brit reader.
    She loved them. Devoured them. Gobbled them up and asked for more. She still thinks that Garwood is one of the best authors I’ve ever introduced her to.
    “But he jumps his horse across Hadrian’s Wall!” I said.
    “I don’t care,” she said. “I want more.”
    I made a monster.
    So I had to buy them for her when I visited the US. At least now she can get her own copies from Amazon. She likes the historicals best, too.

  8. 8
    JNiffer says:

    I would have to say my all time favorite that I can read over and over again is The Lion’s Lady! I love that one! Especially when she keeps “Divorcing” him, because he ticks her off by being an ass, and lines his shoes up on the front steps of the house. Plus the butler is a hoot!

  9. 9
    LG says:

    I think the only Julie Garwood I’ve read is The Secret, which I read after a long period of not having read romances – it reminded me how enjoyable romance novels can be. :) After I finished that one, I took a trip to my favorite “omg, these books are cheap!” used bookstore and bought every single one of her historicals I could find.

  10. 10
    Melissa says:

    The Secret and Honor’s Splendour would be my top two recs, they are my favorites that I have read over and over.

    After those, my other favs are Ransom and Saving Grace.

    I am not a huge fan of The Bride and The Prize but they are okay. I liked Castles well enough. I don’t like The Wedding because of the hero’s actions. Let’s not talk about Shadow Music, I have tried to erase that travesty from my mind.

    Out of her romantic suspense, the only one I like is Mercy. I am not a fan of the rest of them, her characters are very cardboard, the suspense sucks and the romance is very lukewarm.

    If you are trying out Garwood, my best recs are her medievals, specifically The Secret, Ransom, Honor’s Splendour and Saving Grace.

  11. 11
    Bookluvr4life says:

    I love all of her historicals, but I have a special love for Prince Charming. It was the first of her books I ever read and it is my go-to re-read when I am feeling blue.

  12. 12
    Megan Buckley says:

    I second The Gift! Whole freaking heartedly! It was the first romance I read that featured a heroine with brown hair and brown eyes. No raven locks or fiery tresses or jade eyes. Just brown and brown. She wasn’t a great beauty. Just sweet and loving. AND IT’S A SHIPBOARD ROMANCE. It is the undisputed source of my love for all things set aboard ships.

    I recently re-read it and my 14 year old self didn’t let me down. It was still as wonderful to me as always. I’ll also co-sign For the Roses. My online identity has in some way always been rosehill or Rose Hill, so I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for it.

  13. 13
    Jennifer says:

    I adore all of Julie Garwood’s historicals. I would recommend reading her connected Regencies: The Lion’s Lady (JNiffer’s comments about this one are so true), Guardian Angel (one of my favorites – Black Harry the pirate & Sterns the butler are awesome characters), The Gift and Castles (good old Dolphin). I read this series repeatedly.

    Honor’s Splendour is another gem (she seals her fate when she warms Duncan’s feet). I love The Bride, The Secret, The Wedding, For the Roses and Prince Charming too.

    Oh, and I don’t want to forget Saving Grace or The Prize or Ransom.

    I enjoy Garwood’s romantic suspense as well. They aren’t as good as her historicals, but some are worth a read.

    My only problem with Julie Garwood? Everytime someone talks about her books, I have to go and read some (which I am off to do now).

  14. 14
    Cynara says:

    First, let’s stop that rogue italic….

    Second, I read The Lion’s Lady and it really didn’t work for me.  I was disappointed by the domestication of the heroine, and I didn’t much like the hero’s attitude.  Am I done with Garwood?

  15. 15

    Garwood has LONG been a favorite of mine as well, and my all time favorite is THE RANSOM. Loved that heroine. I haven’t read a single one of her historicals that I didn’t love. THE GIFT is another fav. I’m not as crazy about her romantic suspense, and I’ll admit that I was a tiny bit devastated when she switched genres. When I got my e-readers, I pretty much cleared out all the old paperbacks, with the exception of the Garwoods, and Karen Moning’s highlander books. Love that stuff like white chocolate.

  16. 16
    Diana N. says:

    I love Julie Garwood’s early historicals, especially The Prize, but lately I find myself going back and reading Shadow Music.  There’s something about the character of Gabrielle, with her habit of saying “As you wish” when commanded to do something that reminds me of the Southern saying “Bless their heart”; she ends up doing what she wants anyway!  I love it when the female leads are strong and courageous.  And the heroes just aren’t sure what to make of it.

  17. 17
    cleo says:

    must close italics.  argh.  I know I read JG in the 90s but I don’t remember any details.  So that’s not helpful.

