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REVIEW: Sizzle by Julie Garwood

Dear Ms. Garwood:

Sizzle by Julie GarwoodSizzle is the latest contemporary offering and it brings to readers Samuel Wellington Kincaid  from Scotland.   If readers speculate that Sam Kincaid might be a descendant from Alec Kincaid, they would be right, although little is made of this. It’s more of an easter egg than anything.

Lyra Prescott is a grad student making a documentary film for a project in one of her classes.   She initially chooses to do a documentary on Paraiso Park to show how idyllic parks are for families (sounds like one of the most boring documentaries ever) but when she goes out to Paraiso Park, she finds it to be a toxic waste dump, abandoned and unhealthy.   She sets up a camera to take time elapsed photos of the dumping.   She also finds a small, pristine and isolated area in the park that looks like a memorial.

On the way home one day, she drives by a house that is having a yard sale.   Upon stopping, Lyra discovers that it is not a yard sale but an angry wife throwing out all her husbands’ belongings including a number of rare books and DVDs.   Lyra takes a number of them home with her.

Lyra becomes the target of violence causing her roommate to call her brothers for help.   Her brothers, (Buchanans), enlist Sam Kincaid because Sam saved Alec Buchanan’s life once and therefore Sam owes Alec a favor.   The mystery is whether it is the park or the rare books that serve as the source of the danger to Lyra.   Sam takes Lyra away from her home and installs her in a safe house where he agrees to remain with her until Alec can arrange for a suitable replacement.

Sam had been married once and lost his wife at a young age.   He didn’t have any heart left to give a woman, not even one as beautiful, kind, and wonderful as Lyra.    Sam wants a replacement but each bodyguard that arrives is flawed.   They are too handsome, too lecherous, too soft looking.   Even though Sam really, really wants to get away from Lyra, he cannot, in good conscience, trust her safety to these random men.   Those were the cute moments in the book:

"A new bodyguard will be there early tomorrow morning," Alec said. "His name is Brick Winter."

"Is he FBI?"

"No," Alec answered. "He's with Mead Security Company out there in L.A. Detective O'Malley recommended him, and I checked him out. He's good. He knows what he's doing."

"Have you got a file on him?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Email it to me. I want to check him out, too. I'm not about to leave Lyra with just anyone."

"Sam, the guy does this for a living. He's been in Iraq, Special Forces, two tours. What's bothering you?"

"I want to be convinced she'll be in safe hands." Sam didn't realize how transparent his words were.

The story interjects the random musings of an incompetent criminal by the name Milo who decides that Lyra is an angel and he must protect her.   I felt like these sections were meant for comic relief, but I found them to be a disjointed bore that bordered on the ridiculous.   I could have easily had those removed and the story would not have suffered one jot.

There is no sense of urgency or suspense.   I think it’s because the characters are all so perfect.    They have no layers.   Lyra is like a Disney Princess and Sam is from romance casting 101.    We know, from the beginning of the story, that Sam Kincaid can do superhuman things; and we know that Lyra is so perfectly wonderful that even the criminals hired to hurt her are drawn to protect her.   Evil wilts in the face of the glorious Lyra.   Despite the lack of tension and the overall treacly tone of the story, it was a fast read.   I will also confess to totally being a sucker for the fact that this was Alec Kincaid’s descendant.   Damn me.

For readers looking for the magic of The Bride (Alec Kincaid’s story), I don’t think it’s found in Sizzle.   It’s a pleasant diversion but at hardcover prices, it would be hard for me to recommend that as anything but a library read.   C-

Best regards,


This book can be purchased at Amazon (affiliate link), Kindle (non affiliate link), Fictionwise(non affiliate link), or other etailers.

This book was provided to the reviewer by either the author or publisher. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Margaret Mallory
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 17:11:51

    I swear, I just picked up The Bride to read again. Sigh. I like Julie Garwood’s contempories, but I’d walk through a blizzard to buy a new Julie Garwood historical. Please, Julie…

    Margaret Mallory

  2. Sabrina
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 17:16:23

    I have no idea why I keep buying her books..I guess I keep thinking the magic from her older books will reappear. With each new book that I read and coming away mad and disappointed, which then I swear I am never buying another one of her books..then a year later I start back from the beginning hoping for magic and coming away with nothing!

  3. Amy
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 17:34:40

    After reading one (or was it two) of Julie Garwood’s contemporaries, I have stopped buying her books. Many of her historical romances are on my keeper shelf and I pull them out regularly to reread. But she just can’t write contemporary romances in a way that makes me want to spend my $ or time (so I don’t even bother with the library). I briefly wondered about Sizzle. I believe I will skip this one, too.

