For The Roses

For the Roses by Julie GarwoodGuest Reviewer: Arlene Raguindin

Author: Julie Garwood
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (1995)
Number of Pages: 559
How long it took me to read: 3 days
Where I got this book: Booksale, Manila
ISBN: 978-0671870980

Like a Moth to a Flame

I have been a huge fan of Julie Garwood’s European historical romances since I read Gentle Warrior in 1993. I’m old-fashioned and still love stories of knights rescuing damsels in distress. Budget permitting, I try to buy every book she writes or borrow it from friends if I can’t find her work in bookstores. I read some teasers and synopses of For The Roses in the bonus portions of a couple of her novels and wondered why she deviated from the usual and wrote about early America. At first, I thought this book was just going to be a silly cowboy story and got surprised when I read the acclaim it was receiving at the end of each teaser. I got intrigued and started looking for it in bookstores but it was either sold out or available only in hardcover edition that are so expensive and totally impractical to carry around. Paperbacks have always been my first choice as I’m the kind of reader who can read even on a moving train or while standing in line or even while waiting for an appointment. So when I finally found For the Roses on sale in my favorite bookstore, I grabbed it.

Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “He didn’t want to keep staring at her, but he couldn’t seem to make himself stop.
Then she went in for the kill. She smiled at him.
He was lost. The bond was formed in that instant.” (p.11)

4. “Harrison suddenly had the urge to pound his head against something hard. He couldn’t imagine how the conversation had gotten twisted into a defense of the Irish.” (p.179)

3. “ ‘I want you to listen carefully. I love you, and I’m going to keep on loving you until the day I die. I want to spend the rest of my life protecting you and cherishing you. I have a tremendous amount of faith in you. I know that once you get past your anger, you’ll realize that we were meant to be together. It’s inevitable. No man can ever love you the way I do. I want you to try to remember that when you’re hating me. Remember too that I never, ever meant to hurt you.’ ” (p.330)

2. “ ‘He’s the best there is, you know. I almost pity your accusers. He won’t show any mercy, not in a courtroom, and not after the grievous insult done to his family. Oh, yes, I almost pity them.’ ” (p.404)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “He stared at the strapping young men and suddenly felt as though he were in the presence of giants. He was both humbled and in awe of them. They were God’s answer to his prayers. All those years of anguish and terror, in the dark hours on the night, when desolation threatened to devour his very soul, he had prayed for a miracle. And all along God had already given him four.” (p.516)

New Words

Words are wondrous creatures. Put them together and they paint a picture. Rearrange them and the scene changes. But to be able to see what they are saying, we must first know what they mean.

New Word: gander (noun)

Definition (Source: informal/slang noun meaning a quick look
Synonyms: glance
Origins (Source: World Wide Words): The word ‘gander’ is American and was believed to have come from early American thieves’ slang for rubber-necking or looking around much like how geese would go around a farm seemingly at random. However, it has evolved into a term for how one looks inquisitively at something by the early 1900’s.
As in: “ ‘You can get yourself a gander at her in a couple of hours.’ ” (p.36)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“I’ve read the first few pages of the book and I’m totally hooked. The story of this very unusual family grabs me and I can’t put the book down. Surprisingly, it’s still the first chapter and I already hate this nameless nanny. I’d like to pound her to death—several times if at all possible— preferably using painfully prolonged torture techniques each time.”

“Bravo to the Claybornes! It doesn’t matter what they look like or how old they are—their commitment to do the best they can for an abandoned baby is absolutely heroic. Just imagining all four boys, not even men at that point, striving to live and take care of an infant girl in a world with such harsh conditions as those in the mid-1800s gives me chills. That is what a family should always be like. If you have loyalty and the determination to pull together regardless of whatever happens, success will surely follow.

“And how I really wish there are more men like them. Imagine Adam’s leadership, Travis’ resourcefulness, Douglas’ compassion, and Cole’s loyalty. Add in Harrison’s tenacious love and you have the blueprint for an ideal man. And there are still a few of them out there—just like my husband, whom I’ll be the first one to admit is far from perfect but still has a few of the lovely traits of the Claybornes. I hope that someday, my own daughter will find a man like the heroes in this novel.”

“Reading Harrison’s declaration of love on page 330 reduces me to a puddle every time! I must have already read that line a dozen times before moving on to the next chapter. It’s very old-fashioned and oh how incredibly lovely! Every woman, even in this age of gender equality, should receive a romantic vow like this from the man she loves. Love expressed in deeds is wonderful but words are like a powerful caress to the soul.”

“I love how Garwood starts each chapter with a letter that the characters wrote to their Mama Rose for several years before the ‘start’ of the story. It gives me glimpses of the past without breaking the momentum of present events. Some are short and funny while others are lengthy and deep with longing.

“I can relate to this so much as I once also wrote letters to my family and friends to keep my sanity intact while working in another country. That was from 1994 to 1996 when e-mail and the Internet were still unheard of by 97% of the planet and Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t even dreamed about Facebook yet. Phone calls were a precious luxury reserved for birthdays, special holidays and emergencies. The weekly mail that I got from my mom and my then boyfriend (now husband) were the highlight of my every week. I would read them as fast as I could the first time and then re-read it as slowly as possible while imagining them saying the words to me. Their letters told their stories and it was fun reading about simple events like a lost hairbrush, my nephew reciting the alphabet on his own, and even the latest local showbiz news! I would read and re-read all their letters just to feel them closer to me.”

“Reading For the Roses is like eating a very rich 12” Bailey’s chocolate cake all by myself; I take small slices and savor each spoonful as slowly as I can. Ah, heaven! Unfortunately, the cake gets smaller and smaller until I just have a single slice left. However much I like to prolong it, that last piece is simply irresistible and voila, no more cake. I absolutely hate to see the ending. I can’t imagine what else can be added but I just don’t want to let go.”

“What did I learn from the story? That like Mary Rose, it’s possible to be kind and unselfish but still have the backbone to stand up when you can’t take it anymore. Lesson number 2 is to think about others but still leave some part of you left over for yourself; I’m as important as the people I love.

“I’m definitely keeping this book in my most cherished possessions. I love the story as it is—simply beautiful. It has a wonderful mix of a good story, vivid descriptions of life in early America, and perfect characters with dialogues that can reduce you to pulpy mush one minute and lift you up the next. Add in Garwood’s witty humor and I’m in paperback heaven. Like my letters, I will definitely read and re-read this story. Years into the future, I can still see myself reading this wonderful novel and falling in love once again with the Claybornes.”

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