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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Prize by Julie Garwood

Hero: Royce
Heroine: Nicholaa
Grade: B+

In the resplendence of William the Conqueror's London court, the lovely Saxon captive, Nicholaa was forced to choose a husband from the assembled Norman nobles. She chose Royce, a baron warrior whose fierce demeanor could not conceal his chivalrous and tender heart. Resourceful, rebellious and utterly naive, Nicholaa vowed to bend Royce to her will, despite the whirlwind of feelings he aroused in her. Ferocious in battle, seasoned in passion, Royce was surprised by the depth of his emotion whenever he caressed his charming bride.

In a climate of utmost treachery, where Saxons still intrigued against their Norman invaders, Royce and Nicholaa revelled in their precious new love...a fervent bond soon to be disrupted by the call of blood, kin and country!

This has got to be one of my most favorite Julie Garwood novels. There are so many reasons to love this book, from the beginning to the end, there are nothing but great things happening, Julie Garwood has a gift with pulling you into a novel that is rife with drama, but aside from the tug your heart takes for the characters in the book, JG always makes room for laughter and humor.

There's a healthy dose of drama and humor in The Prize.

Nicholaa is determined to keep her home and people safe from the invading Normans and she plots and deceives her way through so many situations which land her deeper and deeper in trouble from her Norman Captors, making her a legend among her people.

Baron Royce, who is a hard warrior is determined to get Nicholaa back to his King as she is going to be the Kings, prize...to be auctioned off basically to one of his knights, to unite the two kingdoms and what not.

The book is filled to the brim with laughter and plot twists that have you guessing what's going to happen next. The sweet moments between Royce and Nicholaa just keep on coming too. You would think that after they get married, their lives would slow down and what not, but that was so not the case with these two. Oh no, there was so much going on for it to be smooth sailing between these guys.

Nicholaa, a good and strong heroine. She doesn't qualify as one of those annoying heroines that always try to save the day, she uses her brain more than she used her brawn to help her people out. When her older brother Thurston left the castle to her so that he could go off and fight in the wars going on, she did her very best to keep her people safe from the many groups of people that tried to come and overtake them. She fought tooth and nail to keep her home and she did a marvelous job of it, I think. She didn't go down without a fight and that was very admirable. She didnt' shy away from lying or commiting whatever sins she needed to keep everyone safe, her safety came last. When she was down and out though, she didn't let that stop her from keeping her dignity, oh no, once she had someone to blame (Royce), oh she made him pay, dearly too....

She made him marry her.

And the story continued on...

Royce, the hero was a truly great Hero. He was all that every girl could ever want in a man, a good strong, honorable man. One that would protect what was his with everything that he was, he was a fair man, one who went to great lengths to help those that needed help. He gave tough love when it was warranted and even though he was a nice guy at heart, he turned into the Devil himself when he was crossed. You don't ever cross Baron Royce. Some of my favorite scenes in this book, Royce played a big part in all of them. Royce was a caring and loyal man, one that was more than worthy of Nicholaa's love.

My favorite character of the story was a secondary character though, it was Nicholaa's brother, Justin. We see the transformation from a scared kitten (for a lack of better description) to a good, upstanding strong man at the end of the book. You see, he goes to war with his brother, Thurston and comes back because he's fatally injured, his hand was actually cut off and so he's only got one hand and because of that, he acts as if his life has ended. With the help of Nicholaa and Royce, his family, he comes out of his self loathing and he turns into this hardened warrior with a golden heart that actually belongs in the world that his sister brought him too. You see, after Nicholaa was taken and married to Royce, she moved in with HIM, her home turned into his home and his people came with it and so because Justin was there, he was pretty much thought of as an Outsider, not fitting in with anyone because he was now staying with them. You see the change in him slowly but the man he turns into is just remarkable.

His transition to life with Royce and Nicholaa, is really what made me love Royce all the more. Royce was determined and persistent where Justin was concerned. He stayed on top of him and made sure that he realized that he no longer had to feel as if he belonged because he did. They were not enemies and even though it took Justin a while to see it, he finally started opening up to Royce and it was only then that Royce started training him on how to be the best fighter, because Justin couldn't be just a good fighter anymore, he had to be the BEST fighter and with the Royce's help, Justin became the best fighter.

A scene toward the end of the book had me tearing up because up until then, you only thought and saw that Justin accepted Royce as a Leader, but in this scene, you realized and knew that Justin not only accepted Royce as a Leader, but as a Brother too. It's my absolute favorite scene in this book.

"Thank you"

Royce did smile then. "You insult me by giving me your gratitude. As your baron I was only doing my duty."

Justin didn't look at Royce but kept his gaze on the center of the field. "I wasn't thanking my baron," he said his voice gruff with emotion, "I was thanking my brother."

That little scene made me love the whole book so much. After everything Justin went through with the amputation of his arm, then the betrayal he must have felt when Thurston left him to die on the battlefield, then being uprooted and thrown into the midst of a bunch of soldiers, Norman soldiers to boot, I thought that scene was utterly endearly and poignant. I'm such a family oriented person having grown up in a big family and this book dealed a lot with family. So much of the book was left open and a lot of the problems were left unsolved, so I'm really hoping that JG will one day go back and write Justin's story (read that as a plea to JG), because I think his story would be such a great story to read. I mean, I'd give my left foot to read the scene where Justin confronts Thurston about leaving him on the field and then I'd really love to read about how everything turns out, I've actually emailed her about just this thing and she has informed me what she's informed everyone else that she's under contract to write contemporaries for the time being but that she hopes to sometime soon go back to writing historicals. I personally think she should have stuck with it since her historicals are so much better than her contemporaries. But that's just me.

There are so many instances in the book where Royce proves just how worthy he is of all things good. When you realize that he's fallen in love with Nicholaa? So sweet. The Black Queen? Too frickin' cute. His taking care of Nicholaa's family? The best. Then the Nicholaa moments are just numerous to count, this book really is a good one. a JG classic. So what are you waiting for? Go out and get it, read it, love it...you know you will.

So yeah, I loved this book. More than any of the books I've read in the past couple of weeks, this book is just all that and then some and I recommend it to those of you guys who want a good book to read on the beach, you'll be thrown into a world of Intrigue and love, you can't go wrong with that.

Please join me in my plea to Julie Garwood, PLEASE WRITE JUSTIN'S STORY. If anyone deserves a happy ending, I think it's Justin.

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