  4. kaigou
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 17:46:57

    Brick Winter? I mean, really. What’s so wrong with the name Bob, anyway? Or Chris? Or Joe? Perfectly fine names. There’s nothing wrong with having a Tom in a story. Not everyone has to be a Brick, y’know.

    because Sam saved Alec Buchanan's life once and therefore Sam owes Alec a favor

    Wouldn’t it be that Alec’s the one owing the favor? Because otherwise is kinda harsh. “Dude, you saved my life! Now, I OWN YOURS.” Or something.

    …or maybe that’s just an instance of a former protagonist bending the laws of nature and reality much as the way it sounds like this story’s protagonist does.

  5. Jane
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 17:49:35

    @kaigou: From the book:

    “You owe me a favor,” Alec said.
    “Saving your ass makes me owe you a favor?”
    “That's how we do it in the United States.”

  6. Sandy James
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 18:12:32

    @Margaret Mallory:

    I so agree!! I never picked up her mainstreams because I was so in love with her historicals. I had so much hope for this story, but now I’m not sure I’ll pick it up. :(

    Ms. Garwood — your historical romance fans are starving for a new story, and not one like the overly short and abrupt ending Shadow Music. Have a heart!

  7. Tee
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 18:36:48

    Sabrina must have been in my head and stole my thoughts. Hers are exactly mine. I keep picking up Garwood’s books thinking this is the one that’s going to be good. When that doesn’t prove to be true, I also say this is the last time I’m reading another of her contemporaries. Sizzle didn’t work for me at all. It began really great, then went downhill from there. Oh, well. Maybe the next one…

  8. Mireya
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 18:56:36

    Sadly, I just can’t read contemporaries from any of my favorite historical romance authors. This includes Christina Dodd, Lisa Kleypas and Julie Garwood. No matter how many times I’ve tried, not a single one of them has engaged me with their contemporary stories. I admit that I am not particularly fond of contemps to begin with.

  9. Sandy James
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 19:08:41


    Sadly, I just can't read contemporaries from any of my favorite historical romance authors

    Interesting observation. Makes me wonder — I’m writing an historical after only publishing contemporaries. I hope your “rule” doesn’t work in reverse. :-)

  10. Sabrina
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 19:16:35

    @Sandy James:
    Me personally, I will read either contemps or historical, but the problem I have with authors like Garwood is they go from writing outstanding historicals that are full of this magic that just pulls you into the story to writing contemps that are just flat. Whether an author wrote contemps then went to historicals, etc is not my issue, it’s when they lose that magic in their writing. Her books now are like ordering strawberry shortcake at a 5 star place and when it’s put in front of you there are no strawberries:(

  11. brooksse
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 19:36:21

    I also prefer Julie Garwood’s historicals to her contemporaries and keep buying her books hoping for the old magic.

    The only contemporary of hers that I enjoyed as much as her historicals was Mercy. For me, while her more recent books have been easy (and quick) reads, I think of them them as cotton candy reads – all fluff, no substance, with an overload of sugar.

    The only reason I bought Sizzle was due to the huge special Fictionwise ran in December. I picked up Linda Howard’s latest due to the 100% micropay rebate. Then used some of that micropay rebate to buy Sizzle. I think it ending up costing me about $6. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bought either book.

  12. brooksse
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 19:49:44

    @Sandy James: I also read both historical and contemporary romances, but usually prefer contemporaries. It doesn’t matter to me if an author writes one or the other or both as long as the stories are equally good.

    In Ms. Garwood’s case, it just seems that her contemporaries aren’t as good as her old historical romances. I also didn’t like her most recent historical as much as her earlier ones. So it could just be that her writing no longer holds the same magic for me that it once did.

  13. Sandy James
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 20:01:42

    @Sabrina and @brooksee:

    I agree that Garwood’s contemporaries simply don’t have the magic of her historicals. I’m also very glad to hear that the genre doesn’t matter as much as the skill of the author. I was just trying to stretch my wings a little, and it’s fun for me to tackle an historical since I’m a social studies teacher in my “real” life.

  14. katiebabs
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 20:37:32

    Why was Garwood so good writing historicals but not at writing contemporaries?

    A piece of my reading heart died a little when she went on to writing contemporaries. Gone are those days when the innocent, unselfish heroine warmed the chilled feet of the strapping, yet brooding hero.

  15. Tweets that mention REVIEW: Sizzle by Julie Garwood | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary --
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 22:10:03

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by katiebabs, Erotic Romance, dearauthor, PixieDust, NightsEmbrace and others. NightsEmbrace said: REVIEW: Sizzle by Julie Garwood | Dear Author: Romance Novel …: Dear Ms. Garwood: Sizzle is the latest contempor… […]

  16. J.
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 01:25:38

    I actually really liked this book a lot even though it was a fast read. And a lot of what Jane pointed out was true but it didn’t really bother me.

