One Pink Rose by Julie Garwood (Clayborne Brides, #2)

One Pink Rose by Julie Garwood (Clayborne Brides, #2)

The Clayborne Brides by Julie GarwoodA lovely little pick-me-up for the time-poor reader who just wants a reliable romance with wisecracking characters.

An advance reading copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

Despite having been first released nearly 20 years ago, Julie Garwood’s Frontier historical novella holds up pretty well.

After being left at the altar once already, Emily Finnegan has decided to take a more practical approach to marriage. The only problem? She needs someone to escort her to Golden Crest to meet her fiancé. Her escort is Travis Clayborne, the youngest of the Clayborne siblings.

Travis isn’t exactly a cheerful escort. He’s been shanghaied by his mother (I think?) into helping Emily. I’m not sure it was ever actually explained why Mama Rose decided to volunteer Travis. Probably it was for plot reasons, though. Either way, it’s your classic girl-meets-boy-while-she’s-engaged-to-a-different-and-thoroughly-unsuitable-boy kind of story. With added deliciousness, in that they’re forced into close quarters with each other because they’re travelling alone.

From a stylistic perspective, a one thing really jumped out at me. There’s a general rule in writing that if you start a scene in the point of view of one character, you shouldn’t shift to a new POV (point of view) halfway through. But Garwood cares not for pesky writing rules. She head-hops with lightning speed, all while slinging witty one-liners from every direction.

And that’s when she whacked him with her umbrella and kicked him hard in his left kneecap. It was apparent that she was aiming for his groin, and when she missed her mark the first time, she had the gall to try again.

He made up his mind then that Miss Emily Finnegan was crazy.

“Unhand me you miscreant.”

“Miscreant? What in thunder’s a miscreant?”

She didn’t have the faintest idea. She was so taken aback by the question she almost shrugged in response. Granted, she didn’t know what a “miscreant” was, but she did know that her sister, Barbara, used the word whenever she wanted to discourage an overzealous admirer, and it had always been effective. What worked for her conniving sister was going to start working for her. Emily had made that vow on the train from Boston.

“You only need to know that it’s an insult,” she said. “Now let go of me.”

* Please note: the purple part of this quote is Travis’s POV; the magenta part is Emily’s POV.

The initial effect can be somewhat disorienting. Especially if you’re more accustomed to recently published romance novels. The situation is not helped when the heads she hops into aren’t restricted to Travis and Emily, and will in fact include: the hero’s brother-in-law; a crusty old man with one eye; both the husband and the wife who own some homestead Travis and Emily stay at; and possibly others? Once you’ve immerse yourself into it, though, One Pink Rose is damn good, campy fun.

It’s biggest weakness is the novella format. It all felt a bit underdeveloped. There’s very little time in a novella to craft a convincing romance, and while some authors are masterful at doing this (I’m looking at you Victoria Dahl and Courtney Milan!), some struggle. I feel like Garwood struggles. There were times when she compensated by throwing in timelapses, and in some instances it was fine. But once or twice it just left me feeling like a crucial next step had been missed.

Garwood is beloved by romance readers far and wide for a reason. One Pink Rose has the energy of an old rom-com film, like His Girl Friday (1940) or High Society (1956). It’s a lovely little pick-me-up if you’re time-poor and just want a reliable romance with wisecracking characters.

Content advisory: There’s no sex. Which makes this more of a Lack Of Content Warning, but it needs to be flagged.

This book was originally released in 1997 and has been reissued in 2016. Published by Simon & Schuster (extract).

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What do you think?