Desert Isle Keeper

Honor's Splendour (#76 on AAR's Top 100 Romances)

Julie Garwood

An AAR Top 100 Romance

originally published on August 23, 2001

I discovered romance novels when I was 13 years old when my aunt gave me a large paper bag full of books. In this bag I found one book with pages yellowed from time and its front cover worn clean off. I decided this obviously well loved book was the book I would read first. Its title was Honor’s Splendour.

From the opening line, Julie Garwood had me hooked. “They meant to kill him.” “They” being Baron Louddon’s henchmen and “him” being our hero, Baron Duncan of Wexton. As we enter the story, we find Duncan being stripped of his clothing, his hands tied to a post, standing barefoot on the frozen ground, and looking bored with the whole situation. Of course, Duncan’s nonchalance about what is being done to him and his indifference to his fate is seriously disconcerting his captors. In order to escape Duncan’s presence and the freezing temperature, Louddon’s men decide to go inside where it’s warm. After all, it could take hours for “the Wolf” to freeze to death, and since he had come alone, there was no chance of him escaping. As they say, assumption is the mother of all mess-ups.

Once the henchmen are inside, Louddon’s sister, the Lady Madelyne, dressed in a long cloak to conceal her features and smelling like roses, comes to Duncan’s rescue. After telling him not to make a sound, she begins cutting the rope binding his wrists. Duncan can’t believe what he’s seeing! Surely the enemy’s own sister would not be his savior!?! But she soon has him freed and situated in the castle’s chapel where she can work on warming him up with blankets. Deciding on the quickest method to thaw his feet, Madelyne uses her own body heat, shocking Duncan yet again with her completely unselfish act. And thus the mighty Baron of Wexton falls in love, instantly and irrevocably, though of course he doesn’t realize it yet.

Madelyne is my favorite heroine. Like many Garwood heroines, she’s kind of klutzy, always bumping the top of her head on things (including Duncan’s chin) or causing people to have to duck as she swings her hand out in elaborate gestures to demonstrate some point she is trying to make. She is terrified of Duncan’s horse in the beginning so she talks to him, names him Silenus, and tells Silenus how terrified she is of him and asks him to please hold still so she could mount him as Duncan had ordered her to do. Eventually, she tames him by bringing him treats every day and talks to him, until he is as tame as a little pussycat when he is around her.

Are you beginning to understand why I was so spellbound by this story? Is anyone not impatient to read this wonderful story? All right, let me give you a few more highlights.

After Duncan is freed, he kidnaps Madelyne and orders his men to destroy Louddon’s fortress and burn it to the ground. When Madelyne asks why, he tells her for revenge. As we read on, Louddon attacks as Duncan is returning home. As the battle goes on, it migrates toward Madelyne, trying to find Duncan and (hopefully) safety, Madelyne enters the fray, is attacked by one of Louddon’s soldiers and sustains a gash to her thigh, but tiny, petite Madelyne saves Gilard, Duncan’s brother, by killing one of Louddon’s soldiers with a mace.

By the next day, Madelyne is burning with fever from her wound and becomes delirious. She thinks she sees the mythological creatures from the stories her uncle had told her. First, she sees Duncan’s brother Edmond, tending her wound, except that she imagines him to be Polyphemus, leader of the Cyclops. After punching him hard enough to leave a black eye, she sees Duncan and imagines him her childhood hero and imaginary protector, Odysseus.

After Madelyne is well again, she gets into one near accident after another as Duncan follows her around trying to protect her, all the while falling in love with her ditzy but sweet self.

I love the way the characters interact, Duncan doing his best to protect Madelyne as she explores her new freedom, and Madelyne trying to teach Duncan and his family how to be a real family. Madelyne is sweet and innocent – all she wants is to be loved and to feel safe. Duncan yearns for his simple life before Madelyne, but begins to realize he can’t live without her.

It’s all of this, the exciting story, the wonderful characters, and so much more that makes me love this book. I have read it so many times, I know the story by heart. Sometimes I’ll remember something funny and want to reread it, so I’ll revisit some of my favorite parts, and sometimes I want to just read the whole thing over again. This book was my best friend when I was homesick while serving on active duty in the Army, and it’s been with me on many lonely nights while waiting for my fiancé to come home from work. Julie Garwood created an incredible treasure when she created this story, complete with chivalry, romance, the strong protecting the innocent, and everything else you could ask for in a Medieval romance. I sincerely hope that if you haven’t read this book yet, that you do so ASAP. I promise you won’t regret it.

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Guest Reviewer

Grade :     A

Sensuality :      Hot

Book Type :     

Review Tags :      | |

Recent Comments


  1. Nikki H April 3, 2017 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    What a great review! I don’t read much historical romance anymore, but this is my very favorite JG book. That first paragraph hooked me, and I never looked back. I may have to go back and reread it–it’s been a few years. I also really enjoyed The Wedding and The Prize.

  2. Gigi April 4, 2017 at 7:46 am - Reply

    I have been reading romance for almost two decades and I don’t think I have ever read a Garwood (!!!) This review makes me want to rectify this immediately.

  3. Dabney Grinnan
    Dabney Grinnan April 4, 2017 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    I’ve been thinking about starting a DIK bookclub for AAR. This might be a fun one to begin with!

