REVIEW: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Dear Ms. Garwood:
Your return to the historical genre has been the subject of romance readers discussions for months now. I would have loved to have written “welcome back” but I can see we have some growth pains here. While some of the classic Garwood moments have returned, there were also some painful speed bumps along the reading road.
Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel has been betrothed to Lord Monroe, a Scottish Highlander, in order for King John to pacify and shore up the borders to the North. Gabrielle is greatly desired. She hunts, shoots, and rides like a man. She has been trained in all the feminine arts and she is uber beautiful. But super nice. Because someone who is super rich, talented in everything, and gorgeous always has zero ego.
Despite being from a small country called St. Biel, formerly known as Monchanceux, which is somewhere in the Middle East, Gabrielle is pure anglo saxon with violet eyes and softly curling black hair and pure creamy skin. (Sounds Welsh to me). I just couldn’t figure out why a) St. Biel had a French origin, Gabrielle’s name is French yet the location of St. Biel is somewhere in the Byzantine Empire. I mean I am guessing that it is in the Byzantine Empire. It is a mountainous region off the coast of some ocean and on the way to the Holy Land. I also wondered why her men looked like Legolas. They all had white blond hair, blue eyes and deeply tanned, weathered skin. Each one had a special skill and they all fought really well without weapons. So, to sum up, we have a French named individuals coming from a French named country that is on the way to Jerusalem and all the guards know some kind of hand to hand combat.
Oh, and Gabrielle and her four guards all speak Gaelic which is super convenient since Gabrielle is being sent to live in the Highlands. While in the Highlands, her marriage to Lord Monroe falls through. Gabrielle’s life is put in danger and her cousin by marriage, Laird Broderick Buchanan, asks his good friend Laird Colm MacHugh to repay a debt and save Gabrielle.
Much of the book is contrived. One of the English Barons who is a suitor for Gabrielle is sent to St. Biel to find out about a treasure of gold that is supposedly residing in St. Biel. Many have tried to wheedle out the secrets of the St. Biel treasure but none have been successful. It was odd that this crass and not very competent Baron would incite a wise old St Biel priest into giving up a secret that endangers Gabrielle. I understand that this is how the suspense is created, but it never felt organic to the story.
In one early scene, Gabrielle kills someone with her bow and arrow because, of course, she is better with the bow and arrow than any of her guards. She is not at all squeamish about killing this person. He needed to be killed after all. I kept wondering why she wasn’t squeamish. she was raised in a keep near London and there was no suggestion that she was part of warfare on a regular basis. Later in the book, however, she is said to be squeamish when she learns of her guards killing a man even though that man needed to be killed.
There were any number of inconsistencies. One of them related to her title. I guess my feeling is if you are going to make something up, you can at least be consistent, right?
"Papa says you're to call my mama Princess Genevieve, and you're supposed to call me Lady Gabrielle.–Ã‚
"Stephen has called your mother Lady Genevieve, but you are called Princess Gabrielle. Was she not also a princess?–Ã‚
"In St. Biel a princess isn't addressed as such. I should be called Lady Gabrielle. When I was a child, the guards called me Little Princess. The name has stayed with me. It doesn't matter now, does it?–Ã‚
A great deal of the story was told in summary fashion followed by a “Reader’s Guide” series of questions. “What malicious reason did the woman have to lie? What was her purpose? And what about the monk? Why did he substantiate her lies? What did he have to gain?”
I was a bit baffled by all the questions. Why does the story have all these questions? Are they rhetorical? Will I be tested at the end? Is there a prize for the reader who answers the most questions correctly? Did you write in a summary fashion so it would be easier to find the answers?
The fact is, I was often confused. At one point, Buchanan and MacHugh feel responsible for the bad thing that happened to Gabrielle even though they had only met her once. Then when she is banished from Britain, she is told by Broderick that her exile means execution. But if that is true, why didn’t the mob kill her when they had the opportunity. Why did the mob allow her to leave only to be killing her later if they catch her? I.e., if banishment = actual death why didn't the mob kill her in the keep?
