"O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent;
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content"
Robbie Burns

Friday, November 19, 2010


This week I decided to look to some of my old favorites romances. I know it is cliché to say that no one is writing romances like they used and to a large degree that is true. Whether you are an old seasoned reader like me, or a newcomer to romance, we all have our own expectations. What makes these four authors favorites with me is because of they each had at least one unique storyline that had that something special when they were written. Most of them were part of series whether they were the first, middle or the end book in a series, even if that series went outside of Scotland in subsequent books. And of course these books are all historicals, though their author might write both historicals and contemporaries. The authors I am featuring this week are Constance O’Banyon, Judith McNaught, Virginia Henley and Julie Garwood.

Many romance readers are unfamiliar with Texas native, CONSTANCE O’BANYON who began her writing career in 1982 with Ecstasy’s Promise and published her 41st book with Wolf Runner, this past July. She has also published 44 books and had a number of nouvella’s published plus over the years. Many of her books are set in Texas with cowboy and Indian heroes as well as storylines set in the deserts of Africa. But for me the series I love most is her deWinter series. The first book is Song of the Nightingale (1992) in which she introduced the readers to the deWinter family. A scene in the beginning sets the stage for the rest of the book that is so sweet it has a major “aww” factor. The second book is Highland Love Song, telling the story of the deWinter’s niece Arrian (1993) in Scotland , and finally The Desert Song (1994) telling the story of the deWinter son Michael. These books are full-bodied with interesting plot twists and turns and a cut above a lot of historicals offered today.

The next authoris English-born Canadian VIRGINIA HENLEY. She began her publishing career in 1982 with Irish Gypsy and her last novel was The Irish Duke (2010). What make her historicals unique is that she often takes a real persona from history and writes a fictionalized account of their life. One of my favorite books her The Decadent Duke (2008) tells the story of the Duchess of Gordon’s daughter Georgina who becomes the Duchess ofBedford. The story is rich in history and gives and interesting look at that period. Other stories with real people include Undone (2003), which tells the story of the infamous Gunning sisters during the Georgian period. Herother Scottish titles include: Insatiable (2004), A Year and A Day (1998), Tempted (1993), The Border Hostage (2001) and one of her very first Wild Hearts (1985).

Though I love the historical richness of all her books, I especially love the fact that she knows there is more to Scotland than just the Highlands as all her Scottish books are set in the Borders of Scotland. My favorite is Wild Hearts because each of the protagonists and the supporting characters all have the first name of a major European city and this plays well as each of the girls (5) find that one special someone just for them. There is a compelling plot as wellas a number of subplots interwoven with main plot each resolved in a satisfying manner, which moves the main plot toward a suspenseful ending. Editors aren’t buying stories like these anymore maybe because people don’t have the time it takes to enjoy a full-bodied plot or maybe authors aren’t taking the time to create unique story elements to set them apart from the crowd. And a common criticism of her work is that she has just too much history in her stories, but isn’t that why we read historicals in the first place?

Our next author has been away from the publishing scene for quite sometime though I have heard other authors say she is a slow plotter and writer. JUDITH MCNAUGHT was first published in 1983 with a contemporary Tender Triumph and followed with Double Standards a year later, though most of us know her for her Westmoreland series. Good news her next book is the next installment in the Westmoreland series due in 2012- Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”.

Though for many of us fans we didn’t start reading her until her breakout book her bestselling book “Whitney My Love” (1984) came on the market to be followed with the a sequel Until You (1986) followed with the novella story Miracles in the Holiday of Love anthology in (1994). These first books in the Westmorland series were all set in the Regency period but in 1989 she decided to write a prequel to the story of the Westmorland family with her exceptionally popular medieval Kingdom of Dreams set in Medieval Scotland. It was a runaway hit and the final scene in the story is one of those moments, you have the tissues ready for as it is a major ‘awww” moment. She then moved away from writing historicals and produced such hits as Paradise (1991) and Perfect (1993). She also has written a number of romantic suspense novels but I am hoping that her new Westmorland book due out in 2012 is an historical as many us miss her historical voice.

Finally the last author JULIE GARWOOD is one who cut her publishing teeth on Scottish romances. Though for me, I find her books “historical lite”, light on history but are strongly character driven books. Julie was first published in 1985 with Gentle Warrior and some thirty books and novellas later she will have her next book The Ideal Mancome out in 2011. She began writing historicals with many turning into on going series. She is beloved by the readers who love Scottish set stories because of her: Highland Laird series (The Secret (92), Ransom (99) and Shadow Music (07) as well as her Lairds’ Fiancée series (The Bride (89) and The Wedding (96).

However for me, first and foremost, my favorite of Ms, Garwood’s books set in Scotland will always be Saving Grace. A novel set during the time of King John and King William. Our heroine has just found out that her husband is dead and her brother, for her own protection as she as might know what has happened to one of the princes, take her to Scotland to be married to a Scottish Laird who will get possession of her Scottish land if he marries her. The story if filled with many tender moments as only a Julie Garwood heroine could bring to a story and yet this not wallflower heroine. Though usually like more history based story I loved this book, it is a classic romance. Let's hope that even though Ms Garwood has spent more time in recent years on her romantic suspense tales of the Buchan family (who are Scottish Americans btw) that she will return to medieval Scotland with a much better offering that the last one Shadow Music, which was just plain awful.

I hope you have found at least one new author in this group and look for more next Friday. Happy Thanksgiving, may you and yours be blessed with a day full of family food and football.



Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

We can definitely visit a library together, Jody. You hit most of my favorite oldies but goodies. I have all of Julie Garwood's historicals and my daughter is reading because of her. When Kristen did her homework I would sit next to her and read. Every time I burst into laughter, she would stop and make me read the scene. When I had the chance to meet Julie, I told her about this and she gave me a hug and said that is music to an author's ears. Such a nice lady.

Of course, I love Judith McNaught and Virginia Henley praised my writing voice so she is a heroine of mine.

I write historicals because of these delightful authors. Thank you for reminding me how lucky I was to have them in my library along with Kathleen Woodiwiss who's Shanna was my catapult into loving romance. :)

Terri Brisbin said...

Jody --

I can still remember the ending scene of KINGDOM OF DREAMS though I read it long ago -- it was fabulous! I really enjoyed Judith's other historicals, but this medieval is one of my all-time favorite romances.

And Julie Garwood -- sigh! I loved SAVING GRACE -- and THE BRIDE -- two of my favorites Scottish medievals...

Thanks for the memories!

Terri B