Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For The Roses by Julie Garwood

Reading For the Roses has been a bittersweet experience. Sweet because I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, more than I have any other romance novel in a long, long time and bitter because now that I have read it, I don’t see how any other book will come close to capturing my attention and my heart the way this one did.
I’ve been so enthralled with Garwood’s historicals, especially her medievals, that I had put off reading For the Roses thinking that a 19th century Western Historical wouldn’t hold a candle to those wild Highlanders. I was sorely mistaken.

It’s 1860 in a New York City alley and we meet an unlikely band of castoffs: four boys who, for one reason or another, were discarded by their families or by society and left to fend for themselves. This particular alley is their home. Eating from garbage cans when they can’t steal what they need, these resourceful young men were doing what they had to do to survive when one night fate stepped in and changed their lives forever. It was Douglas’ turn to stand guard while his ‘brothers’ slept, and as he kept watch, something caught his attention: a basket was placed in the trash by a mysterious woman who then fled the scene. Douglas alerted the others and followed the woman to see what he could learn about her. The brothers were able to get to the basket before the rats had chewed their way through and imagine their astonishment to find a baby inside!
The dialogue between Adam, Cole, Douglas, and Travis as they try to decide what to do with their discovery is charming, innocent, na├»ve, and funny as all get out. Through their observations and ideas about what needs to be done with “Sidney,” we learn so much about the boys’ lives before they found each other as well as their lives together. They knew what it was like to be “thrown away” and uncared for and were not about to allow their new little charge to know those feelings. They decided to take little Sidney as their own and raise him as a brother. Only, as it turned out, Sidney wasn’t a Sidney at all, he was a little girl, and became Mary Rose.

Fast forward to chapter one which takes us to Montana Territory, 1879. What? Nineteen years?!?  I was immediately heartbroken. I wanted to know what happened to the children during those years as they made their way west! I was, however, quickly relieved of my torment when I discovered that each chapter begins with a letter that one of the boys had written to Mama Rose, filling her in on their adventures, or misadventures as the case may be, along their journey. We see them all growing up, and eventually little Mary Rose begins her own letter writing. It’s adorable to read her tattlings and pleadings that Mama Rose to see things her way and set her brothers straight.

There are so many things to love about this book. Each and every character was so fully developed that I didn’t feel like this story revolved around just the hero and heroine. I was every bit as much in love with the brothers, as well as Hanging Judge Burns, Blue Belle and especially Crazy Corrie.

This story had me smiling and laughing constantly, as well as shedding a few tears of joy and even those of sadness. This has become my all time favorite feel good romance novel, so much so that I considered changing all my other ratings down one star so that For the Roses would hold a 5 star place of honor. Then I came to my senses and realized the amount of work that would entail and decided instead to just spread the word to anyone who would listen to my rantings that they just MUST read this book.

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