I admit to liking part of the story. There were some bumbling priests that provided comic relief. The long standing joke of the Highlanders hating English was mined for good humorous moments:
“You admit to having English relatives?”
“Reluctantly, I admit it. I have become more lenient in my opinions, for if you will remember, my wife used to be English.”
When Gabrielle talked back, when she had some spirit, she was the most entertaining. For a great deal of the book, though, she appeared colorless and really ordinary for all her beauty, skill with languages, parlor arts and warfare.
“There is a difference between sweetly asking me for time and telling me the matter was of utmost importance.”
She poked him in his chest. “How as I to know which magical words I should use to get your attention?”
This storyline is a standard Garwood plotline and I’ve loved it in the past. This time instead of comforting, it felt overused. I think that there are a legion of Garwood fans that are glad you are back writing historicals. I am ever hopeful that this return will eventually be triumphant although I am sensing it might take a book or five. D
*sigh* Even with my B&N coupon and member discount, getting the hardback will be more expensive than even a trade paperback… and no way in hell I am paying $14.99 for eformat… what are these people on???
I’m one of the rare ones that hasn’t been clamouring for her return to historicals. Although once upon a time I adored her books just like everyone else did, I grew away from her totally. I still have her books for sentimental reasons, but I’ve no urge to ever read her again. So while I don’t intend to read this one, I do feel bad for the readers anxiously waiting for the ‘old’ Julie Garwood’s return. By this review and others I’ve read, it doesn’t sound like she’s quite back to form.
I was re-reading some of her older works in anticipation of this. While I liked parts of the books, I, too, have grown away from her style. I used to think her sense of humor quite funny. I might have smiled at some of the antics, but I used to remember laughing out loud at some scenes. Now, I find the heroines too overly perfect and too naive. And the men too stoic and overbearing.
Were her contemporaries not doing so well? I must admit, with the way she wrote her heroines, I didn’t think it’d translate so well to modern times, and never bothered reading any of them.
I could say the same thing about Judith McNaught’s characters. At one time I loved, loved absolutely everything she wrote. Now, eh, not so much. Or maybe it’s because I’m not a teenager anymore, which was when I glommed on to both of them.
P.S. OK, I should add that Garwood’s “The Prize” is still one of my favorites. And overall, I like her Medievals, I just remember liking them a whole lot more.
*Sits besides Jill and weeps, too.*
waaaaaa… count me in as number 3!!
That’s why I love libraries :)
My wife is a big medival historical fan, and loved Garwood’s earlier work. I’m with you on not paying 14.95 for ebook, but 17.00 for the hardback is reasonable…
I was looking forward to this one. I guess I’ll wait for paperback or the library. Which ever one comes first.
*passes Kleenex, sobs silently*
Loved the review, Jane. I think this is one I’ll pass on.
She was one of the first authors I used to consider an auto buy. Now I automatically don’t buy. There are a few books I still think on with fond thoughts, but even those ones drove me crazy. I used to hate it when she’d end a chapter with a positive thought like “She would love him forever” Then start the next chapter with “She was going to kill him by dawn”. (not from any Garwood book, just the closest example that I could come up with to show the style.)
To give her some credit, she did lead the pack in light hearted historical romances. Without her, I’m not sure I would appreciate Julia Quinn as much as I do.
I have read all of Garwood’s book and when it comes to her historicals I liken them to light beer, not a whole lot of depth to the history, just a simple quenching of the thirst. Sounds like this one is a typical historical light, light on the history which is often superficial and wrong.
Why is it that all these writers of historicals set in Scotland don’t bother to do their history research? Typical romance dumbing down the history in that to quell the problems on the Anglo/Scottish border you involve the Highlanders, give me a break, someone needs a good map of Scotland and a better understanding of the government of Scotland of that period.
I can understand her need to bring the reader back to the characters of her previous books but one would expect with her return to historicals and the movement of other authors to have more accurate history in their work she would have done more home work.
Sounds like this heroine is truly a fictional one with very little basis in reality. Sure it is fiction but if we didn’t like history wouldn’t we read contemps? Sad comeback this one at any price.
