Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Prize by Julie Garwood ****

This is #99 on the AAR Top 100 - and another book by Julie Garwood, an author with 6 titles in the list. After reading 2 or 3 of her books (not all in the Top 100 because I'm a stickler for reading entire series in order), I had decided I didn't like her writing style. Then I read Saving Grace and changed my mind. After all, I don't rate all of the Nora Roberts or LaVyrle Spencer books 4 or 5 either, and they are 2 of my favorite authors!

Now that I've read The Prize, though, I'm shaking my head. She has a familiar theme she seems to employ that I'm tired of. No, not the Keystone Cops thing this time - it's the misunderstanding thing. Not the "Big Misunderstanding" but the characters misinterpreting things each other say and do. Yes, this is realistic. In general, people don't always say what they are thinking, and often they misinterpret actions or things said by others. I'm sure this is multiplied 100x between men and women in general, and add to that the fact that the heroes and heroines in her books tend to be from (slightly) different cultures, you can say that misinterpretations and misunderstandings must abound.

However - what I am finding a tedious repetition is how we go through the mental process with the heroine. Her brute of a husband just doesn't understand how things work, how they should be, what his reaction should have been, and instead of her saying it, she thinks about how she will bring him around and usually it seems to be some off-beat logic on her part. Maybe if I had read The Prize before the others, I would have enjoyed it more. But seeing the use of this conceit again just wasn't that interesting.

I'm quoting Ms Garwood here from an interview in 2007 with AAR:

At the core of any great romance is emotion. I think the reader has to identify with the characters – to root for them. My goal is to make the reader feel what the character is feeling—to fall in love, to be afraid, to be angry, to laugh.
She is absolutely right, and I did not feel what the characters were feeling in this. I'm not sure whether she failed me or I failed her. I liked this book, in fact I'll give it 4 stars because it was a good enough read, but not great. Slightly better than average, where the definition of average is "lacking exceptional quality" and to which I give 3 stars.

The era is medieval - 1066 during William the Conqueror's reign. The hero is Norman (Royce) the heroine Saxon (Nicholaa). He's come to conquer her lands and take her, The Prize, back to William. She's the prize because she has led her people in victory over 3 different attacking armies sent by William. Royce is the 4th, and instead of force, he uses cunning to finally capture her - after she has used cunning to avoid capture.

They get back to William, through some cute dialog and actions they end up married, and then we watch them struggle to learn how to get along with each other, mainly through a lot of that misinterpreting thing I described. I marveled at Royce's control of his libido, sleeping with her for days before consummating the marriage... I also marveled at Nicholaa's ability to use a slingshot so accurately without ever practicing. She never showed any other similar skills, although you woulda thought she had them, since her aim was so incredible. Ah, I'm such a cynic. (and at the tournament, she had 3 rocks, used 1 and had only 1 left... where did the 3rd rock go?)

4 stars, go ahead and read it so you can finish the Top 100 challenge...

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