    In a way I was kinda disappointed because I was hoping for another Buchanan book (I love Heartbreaker, Mercy and Murder List) and this one was slightly tied in to it but I’m still hopeful that one of the brothers or even Sydney will have their own book coming out soon.

    Unlike some of the other replies, I started reading Garwood’s contemporaries before I found out she had written some historicals. One of my favorites from her was The Prize. But given to pick, I would rather re-read Mercy over any of her historicals.

  17. Angela James
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 07:11:35

    I never read her contemporaries (after trying the first one or two) but you said the hero was a descendant of Alec Kincaid and I went…well, maybe I should pick it up. So apparently this:

    I will also confess to totally being a sucker for the fact that this was Alec Kincaid's descendant. Damn me.

    counts for me too.

  18. Mala
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 09:03:48

    Slow Burn and Shadow Dance were so sub-par for Garwood to me that I had all but given up on her contemporaries, but I picked up Fire and Ice at the airport bookstore last month and was surprised at how readable it was. Of course, then I got to the Sizzle excerpt at the end and went, “Oh, Lord.”

    I like a good expanded universe -‘ Liz Carlyle’s interconnected historicals come to mind -‘ but when everybody and their brother or sister ends up hooking up within the confines of a very small social group, I really start to lose my ability to suspend disbelief. Now we’re importing Friends of Buchanans from Scotland? Come on!

    And Garwood has become very hit and miss at balancing her thriller elements with her romance. Shadow Dance, for instance, should’ve been Noah’s Book, very rooted in him as a Clayborne and showing us why he and Jordan loved each other. Instead, we got a lackluster mystery, no character development, and a just-add-water love story.

  19. Sandy James
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 10:02:26


    And Garwood has become very hit and miss at balancing her thriller elements with her romance.

    Exactly. One of the reasons I don’t even bother with her contemps anymore. I had such hopes for Sizzle because (as mentioned earlier) of the Kincaid connection. (Alec is forever going to be my favorite hero.) Also why I was disappointed with Shadow Music. That was her “return” to historicals. I was literally happy enough to weep when I bought it — paying hardcover price because I was so hungry for a new Garwood. The buildup was FANTASTIC, then it all just…fell apart. The mystery became dull. The few conflicts tied up too rapidly. (sigh)

    Ms. Garwood — I am so sorry if it appears that I’m picking on you. I am your #1 fan. Please know I re-read all of your historicals every summer, and I love them so much, the characters seem like old friends. :-)

  20. Jane
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 14:48:42

    @Mala: I agree that I don’t think its the creation of the large interrelated families, but the lack of depth of the characters or suspense. It’s like Garwood wants us readers to rely heavily on past characterizations to create full bodied individuals in current books.

  21. Dakota
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 17:17:47

    I used up one of my audible credits for the audiobook version of Sizzle, and I was so disappointed. I pretty much agree with everything you said about this, Jane (I especially thought the parts from Milo’s POV were so unneeded). But in my case, it didn’t have the benefit of being a quick read because I read much faster than the time it takes to listen to an audiobook. This story dragged for me, there was nothing to grasp onto with the characters, and the two possible sources for danger made it feel disjointed rather than suspenseful. Just my opinion, though.

    I’ve been listening to a lot of romance audiobooks lately, and I have to say that this was probably one of the worst to experience in that format.

  22. Angela James
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 17:22:46

    @Dakota: Sorry to go offtopic, but I’d love to hear which ones you’ve liked best, Dakota. I need some recs for the end of the week when I have lasik. Maybe @ me on Twitter?

  23. Mala
    Jan 17, 2010 @ 07:42:34

    Jane, you’re right. You can’t come in to her new books without an awareness of who her characters are already, because you won’t learn anything. Then again, I suppose that might also be the appeal for new readers: Not a whole lot of info dump about these people, you just get in and get out without having to care.

    After a while it’s just a “Find” and “Replace” with a big, heroic man and a competent woman in a contrived situation.