I still have on my keeper shelf many of Ms. Garwoods. Like old friends, they are my comfort reads. I have grown older and (hopefully) wiser…but I have not “grown” away from her style. Her stories still make me smile, still make me laugh, still make me sigh. An author shouldn’t ask for more than “touching” a reader and her books do that. So thanks to my children and several B&N gift cards I’m buying this book.
I was eager for this book for months. I couldn’t help myself. I spent the money…I read it. It was just ok. And I say that because I’m a diehard Garwood historical fan. *sob* It will have no place on my keeper shelf. The romance felt like an added piece, just tossed into a convoluted story. I’m so disappointed. I think I’ll re-read Saving Grace to get a smile back on my face. *sigh*
I just finished the Shadow Music. It took me on even a day to finish it. I always liked the way Julie Garwood told her stories, but as I read the last page of this book, I was sincerely disappointed with it. It had only a little of what Julie’s past books have.
Maybe times have changed and the out look of todays women and men are different.
All though, having a highlander like Colm in bed would be fantastical, reality is there wasn’t the zest in these pages.
But I still am hoping. *Weep, Weep*
I’ve long waited for Garwood’s return to historicals. I’ve only ever read one of her contemporaries – Heartbreaker – which was really very good, but I am not much into contemporaries as such, so I still haven’t gotten around to reading the rest.
Generally, the reviews I’ve read so far don’t sound too favorable. But I am still hopeful. It is Garwood after all. Her worst has to be a hundred times better than the best of a lot of authors. I’ve read quite a few historical / regencies in the last few weeks, and most have been bad. Very bad. So I am really looking forward to reading this one. Its a good thing I haven’t re-read any of her old historical romance books in a while. It will be stop me from making a furious comparison.
P.S. I adore Brodick.
I’m #1 on my library’s wait list and am picking it up tomorrow. I, too, think of Julie’s historicals (and Johanna Lindsay’s) as historical romantic popcorn — once I start, I can’t stop. It’s entertaining and enjoyable…. So, I’m looking forward to reading it.
And I’m hoping for the best….
PS — I just reread Honor’s Splendor and The Prize in anticipation…
This one was sort of tepid for me. I think the magic might be lost for Ms. Garwood, so long as the relationships keep having the ‘I love you because I just said so, even if it doesn’t feel right’ quality her last few books have had.
In my mid teens my mother got me hooked on Julie Garwood’s historical romances, still have every one of them. It was an escape, it was fun, I loved it, and it was a bonding for my Mother and I. We read others like Kathleen Woodiwiss(God rest her soul), but always came back to Julie Garwood. Years later when she started writing the contemporaries ones, I bought them, read them, and enjoyed them to a point but they weren’t the same. My Mom tried but just couldn’t get into even her first one. So when I saw that “Shadow Music” was coming out I immediately called my Mom and we were both thrilled. I live in Alaska, (Mom in NC) and if anyone has been here the winters are a bit tiring so I was looking forward to this book for months. I ended up getting it early because of the holidays, my little present to myself. Now I wish I had not bought this book, normally I would start reading her books and not put it down at any cost..take it to the bathroom;) stay up late–suffer at work in the morning–yell at the hubby to take care of the kids, skip eating lunch at work to read, whatever it took I was glued to her books–usually finished in less then 2 days. This was a HUGE disappointment..she has lost her magic of the Highlands. It took me a week to start reading it and 4 days to finish reading this book, I even put it down to watch the “The Apprentice”…I can’t stand that show but I was so let down by this book I had to take a break from it. My husband even was asking me why it was taking so long to read it. I guess I will stick to Nora Roberts and some of the other consistent authors from now on. The sad thing is, now I have to tell my Mom there’s no magic. When my daughter becomes a teenager–years from now–I will have Julie Garwood’s first historicals to share and bond with her like my Mother and I did, but trust me, I will leave this book out. Ms. Garwood needs to find her magic again.