    • Blackjack April 4, 2017 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      It would. I took part in an AAR reading club years ago. We use a live chat discussion forum and we read Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation.

      • Nikki H April 4, 2017 at 5:56 pm - Reply

        Welcome to Temptation is a great book!

    • Amanda April 4, 2017 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      I LOVE this idea!

      I’ve never read this book, either. I’ve read a couple of Garwood’s books but it’s been so long that I don’t even remember them.

  4. Connie April 5, 2017 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    Oh my, I loved this book! Just checked and last read it in 2010. Just uploaded it to my Kindle and Dabney I think a DIK book club is a great idea.

  5. Chrisreader April 6, 2017 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    I remember really loving this book at the time but upon re-reading many years later was struck by an anti-gay tone in it. Is this the correct book? Does anyone else know what I am remembering and has it been addressed in subsequent editions? It’s been many years since the re-read as well so I may be remembering incorrectly or confusing it with another book?

  6. Dabney Grinnan
    Dabney Grinnan October 4, 2017 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    I’ve STILL never read any Garwood. Would this be the one to start with?

    • Chrisreader October 4, 2017 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      My all time favorite of hers (although I haven’t read it for years and years so I’m not sure how it stands up to the test of time) was Lion’s Lady. Garwood’s somewhat goofy sense of humor and 1930’s screwball romance style of comedy worked in this one because the heroine’s first language isn’t English and she is very literal which leads to some misunderstandings as well as her hiding her background, There is also a very “Krentz/Quick” like attraction between the the heroine and hero where she thinks he is great but everyone else is scared by him and his scars. If that type of story appeals to you and you are in the mood for a little humor mixed in with your romance, I’d say give that one a try.
      I remember upon a reread a few years ago that Honor’s Splendor’s heroine was pretty aghast at her brother being gay (and of course evil) so that may not sit well with many readers. It turned me off when I re-read it and don’t know if was addressed as my copy of the book was old.

    • Lisa Fernandes
      Lisa Fernandes October 4, 2017 at 10:55 pm - Reply

      I’d also recommend Saving Grace, which is amazing (and a bit more dramatic than the usual Garwood)

    • Jenna Harper
      Jenna Harper January 6, 2018 at 3:38 pm - Reply

      This Garwood is my favorite of all of them. I read “The Bride” first and loved it, but something about “Honor’s Splendour” is just a step up. I completely recommend that you read this one as an introduction the Garwood’s historicals.

  7. Lisa Fernandes
    Lisa Fernandes October 5, 2017 at 1:44 am - Reply

    I liked Madelyne and Duncan’s connection in this one, but yeah, the subplot Chrisreader mentioned does exist in the book as far as I can remember, and it remains uncomfortable to read.

  8. Lynda X October 5, 2017 at 11:47 am - Reply

    I adored this book for decades, rereading it faithfully and happily; however, I reread it last year, for the first time in about in about 20 years. For me, it didn’t hold up well. Instead of charming, I found the immaturity of the heroine annoying, akin to too stupid to live. She is so cute that she set my teeth on edge. Having damned the book, now I must mitigate my reaction. My response to this young heroine reflects my age, and I would bet that what annoyed me would be a source of great attraction to younger readers than I.
    Yes, the book’s hero is revealed to be gay, but that’s almost incidental in the face of the rest of his faults. I did not pick up ANY indication that his homosexuality has caused his great malevolence, however, if this subject is one that is a personal sensitivity, you may be smart to skip this book.

    • Lisa Fernandes
      Lisa Fernandes October 6, 2017 at 1:58 am - Reply

      Thank you for clarifying that – it’s been awhile since I picked up the book and had a readthrough. I thought that was one of the reasons the heroine’s brother ends up meeting his end; I might be confusing it with someone else’s story. Glad to see that’s not the case!

  9. Blackjack
    Blackjack October 5, 2017 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    I did not like this book at all, but I also do not like Julie Garwood’s writing for many of the reasons cited above from others. Her heroines are child-like and their behavior is fairly absurd to me. The heroes are too often over-the-top brawny guys who relish in their paternalistic role as protector to their child-like brides. None of Garwood’s books holds up for me now, but they admittedly never did in the past either.

    • CarolineAAR October 5, 2017 at 10:21 pm - Reply

      As someone who missed Garwood the first time around, I kept trying her based on high poll rankings and reader recommendations. Not once have I found one I enjoyed. She may be an author best experienced though rose-tinted memory glasses, and if you didn’t read her back in the day, you’re better off not trying.

      • Jenna Harper
        Jenna Harper January 6, 2018 at 3:44 pm - Reply

        I think you are right, Caroline, that Garwood’s historicals may be impossible to love if you hadn’t read them in the past, before so many of the romance genre’s tropes were debunked as troublesome. For example, using homosexuality as the defining feature of evil was perfectly normal back then but is pretty disgusting today. Garwood’s bad guys are usually suspected of “loving other men in a gross, physical way” which always horrifies the heroine when she learns of it. To read that stuff today is pretty awful. And the heroine’s are definitely of the damsel-in-distress mode rather than kick-ass. They are niave and virginal and klutzy and always a little bit flakey. But if you are looking for a very old-fashioned strong hero/sweet heroine story, these fit the bill perfectly.

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