  18. 18
    Julie L. says:

    The Bride, The Bride, The Bride!  My favorite of all her books.  It’s great on audio as well.  After that The Secret!
    For her Regency’s The Lion’s Lady is great as well!

  19. 19
    KamC says:

    I absolutely loved “For the Roses” and when Hallmark made it into a movie the commercials for it had me excited, but what a steamy pile that turned out to be! I felt so bad for Julie Garwood that they completely butchered her beautiful story about family, paring it down into something whose only resemblance to the novel were the characters names.

    I’d also recommend “Honor’s Splendour” and “Lion’s Lady” as well as the books she gave the Clayborne brothers (from “For the Roses”) “The Rose Trilogy” and “Come the Spring”.

  20. 20
    Trysh says:

    The Secret and then Ransom – Oh man, I love all three of the heroes in those ones. Whenever anyone asks me for a recommendation for a historical, I go straight to Garwood.

  21. 21
    Mary Beth says:

    All of Garwood’s historicals are good. I would only suggest that you read the inter-related ones in order, for example, The Secret, Ransom, and Shadow Music (the weakest). Another series starts with The Lion’s Lady.

    I own and re-read all of her historicals, but I so loathed her first three contemporary books that I’ve stopped even checking them out at the library. Her female leads are very Mary Sue-ish. For some reason, I can handle that in a historical but not in a contemporary romantic suspense.

  22. 22
    Nicole L says:

    Loved them all (her historical ones, anyway).  I read them over and over again…they are hilarious, the women are funny and quirky, and the men…ah…the men. 
    I would probably start with The Bride…LOVED IT!

  23. 23
    Jess Haines says:

    I adore THE SECRET, and that’s usually the first book I thrust into the hands of a Garwood virgin. *g*


  24. 24
    Kristine says:

    I love The Secret and re-read it at least once a year.  Not only do I love the story and but it reminds me of my best friend who got me addicted to Julie Garwood (among a million other authors!)  Another I love is The Castle and, of course, Ransom, and the Roses books.

  25. 25
    JenniferP says:

    All of my fave Garwood’s are historicals – I tried my best to like her contemporaries but thought they could all be improved by the death of the heroine which, of course, never happened.

    The Bride and The Wedding (I would do Fear Factor type things if it would get her to write Quinlan and Faith’s story that was so perfectly set-up at the end of The Wedding)

    The Secret – I’m not sure what I liked more about this book; the romance or the no-holds-barred friendship between Judith and Frances Catherine.  I wasn’t *as* impressed by the follow-up, Ransom, but it was still good.

    Saving Grace – I just adored Gabriel

    In her newsletter a couple of years ago Julie said there was a new “series” she’d be doing (I think each was to have a month of the year as a title) that weren’t necessarily connected themselves but each would be about characters from earlier books.  When nothing else ever turned up about them I emailed to ask her; she said her publisher told her to drop the idea and stick to the romantic suspense books.  I think she needs to do what so many other authors have done and self-publish those books since they’re obviously what she wanted to write.

  26. 26
    Tee says:

    Ha! – “My only problem with Julie Garwood? Everytime someone talks about her books, I have to go and read some (which I am off to do now).”  I had immediately requested a bunch of these at the library before I even got to the comments section of this posting!  Miss them! Haven’t reread in a few years as her books are in storage…  Glad to see most are still available in my local library system, a testament to her durability 15 years later and given her lackluster recent crossover suspense books.

  27. 27
    Kim says:

    The Wedding, Ransom, and The Bride are my favorites.  But I am a fan of all her burly laird/spirited lady historical novels.

  28. 28
    dick says:

    Garwood’s historicals epitomize, in tone and plot, what romance fiction is all about.

  29. 29
    Wynn says:

    JG’s The Bride was my intro to historical romances 15 years ago and I’ve probably reread it a million times since then! I loved Guardian Angel, Castles (this one more for the characters than the plot) and Saving Grace too. It’s sad that JG’s comtemporary ones don’t quite hit the spot but all of her historicals are definitely worth a read.

  30. 30
    joykenn says:

    I think Lynne Connolly is right.  Some of Garwood’s historicals are like crack.  For some awful reason I’m addicted to Lion’s Lady.  It is totally improbable, couldn’t possibly have happened, not at all historically accurate and I LUV it.  Something about her keeping the aged butler, keeping the horrible mother-in-law and throwing him out.  Even the stupid bit about her sleeping on the floor and cutting her hair every time he “dis-respects” her.  I chuckle every time I read the book but usually stop before the ridiculous ending.  Why does this book give me a pick-me-up, sigh.  Its my guilty pleasure.

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