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REVIEW: The Ideal Man by Julie Garwood

Dear Ms. Garwood:

This review of Lion’s Lady posted at Smart Bitches is fomenting a desire to reread your backlist (I liked Guardian Angel a bit more than Lion’s Lady). However your latest release is a contemporary. The Ideal Man is a solid entry into the Garwood bibliography but I still long for the magic that resonated in the historicals.

The Ideal Man by Julie GarwoodEllie Sullivan is finishing a surgery fellowship at St. Vincent’s Hospital in St. Louis. Like all Garwood heroines, she’s well beloved, a prodigy, and beautiful. (This is actually as rare as a unicorn. I was told by one beautiful woman, a bit bitterly, that it is better to be pretty because few women want to be friends with a truly beautiful woman because she’s just too much temptation. I don’t know if that is true, but she was so beautiful that even I couldn’t take my eyes off her the entire dinner!) But as much as Ellie loves her position and her work, her life isn’t all rainbows and Care Bears.

Ellie’s sister, Ava, is marrying Ellie’s former fiance soon. A man who had abducted her as a twelve year old is rumored to be in town and then Ellie inadvertently becomes entangled in an FBI sting in a park while running and sees an FBI agent shot. Ellie may have seen the faces of the Landrys, a couple that the FBI have been tracking.

Agent Max Daniels is investigating the Landrys. While he shouldn’t be romancing a witness, that doesn’t prevent him from taking her out. Believability is a biggest problem in this book but seriously who reads Garwood books for believability and accuracy? We read them (and enjoy them) because of the characters. The strength lies in the rapport between Max and Ellie. It’s classic Garwood relationship conflict. Max, shaken by his attraction toward Ellie, treats her brusquely much to the amusement of everyone around him. Regardless, he is going to pursue Ellie:

Max started to pull the door closed but stopped abruptly. He stood for a second as though weighing his thoughts before saying, “Are there any good restaurants around here?”

“If you like Italian, you should go to The Hill. There’s a great restaurant called The Trellis. You’ll love it. It’s casual dress. You’ll see everything from suits to shorts.”

“Okay. I’ll pick you up at seven tomorrow night.”

He shut the door before she had time to react.

“Wait…what?”

I also found that Ellie was a sharper, sassier heroine that I’ve read in the past in Garwood books and a little arrogant (as Ellie points out she has to be confident in her abilities to be a successful surgeon):

She crossed one leg over the other and noticed he was noticing. They were at a stop sign, but he didn’t seem to be in a hurry to move on.

“When you’re finished checking out my legs, turn left.”

And there is some good humor. After Max spends the entire time discussing the case with Ellie over dinner and scaring her (two witnesses have gone missing and one was killed in a hit and run), he realizes that it might not have been the best dinner date conversation:

Determined to change her mood, he said, “Tell me something.”

“Yes?”

“On a scale of one to ten, how’s the date going so far?”

But all the good dialogue and good characterization fades when we read scenes from the bad guys point of view because it swings the focus back onto the weak parts of the story: the unbelieveable mystery/suspense, a bad court scene, and Ellie’s personal conflict with her family. Too much time was spent away from Max and Ellie.

It wasn’t enough that Ellie’s life was put in danger by one crazy set of people (the Landrys), but she had to be in danger from the former abductor. Further, Ellie’s amazing capacity to forgive her family for slights was a little incredible. She figured that because she had been abducted and because she had been a prodigy, she had caused her family enough pain. Further, she even was separated from her family because of the abduction. I already liked Ellie as the smart-brained and smart-mouth competent surgeon. I didn’t need her to be totally isolated, treated like shit by her sister (the same sister who slept with Ellie’s fiance after the 2 days of acquaintance), and in constant danger for her to be sympathetic.

There were very few scenes from Max’s point of view, leaving me feeling like I barely knew him. I knew he was an FBI agent and that he came from a big loving family. I knew he lived in Honolulu and that he enjoyed his job. But what made Max an individual remained a mystery at the end of the book.

I almost felt like this book would have worked better as a straight up contemporary versus a romantic suspense. We would have gotten more of the relationship scenes and more of Max’s point of view – all of the good stuff. C

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

10 Comments

  1. SHZ
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 06:16:29

    Yeah, I don’t think romantic suspense is her forte. It’s my favourite subgenre, but not everyone can write it all that well. Once characters start doing really unprofessional things it’s so hard to be serious about the book.

    So many romance authors write mainly from the heroine’s perspective – I read some Harlequin submission guidelines that stressed the books had to be mostly from her point of view – but I don’t understand it. Often my favourite parts of romance books are those from the hero’s POV. I like to know what he’s thinking and how he’s feeling. This is especially true if the guy is some dark, brooding alpha. I need to know what’s going on behind that exterior.

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  2. Mary Anne Graham
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 07:00:17

    I too love Garwood’s historicals. Her book, “The Secret” has a permanent spot on my keepeer shelf.

    But I do cheer for the contemporaries. I’m looking for someone who can put the historical “magic” in a contemporary.

    Maybe I’m stubborn but I refuse to give up on the contemporary. I’ve written 2 and they don’t sell nearly as well as my historicals. Despite that I’m so duck-duck stubborn that the one I’m working on now is a contemporary.

    Garwood’s got the touch but I think she does best when she focuses on the characters and lets their relationship tell their story.

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  3. helen
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 08:35:26

    I have to say I loved the old school head hopping that used to go on, and I am not so fond of the singular pov we tend to get now. Remember when every other paragraph (or page) was in the hero’s pov? Loved that style. I think the editors beat that out of my favorite authors much to my dismay.

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  4. Cady
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 09:34:39

    The Secret and Ransom are two of my favorite books by JG. Part of my problem is that too many of her contemporary heroines are way too perfect. I enjoy her new books, but they are now library reads, not keeper shelf reads like her older ones.

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  5. MarieC
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 09:44:09

    I am currently reading the book and I agree with your review. It’s kind of ‘meh’ so far….

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  6. Brie
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 20:53:29

    I loved this book, but I found it misleading. Everything about it screamed romantic suspense: cover, blurb, etc. the first chapters seem to agree with that but then it turns into a romantic comedy. I don’t mind because I’m a huge fan of contemporary romance, but the suspense aspect fell short. Maybe Julie should write a straight contemporary romance (and leave the suspense part out) because the romance in this book was fantastic and the banter and family dynamics hilarious.
    The other weird thing about the book was the sister’s subplot (the good sister, not the evil one). I really thought that she was being set up to be the next protagonist but then her story gets resolved and it was so rushed that for a second there I didn’t know what was going on.
    I do think that romance fans will like the book, suspense fans… not so much.

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  7. Cady
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 08:52:23

    I just finished this weekend and too wondered about the weird sister subplot, I felt like some large section was cut out of the book

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  8. Jane
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 09:56:48

    @Cady I think the pregnant sister must be the subject of a future book.

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  9. Cady
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 12:10:01

    I wondered about that, but then they had that sentence about the wedding and I thought – why what a quick resolution.

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  10. Landa
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 18:12:54

    I still read and reread the original 17 books by Julie Garwood. The last 8 or 9 books she has written have no character development, and seem like they were written by a different person. I hope Julie Garwood is well, and I wish her the best; but her books are just no longer worth the money…..even the paperbacks.

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