Sunday, February 27

Honor's Splendour by Julie Garwood

Chest-beating primates, mysterious wolves, and swooning, bi-polar, PMSing tiger/kitten mixes, oh my!
(I should warn you the following is a REALLY long rant review with only one positive paragraph at the end. Feel free at any time to skip to the 'bottom line' portion of the review, to get the gist of it)
This book was my first Julie Garwood ever, and I am happy to say it will be my last. Never again will I disgrace my mind with such folly. The book started out, well, interesting. I actually enjoyed the first two or three chapters. Our heroine, Madelyne, starts us off by freeing her brother’s captive, Duncan Wexton, and saving him from death by freezing. She warms his feet for him, and it is apparently that act of kindness (not the risking her life by freeing him of course) that prompts him to declare her ‘his’. His men rush over the wall, kill all of her brother, Louddon’s, men and whisk her away as a captive. Keep in mind that our 'ever-compassionate' soon-to-be-paragone-of-a-heroine saves a servant from death during the battle by standing in front of him and proclaiming that she will die before the servants. No one kills her, or moves her out of the way, and the servants go free, owing their lives to the wonderful Madelyne.

Duncan burns Louddon’s home to the ground, and begins the journey with his men and Madelyne, and this is where the trouble starts as we begin to discover how absolutely PERFECT he is. He’s the bestest!!! He’s the greatest warrior, and since he trained his men they’re invincible (as in, not a single man of his dies in the attack on Louddon’s fortress, despite taking on an entire army) just like him! Madelyne mentions at some point she believes him the most handsome man in England. He’s so kind, too, and sweet and protective and fierce and strong and handsome and masculine and he’s just so great cause he’s always thinking of her and he’s sensitive but manly and aloof and he’s really hot cause he doesn’t die or act cold even when he’s freezing to death and he’s able to control his body’s natural reaction to shiver because he’s just so amazing and wonderful and fantastical – you get the picture. He’s perfection, and it’s really annoying. By the middle of the book, I was ready to throttle him – though no more than I was ready to throttle Madelyne.
Madelyne had the issue that she was never the same character twice. She was totally unpredictable, in as much that she had no solid base. There was no common thread to her character. She was all over the place. Here are some examples: first Garwood shows us how weak Madelyne is by having her struggle against Duncan, even punch him in the face, and not hurt him or make any headway. Later, she walks through a battlefield, injured, and swings a mace hard enough to kill a man. She also hip-checks Edmond the giant, causing him to stumble, and when she punches HIM in the face it gives him quite the colorful bruise. Inconsistent? I think so. Another example. Garwood gives us several examples of Madelyne’s innocence in regard to men. In fact, it’s kind of humorous how little she knows and the fun conversations that ensue - that I loved. Yet the first time they kiss, SHE kisses HIM. And Garwood tells us how wild and passionate and uninhibited she is. This makes no sense! When its Duncan and Madelyne’s first time, she’s all shy again – about her nudity and everything. They’ll make wild, uninhibited, ‘tigress’ love (which, by the way, is a terrible mental image because it literally makes me think of a tiger in bed with Duncan) and then she’ll go back to being horribly shy. And then, once again, just to confuse us, she’ll suddenly decide not to be shy anymore.

More examples? She faints erratically. She glares then is meek, is emotionally aloof then warm and pliant, is defiant then tame. Her behavior is nonsensical. It seems Garwood is trying to make Madelyne confusing – we see that in how the men say they can’t figure out or understand Madelyne. But while its okay for the other characters not to understand Madelyne, the reader should always be able to understand her and her motives, and that we could not do. Lastly, Madelyne becomes a paragon in the book – a little clumsy, but she never lies and is virtuous and beautiful and humble and loved by animals and children alike. Ugh. Give me a break.

