I'm still compiling the list and should have it ready this week, but I wanted to share with you this email from an anonymous reader who wanted to tell me how much she loves Garwoods books and why.
I found this letter to be amazing and moving, and it speaks so clearly about the powerful connection of emotions in the romances we love.
I was catching up on your site and saw the latest Classic Romance post was about Julie Garwood. I first discovered her books when my older sister moved out after graduating high school and I found a box of books in her closet. Among the misc romance, mystery and thriller books was The Prize. Once I read it, I was hooked and had to find more by the author. Back then, I pieced together a JG collection via half.com and ebay's “lot” auctions. I was probably in 9th-10th grade and unfortunately was growing up in a situation where I witnessed a lot of violence on a daily basis. I was lucky that I had books to turn to as an escape from the craziness around me.
I saw a picture earlier this year that captured exactly what books meant to me:
So fast forward about 15 years when I discovered book review sites and Twitter. I'd catch posts or tweets here and there about Julie Garwood books that triggered memories of me glomming all her books back then. I remembered some of the quirks each heroine had and remembered certain lines from the books that made me laugh. So while I knew that I liked each of the books, Ransom always stuck in my mind as my favorite. Now, I hadn't re-read any of her books in probably 10 years but I decided to start re-reading a couple months ago. I started with The Prize since that was the very first JG book I read. While some things came across a bit irksome – like how much the heroine wept – I still had a sense of enjoyment as I read. Next, I re-read Honor's Splendor because I remembered the part about the heroine warming the hero's feet.
Finally, I got out my copy of Ransom. As the story moved along, I started to remember why this was my favorite because the main theme was “protectors”. When Alec was kidnapped, Gillian protected him against the kidnappers' violence by covering his body with hers as the kidnappers kicked and beat her. When they escaped and Gillian was trying to get Alec back to his family he told her stories of his Uncle Brodick who was named his “protector” when Alec was born. Alec then told Gillian that Brodick could be her protector as well. The following scene is after Brodick found Gillian and Alec and they are traveling back to Alec's parents' home.
“Are you cold, Gillian?”
“I was thinking about my uncle. I worry about him.”
“Is he worth your worry?”
“Oh, yes, he is.”
He leaned close to her ear. “Can you do any thing about your uncle tonight?”
“No,” she answered, trying to ignore the caress of his warm sweet breath against her sensitive skin.
“Then let it go for now. Worrying won't help him.”
“That's easier said than accomplished.”
“Perhaps,” he allowed.
Alec ran past them, dragging a stick behind him. The child was bare foot and bare-chested and obviously having a fine time. His laughter echoed through the trees.
“He's too excited to sleep.”
“He'll sleep soundly,” he predicted.
He didn't let go of her until they reached the water's edge. Then he asked, “Can you manage on your own or do you need help?”
“I can manage, thank you.”
“Don't get your arm wet,” he reminded her as he started back to camp.
He turned back to her. “Yes?”
She suddenly stopped. Wondering why she hesitated, he took a step toward her. She bowed her head and folded her hands together as though in prayer. She looked terribly vulnerable now… and sweet… he thought.
“Yes?” he repeated.
“You make me feel safe. I thank you for that.”
He didn't know how to respond. He finally managed a quick nod, then walked away.
Like I said above, the main theme is about protectors and I first read this book at a time when slept leaning against the locked bedroom door so we'd wake up asap if something was about to happen. A time when we walked on eggshells not knowing what would set off a violent episode. A time when we never felt safe. So when I got to this one sentence from the scene above, an unexpected rush of tears fell down my face.
“You make me feel safe. I thank you for that.”
But the tears were not because I remembered those bad times. Those are times I'll never forget. The tears were because it reminded me of how I felt when I first read this particular book. Somewhere in the world there was safety. There was happiness. There was love. There was hope.
And now I know why Ransom is (and always will be) my favorite Julie Garwood book.
So I have to thank Julie Garwood and authors in general for writing books that touch lives and thank you and other bloggers for celebrating and promoting books!
I asked anonymous if I could print her letter, and she gave her permission, saying that she is safe now, and in a much better place in her life. I am always humbled and amazed when I hear about how romance has helped readers get away from horrible situations, literally, figuratively or both. Romance is some truly powerful narrative.