The Power of Julie Garwood and Romance

Garden gates opening to a path are on the cover of Ransom. Last week (which seems so long ago, wow) we began compiling a list of Garwood titles and which one readers who aren't familiar with Garwood's backlist should try first.

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: 

A picture of a little boy looking over a wall scrawled with hateful graffiti, standing on a pile of books, glimpsing a world of magic and hot air balloons, castles and science. The caption reads: Books. That is exactly how they work.

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?”

“No.”

“You're shivering.”

“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.

“Wait.”

He turned back to her. “Yes?”

“You…”

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. 

 

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  1. 1
    I wonder says:

    Where can I get a copy of that poster?

    The author of that letter has it so right. When I tell people that books were the drugs that allow(ed) me to deal with a life where safety, happiness and even love were unimaginable, very few take me seriously. The wonderful thing is that most people haven’t had to read to survive, to live. I’m just sorry that I didn’t discover romance decades ago; as your author illustrates, one can find echoes in the world of romance that can help the reader find her way through her own world, rather than merely escaping from it. Thank you for sharing the letter. And the books.

  2. 2
    NatashaB says:

    The letter brought tears to my eyes. I am so glad to hear she is a safe place now.

  3. 3
    NatashaB says:

    @Iwonder
    Here is a link to the poster
    http://www.demotivation.us/med…” alt=””  />

  4. 4

    That letter made me cry. I loved the poster too.

  5. 5
    SB Sarah says:

    Natasha – thank you for the link. I added it to the entry.

  6. 6

    That letter and the poster made my morning.  Thank you for sharing, especially during this week when we count our blessings.

  7. 7
    Melissa says:

    Thank you so much to the email author for putting some of my feelings into words. I am so glad she is in a better, safe place now. This post definitely brought tears to my eyes.

    Romances such as Garwood’s kept me sane and hopeful during my teenage years, allowing me to believe that there was love and happiness out there despite growing up in a home that was not a protective, loving environment. I am now grown up and married to a wonderful man but I still love to read about protective, strong heroes who care for and respect their heroine.

  8. 8
    azteclady says:

    Thank you for making me cry before work (sometimes a person needs to cry for a reason but can’t until something else presents itself)

  9. 9
    Karenmc says:

    Thanks. I had to get up early and drive through a rainstorm to start a long, possibly crappy work day. That letter put my day in perspective.

  10. 10
    Martin 83 says:

    I have always tried to think of the right words to explain my feelings for Julie Garwood and so many authors books.  This young lady has voiced what I couldn’t for so many of the same reasons.

    There is safety,love, happiness and a belonging to someone else in all the right ways in Romance novels.  They will always be my favorite reading material.

  11. 11

    I started re-reading Julie Garwood books after they were discussed here last week.  Finished Rebellious Desire and The Secret and in progress on For the Roses.  I had forgotten how good these books are – they have a lot of emotional content, especially with the hero/heroine and their families, ie brothers and sisters, best friends.  Bad stuff happens to good people, but they find safety together in a dangerous world of crime and border conflicts, wild west border towns, and illnesses.

  12. 12
    Laura (in PA) says:

    I’m weeping in my cubicle. What a powerful letter. Thanks for sharing it.

    I’m off to buy that poster. Talk about perfect.

  13. 13
    Laura (in PA) says:

    Oh. I guess I can’t buy it. Bummer.

  14. 14
    Wendy says:

    Cheers, Anonymous. Thank you for sharing.

  15. 15
    Vandy Jones says:

    Books were always my escape and I think that romance taught me that there were guys out there that were good and worth taking the chance for. I have always loved Julie Garwood books, from the first one I read, The Prize, to the last of the historicals she wrote.

  16. 16
    LEW says:

    Garwood always has been and, I imagine, always will be my favorite. Thank you.

  17. 17
    Avery Flynn says:

    “Somewhere in the world there was safety. There was happiness. There was love. There was hope.” Hugs, double hugs and triple hugs. Books are so powerful and the connection we make with them can be a lifelong bond.

  18. 18
    Hope says:

    I love, love, love this post!  I didn’t have a violent past but I always considered reading an escape.  An escape from boring reality, from tough times, from life in general. Julie Garwood’s historicals were always a favorite of mine.  I had them all! When I got my Kindle I emptied out my bookcase of everything except a few authors, Ms. Garwood being one of them.  I recently remodeled and the bookcase had to go.  All my books sat for weeks in the spare room until this past weekend when I gave them to a neighbor of mine. 
    I wish now I had the books so I could go back and re-read. But it makes me happier that my neighbor has an escape that I know she desperately needs. 
    Thank you to all the authors out there that take us out of our lives for just a moment in time!

  19. 19

    This was beautiful. Thank you.

  20. 20

    Love Julie Garwood books and I love all the attention you continue to give her. That was a beautiful letter.

  21. 21
    Calicokitty69 says:

    Amazing story! Thank you so much for posting.  I want to thank Mom for having a collection of Danielle Steele and I was desperate for something to read and grabbed Palimino.  I have read all of Julie Garwood.  I usually keep my favorites and I kept Ransome.

  22. 22
    Vicki says:

    Now in tears, too. Great letter and, really, this is why it’s so important for us to support reading for all kids. Important to keep libraries open and to donate books to schools and to read to as many kids as we can.

  23. 23
    Sandy D. says:

    Thank you, anonymous, for sharing it with the Smart Bitches, and thank you Smart Bitches for sharing it with us.

  24. 24
    Anony Miss says:

    I love this blog! SBTB = what is right with the internet. Thank you for sharing.

  25. 25
    HybridHelen says:

    Wow. Thank you, both to the reader who shared her story, and Sarah, for sharing it with us. To the former: I’m glad that your life is a safer one and that you’re in a better place.

  26. 26
    Alice says:

    Super moving and so well put. Loved the poster too.

  27. 27
    Lydia says:

    Here is a bit more info regarding the poster (the one posted here isn’t the original). http://madartlab.com/2011/05/1…

  28. 28
    Emily says:

    Thank you Anoymous! This message is lovely a wonderful testament to romance novels.
    I didn’t grow up in a situation like yours. I have however had many struggles and tough times. I find often enough I have problems I want to escape.
    For me, reading is an escape but not necessarily a good one. What I found so moving about your post is that you talk about a book that made you believe safety, love and hope are possible. Not all books do this, which makes romance important. I got to a point in my life where I was reading books (usually for school)  that made me unhappy and upset and unsettled. These books were both young adult books (usually tackling “real” issues) and classics. The best example that comes to mind is Of Mice and Men, which did not make me feel safe at all or that safety, happiness, etc. was possible. (Actually it made me ill.) Up til this point I was devoted reader but there came times where I wanted to quit reading.  I reread a lot of my favorite books, but it took a while to discover new authors who I wanted to read. Today I l read more than ever and I credit my discovery of romance novels with that. (Although I also like to read mystery.)
    Annoymous~ I am so glad you are doing well.

  29. 29
    Kornzohar says:

    Annoymous- Thank you for sharing, that was very moving- and I’m very gad to hear you’re safe now!

  30. 30
    H. Vert says:

    The letter and the poster.  This is what books can do.  I don’t have any words that can express, but thank you so much, anonymous for sending the letter, and the Smart Bitches for posting it.

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