These reviews are very upsetting. I too have been looking forward to this book for months. I loved Heartbreaker and Mercy, but after those books it seemed Julie went on a steady decline, each book worse then the last. I thought maybe it was the contemps…she wanted to write historicals but was locked in a contract, which I think is something a writer should not have to deal with. I believed that if she wrote a historical we would see the, “old Julie.” Now knowing that the historical lacks what we all love about Julie’s book I am very sad. I had such high hopes for this book.
I don’t care if she is accurate about Scotlands history, political or geographical. If i wanted this kind of accuracy in my historical books, I would read Non-Fiction. This part of the reviews I read didn’t upset me.
Julie Garwood’s historical books have always sucked me in, I didn’t want to put the book down until I was done, and even then I didn’t want it to be over. She had a way of pulling you into the book, making you love, or hate the people she created. Knowing that is still lacking from her latest books is a HUGE let down.
I thank you all for taking the time to write reviews.
I hate to say it but I think it would have been better if Julie had just retired instead. I would have been sad that there were no more books of hers to read, but it would have been better then this.
I love Julie Garwood….Saving Grace being my favorite.
BUt unfortunatley this one left me empty. Like many said there just was nothing there. No Chemistry, no real action, even then ending climax…well sucked!It was so boring, simple, I don’t know…vanilla! BLAH! I like her contemporaries and her past historicals some better than others, but this one….Well Let’s just say I am glad I used my library card instead of my debit card.
*tears slipping down my disappointed face*
I think I’m going to write a book too… And I’m gonna put London right next to Africa… it won’t even be an island… it’ll be a peninsula! And they’ll all have Spanish origins. FICTION is fun like that. Behold my literary middle finger!
I feel that most of the arguments here are based on her books being “historically innaccurate”, if you all are ashamed so much of reading Garwoods books, due to what you all feel is a lack of what we historians must write in called historiography, then you must entertain yourselves with more non-fictional writing. For i do believe these books are works of fiction, not a biography, so should be judged for the love of the characters she created, in here own sphere and creation of her own history. When a fiction author writes a novel, they in turn create their very own moment of history; what they wished could have happend, or how it could be envisioned in their story, characters from that period can be used but what they do within the story shouldnt be taken to heart.Has anyone ever watched a disney movie? ALL of those fall very far from what the original works and stories were, yet it doesnt mean we loved them less for it, we accepted it as Disneys own creation of something thats already occured. A few others have stated that they’ve “grown away” or after rereading them have changed their opinion of them, perhaps thats because while you once read them they filled you with the love and hope that someone out there could truly live their life with finding a man much like in Garwoods books, yet as the years passed, and although may have found love and happiness, it was nothing like in Garwoods sphere of characters. I believe that it is lucky for me to be able to retain this love of her books and relish in rereading them. I think in part this is because regardless, they leave me with a happy, good feeling, and amazingly enough Ive found a man just like most of her stubborn “I wont ever love her” kind of guys, that with my inncessive talking, driving him daft often, he loves me for it. I still hold onto these books in my heart because of how they make me feel, and how they remind me so much of the man I love, how it worked out just like in one of her novels, starting a bit rocky and ending into this beautiful happy-ever after story. Im very saddend that many have changed their minds after ‘becoming an adult’, but maybe one day you could go back into Garwoods CREATED world and enjoy her characters for who they are and what they stand for in their own right.
Wait wait wait. Stop. You mean… a fictional book wasn’t historically accurate?! Oh my God! When did things like this start to happen?! I missed the memo…
Man and I thought Harry Potter had issues…
I have absolutley no issue with Ms Garwood’s books being historically accurate or not, and I agree if I wanted accuracy then I would read non fiction. HOWEVER, in my honest opinion as stated before Ms Garwood has lost her magic, the way she used to pull you into her books and it played in your mind like a movie. I am not going to repeat myself since anyone can read my above review. I am an adult now, have be for QUITE a few years, and can honestly say that when I read Ms Garwood’s books or any other author’s books I was not looking for a man in real life that is similar to those I read in books, glad the above reviewer found a man that is close to the “characters” in a fiction book. But I read for fun and entertainment, not a guide to finding a man. I have a man and trust me he is far from any characters in books, thank God, cause I just can’t see him carrying a sword or showing up on a white horse.