  24. belai
    Jan 23, 2010 @ 12:52:48

    umm…Ms. Garwood, are you obsessed with the FBI?? i mean, I’m just wondering if you are… coz u seem to mention them a lot, and they are ALWAYS described as handsome men with ‘not and ounce of fat’ on their bods, and they are ever so possessive with beautiful women whom they ALWAYS seem to find and ‘somehow’ get involved with and find some convenient accommodation, somehow, that is,and get a chance to ‘mingle’ even in the STICKIEST of situations, which i think, is bizarre, and why is it that you ALWAYS write about beautiful people who i think, can’t really exist in this world..and lastly, Ms. Garwood, why on earth do you have the same pattern of writing books, i mean, here’s how it ALWAYS goes: two beautiful people, unattached with their own problems, somehow get involved, attraction, danger , sex, fighting, action, mystery , ‘ clever’ conclusion, happy ending..and maybe even sequels. Tell me, please, do you give people what they want to read or do you want to create a magical world that i don’t think exists?? I’m curious that’s all. BTW: i really love your character in several books, Noah Clayborne. You’re clever though,I’ll give you that.

  25. edenswish
    Jan 27, 2010 @ 00:33:05

    @katiebabs: OK. Now I am going to go dig out Honor’s Splendour. I love it and I think I will grab Saving Grace while I am at it. I am a sucker for the strong-willed heroine who saves the brooding hero!

  26. katiebabs
    Jan 27, 2010 @ 07:47:48

    @edenswish: Honor’s Splendour is one of my all time favorite romances.

    And Garwood used to write them so well.

  27. annie
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 13:19:25

    This will be the last Julie Garwood book I read. It was awful. Its seems to me her writing is going downhill,and fast. The last one I read (can’t remember the title) was lackluster and I thought to myself I will give her one more try. I found Sizzle not a great read, it read too fast and the “Milo” offshoot was just to weird. I hate to say it but I am crossing her off my favourite author list. There is no substance to her writing it has definetly changed from her earlier works. Her Historicals were great, but I’m even wondering if she is the one writing her books anymore!

  28. Miriam
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 11:15:43

    I really enjoyed this book! Was the first one of Julie Garwood’s I have read.
    It was a light hearted easy quick read. Yes it was a little superficial and I guessed the twist but all in all was a nice read.
    I am now off to borrow some of her others from the Library. Any suggestions which to start with?!?!

  29. Sabrina
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 11:35:31

    If you have never read her historicals, start there. Ms Garwood’s historicals are nothing short of magical, her historicals are what got me hooked on romance books. Be prepared though, after reading her historicals you will have a “WTF” moment when you notice the writing difference between her contemps and her historicals. As to which one to start with I’d probably say “The Wedding” or “Guardian Angel”…tough call but I think I read the “The Wedding” first, not sure;) There are some books where the characters carry over but they are all stand alone books imo. Hope you enjoy them, they are the only books I will re-read!

  30. whilyn
    Aug 20, 2011 @ 00:37:06

    Julie is my favorite author and I read all her books. Everytime I pick her new contemporary book and end up disappointed, I read The Bride again just to convince myself that she is still my favorite author.

    I wish she stop writing contemporaries. I miss her.

  31. whilyn
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 19:50:46

    I actually sent a feedback on the Julie Garwood site and basically told her the same sentiments that everyone here have shared.

    I am very surprised to receive a reply from her (or her staff). Nonetheless, I love to think that it is from her.

    Here is her reply:
    The fact is, the publishers have asked for more of these because they sell much better than the historicals. I still love the historicals, though, and hope to write another one soon. I just wish the audience for them was bigger. It would make it so much easier to convince the publishers if the sales numbers were there.

    Ugh! We should be sending the feedback to her publisher.

  32. dee
    Jan 09, 2012 @ 02:27:13

    My favorite is still d short,I luv all her historicals.her comtemporaries r just so predictable and boring.initially I enjoyed them (cos I’m so in luv wit julie)-murder list,mercy and killjoy. infact,I thot I ws d only one dt felt dt way.I have lik practically all her historicals and i re-read all d time.evry one of dem. Pls julie,write me some more historicals.

  33. Rosaria Colangelo
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 15:07:46

    Dear Julie Garwood: I have always loved your books, especially the historical novels . I used to belong to the Doubleday Bookclub and got all the latest novels of my favorite writers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANKS A MILLION AND GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY AND ALL YOUR FAITHFUL FANS ALWAYS11111111111111111111111 YOUR DEAR iTALIAN FRIEND IN jESUS MARY AND JOSEPH AND THEIR HEAVENLY ARMY OF ANGELS AND SAINTS! MAY THEY ALWAYS GUIDE YOU AND PROTECT YOU111111111111 THANK YOU VERY MUCH1111111111ROSARIA COLANGELO. P.S. I WAS BORN IN ITALY AND MOVED TO MICHIGAN USA WHEN I WAS 12 YRS. OLD WITH MY FAMILY.111111111111111111 HOPE TO HEAR FROM YOU SOON11111111111111111

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