I will also make a case of Madelyne’s stupidity. She’s far too trusting on certain occasions – like with Edmond, Duncan’s oaf of a brother. When she first meets him, despite his roaring, yelling, shouting etc, she looks up at him ‘with eyes so trusting it made him pause’. Yeah. Gag me. She also trusts Duncan though he turned and took her as his captive in order to get vengeance on her brother. And what of this captive business? Madelyne, despite how we are told she’s such a defiant, free spirit, never makes an actual escape attempt. Its like she has courage to yell about the awful eating habits of the men but not over her captivity. When one doesn't try to escape captivity, it makes us feel like you want to be there, hon.
Also, I despise Madelyne’s treatment of AdelaDuncan’s sister. Adela has been raped, and is a filthy, mean mess because of it. Now, it is in my experience that rape victim’s usually take care to be extra extra clean because they feel dirty and they do not become loud and belligerent but quiet and withdrawn. But, of course, rather than mold her to reality, Garwood molds her to suit her purposes. Madelyne’s treatment of Adela, to me, is horrible. She adopts a tough love, philosophy, which is fine. But forcing her to take a bath and forcing her head underwater – and calling her filthy, even if only in the literal sense? It shows a lack of compassion for what the other woman went through. A total lack of empathy or sympathy and it made me angry at Garwood for putting Adela through that.
Now, enough about my hatred for Madelyne’s consistently annoying, unbelievable character. What is with the men? In totally inappropriate situations, Gilard, Edmond, and Gerald shout in anger, when there has been little to no provocation. In fact, it’s not just the ‘loud anger’ that is overblown in this book. Characters will laugh at lines that aren’t funny, or cry at things that don’t warrant an emotional outburst. It gives me the feeling Garwood was trying to make her characters seem more merry than they were or make the events seem more devastating or emotional then they were. It was all very false feeling.

Some other key problems? Madelyne is forced to marry Duncan – by Duncan. That’s just not the stuff romance books are made of. They also make love in a freezing cold lake as if there’s no chill at all. Be real, night-time river fun is only endearing for the reader if you haven’t made such a huge point about how cold the river is before hand. Otherwise, as I’m reading all the romantic lines I’m thinking about the two of them shivering against one another.

Finally, there’s too much sub-drama, or mini-plots. Madelyne with Duncan got lost amidst Madelyne with Gilard, Adela, Silenus, Edmond, Loddoun, the non-priest, and Madelyne with the wolf plus the conflicts between the King and his brother, Adela and Gerald, Gerald and Morcar, and the whole Madelyne finding-out-she’s-a-bastard-child thing. There were too many other dramas going on for the author to focus on the main conflict and truly build it up – or to build up any of the smaller conflicts. Thus, the main conflict felt a bit like a mini-conflict to me. The entire book was dull and lack-luster because it was just a mini-revelation followed by another mini-revelation with no suspense to make us care about the revelations at all. Many of those characters could, and should, have been eliminated. They served little purpose and were actually quite ridiculous (the wolf, for instance. That was just stupid and silly).
This book was saved in my eyes by the suspenseful beginning (Chapters 1 and 2) and the end. There are, admittedly, some great lines between Madelyne and Lady Eleanor and Madelyne is much less annoying by the end. The ending was satisfactory, most ends are tied – though I can’t help wondering if there was ever going to be books written about Edmond or Gilard, because their stories are left unsatisfied. The author does write beautifully, I will say that in her defense. Her sentences were fluid and eloquent, and I think my favorite parts were when she was talking about nature – because the characters weren’t making a mess of things with their terrible, inconsistent, inhuman personalities. So the language was good. The book was competently written, but that won’t encourage me to pick up another Garwood anytime soon. But, by all means, if you feel there’s a Garwood I should try, comment or send me an email at and I’ll try again.

Some favorite quotes:

How dare he decide if she could breathe or not? (Madelyne)

“If I decide to take advantage of you, as you describe it, I promise to wake you first. Now close your eyes and go to sleep.” (Duncan)

 “Sexy”ness rating: Hot, traditional
Overall Rating: D
Bottom Line: If you like… well… if you like Julie Garwood you’ll like this book. If you like chest-beating hunks and wilting, fainting women this is probably a book for you. If you like characters with unique personalities, this book is NOT for you. Also, there’s little humor throughout this book, only some at the beginning so if you like comedy this is a no-no.

Pages: 374
Published: August 10, 2010
Genre: Historical

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