If you reread the comments above there are quite a few who argue the historical innaccuracy of her works, i never specifically pointed out one or either, so sorry if you felt as if i was writing a comment to your review? Also if you reread them, many stated that theyve lost the magic of her older books, NOT just the new one, after rereading them as an adult. So I ONCE again never took issue on you for being an adult? merely that it is sad that people do not appreciate her characters in the same way they once did because theyve “grown up”, so once again i was not taking issue with your specific post I therefore have no idea why you took such an insult to me. If you REREAD my comment and take the time to look at what I was saying youll see I didnt say It was used as a guide to finding a man, and to come back with what you threw at me, can unlike most women today say that I never went tirading about looking for a man and was a virgin until i met my love, one reason i also love her books, virtue. I clearly stated that they left you with a warm- happy feeling, if they did not do this to you I am truly sorry. I didnt say they left you with a “how-to” on finding a man, but made you feel really warmed up if you were somewhat down. Reread it and youll see what I mean. I then continued saying why it hit home to me, I was explaining why I never lost that magic, Yes the guy I have is from a prominent family, yes he could use a sword, but that isnt the comparison I found, I found him to be my modern day “Darcy”, they very phrases and sparring of words in Garwoods novels make me laugh because he does very much the same. Ive been able to get him to listen to me read Garwood to him and he laughs for the very same reason, the similarities in attributes. I really wish you would have taken the time to read what I was saying rather than state that my whole review was about using her novels as a how to guide for men. You started your entire review as if someone had attacked you, which wasnt the case at all, in my review it was informal, finding many common issues and giving my view on the topic.You acted as though I was saying every man should be out of a book, i said no such thing I said I think this is one reason her books still give me a warm feeling even after becoming an adult. Granted im only 21, but with working already on a masters degree in History, with a minor in archaeology, a wonderful boyfriend, and working my way through college as a certified heart monitor technician for a hospital, im well on my way to working on my own fairy tale ending, not a medieval one to say the least, yet I can still find attributes to relate with those characters. I never once declared not having a guy from a book is wrong, and from the way you wrote your statement it appears you took it that way. You insult me by stating i used it as a way to find a man, yet by remaining virtuious and focused on creating an amazing future for my life, I waited until love found me, please reread my comment and others for that matter. I in no way insulted you, yet you tried to do so to me, why? As you stated,
“I am an adult now, have be for QUITE a few years, and can honestly say that when I read Ms Garwood's books or any other author's books I was not looking for a man in real life that is similar to those I read in books, glad the above reviewer found a man that is close to the â€œcharactersâ€ in a fiction book. But I read for fun and entertainment, not a guide to finding a man.”
As i stated if you look to others reviews they said that once they grew up it lacked the same magic, not saying thats how you wanted to find a man. If you cant find where others stated that ill be happy to pull them up for you. Im just appaled that someone would write back on a review that in no way specifically attacked any members review. I merley did what any educated historian would do I pulled out common issues and expanded my beliefs upon the matter.
Really? I find that a little sad. Shouldn’t every girl/woman be able to imagine her man as her knight in shining armor? Isn’t that what love does to you? Makes you realize that YES there are “fairy tale” and “happily ever after” men out there where you can entertain the idea of being swept off your feet.
In no way are books guides on “how to find men” unless that’s actually the title…
I’m an adult too and have been one for a bit myself. But I can still entertain the idea of my own man riding a white horse and carrying a sword even if the idea does make me giggle it makes me swoon just as much. And sometimes it is just nice to curl up with a book no matter how outlandish it is or inaccurate and lose yourself in a world of TOTAL fantasy.
And really I find it a little sad that even grown women can’t still picture their knight in shining armor… have women become just that jaded that they lose the little princess inside them?
Stepping away from the argument on historiography for a moment, did anyone notice Garwood’s style changing?
It felt like she wrote this one at a much younger reading level, especially in the beginning.
Totally agree, much different then her earlier books, do not care for it at all…passion is gone:(
I imagine the internet has been both great and a curse to authors.
I cannot imagine how this kind of feed back feels.
I hate historicals, so I don’t know Ms Garwood’s earlier prowess with them. I started reading her contemporary books last year, mostly because they were a series, which I love. I found a whole bunch of them in the local thrift store, starting with Heatbreaker.
They were O.K., I didn’t become a huge fan, But I would have read the next, thinking it would be one of the Buchanan brothers, I was thrown for a loop when it turned out to be a historical, I guess involving one of their ancestors.
How does this work?
I have a peeve with authors starting a series, and then abandoning it, not due to anavoidable circumstances, but I guess they get tired of them. That leaves the readers hanging!
Try her new book FIRE AND ICE, which is a continuation of the her romantic suspense. She returns her readers to her signature quirky but witty/sassy heroines, much like those of her early historicals. This book is so much better than her last historical though it did have a few moments where she stumbled a bit, ie the ending being abrupt, which may be a result of a publishers insistance rather than her own.
As to historicals, as one who likes an historical scenario, tough fiction, to be at least plausable her last one was poorly concieved. Those of us who question the accuarcy are a bit tired of those who don’t care if the history is correct. After all aren’t we reading the books because of the historical setting? If not then wouldn’t we chose contemporaries? I am not talking absolute correct history so that it reads like a text book, however, the scenario should have a ring of truth to it and shouldn’t rely on the “old” historical myths (solve the Border conflicts with marriage of English Lady’s to Highlanders, when the Border wars have NOTHING to do with the Highlands, makes no sense and a basic understanding of the history of the period would get that). Most midlist authors who are writing historicals now set in Scotland get it, so why should MS Garwood.
But the biggest criticism is not historical accuracy but the fact the story was’t character driven like her past historicals. One can accept the history light of her books as long as she gives the reader characters one can care about and these characters weren’t that; she too perfect with no flaws thus no internal confilict and he sort of bland toast. There was not chemistry between a couple who don’t even meet for the first 100 pages.
I think she should remain with her romantic suspense and forego any more historicals unless she can give us heroine like Sophie Rose, who has spunk and wit. Some lacking in her last historical heroine.
i am seventeen. i’ll start with that fact. i have read two of Julie’s books and am about to read a third. i love historical fiction. have any of you critics ever written a book? if you have, then you will know that it isn’t easy. I should know, I have written two. To me, if the plot and characters are good i don’t exactly care if the historical background is incorrect. it is a fictional book. i would also like to say that Ransom is one of my favorites. prince charming is quite good,
One doesn’t have to have written a book to understand what makes good fiction. Readers, especially those of us who have been reading romance for over 40 years, are well aware of the elements of a good story: conflict (internal/external), characterization, plot turning points, dark moment and resolution. No one is saying that writing a book is easy, but what is being said is that it is a reader’s expectation that the author of Garwood’s expeirence will have an understanding of the period in which she is writing or why write a historical. Having read all of Ms Garwood’s books both historical and romantic suspense, I can say with expeirence that her last historical was a big departure from her other historicals in large part because she created a heroine who wasn’t reflective of the period in which she placed her nor was she the classic quirky Garwood heroine readers love to watch torment the hero (that is her MO). Add to this an external conflict that has been done to death in old Scottish romances (solve border problems with Highland/English marriages) which many readers aren’t willing to accept anymore because of it is historically incorrect. Many readers expected Garwood to come up with something special since her absense in historical fiction for 10 years, but what we got was the same old tired plot that has been done to death. A reader’s opinion in reviews is just as important to the process of writing (publication) for an author. No author if she wants to build a readership can ignore what readers say about her “baby” both good and bad. Most authors learn to develop a thick skin to criticism of their work and realize they can learn from their readers to help their craft advance.
I was hugely disappointed with Shadow Music. I too have been hooked on Julie Garwood’s past historicals. I actually just now discovered her but have been getting my hands on every last one of them. And then I read Shadow Music. Why did I read it? Waste of time! It started off okay but then it seemed that she just wanted to rush through it to end it. I will not be getting any of her newer books. My advice is to pass on Shadow Music.