Julie Garwood: Unexpected Passing and Lasting Legacy

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Julie Garwood was a beloved author of historical and contemporary romance novels who passed away in 2023 at the age of 78. Though she is no longer with us, her stories continue to delight readers around the world.

Early Life and Career

Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1944, Garwood demonstrated an early interest in storytelling. She took a creative writing course in college, and after graduating, spent time working as a receptionist and legal secretary while writing in her spare time. She published her first novel, a medieval romance titled Gentle Warrior, in 1985. The book was an immediate success, winning numerous awards and establishing Garwood as a rising star in the historical romance genre.

Over the next decade, Garwood published over ten more bestselling historical romance novels. Titles like The Bride, Guardian Angel, and The Gift cemented her reputation for crafting gripping love stories filled with wit, adventure, and unforgettable characters. She expanded her range in the 1990s, releasing several acclaimed contemporary romances like For the Roses and Prince Charming. Her novels routinely appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, with print runs over one million copies.

Shift to Suspense

Never content to stay in one lane, Garwood branched out into romantic suspense in the late 1990s. She launched a new series of books focused on a covert FBI unit and featuring spunky heroines paired with taciturn heroes. Titles like Heartbreaker, Mercy, and Killjoy highlighted Garwood’s talent for combining pulse-pounding thrills with tender romance.

Though she focused primarily on suspense for the remainder of her career, Garwood did occasionally return to her historical romance roots. In 2011, she published The Ideal Man, set in the Victorian era and centered around her popular Buchanan family. It proved to be one of her biggest hits in years. She followed it up with other successful historicals like Wired, Sweet Talk, and Wired. Her ability to shift seamlessly between genres highlighted her versatility as a storyteller.

Unexpected Passing

In June 2023, Garwood unexpectedly passed away at her home in Leawood, Kansas after battling an illness. She is survived by her husband of over fifty years, Gerald, and their three children.

Though her death came as a shock to her millions of fans, Julie Garwood’s incredible legacy lives on through her books. All told, she published over thirty novels across multiple genres, with more than 40 million copies in print. Her books have been translated into dozens of languages around the globe.

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Garwood’s publishers continue to release new editions of her most popular titles. In 2023, Pocket Books will reissue seventeen of her classic historical romances. For longtime fans, these re-releases are a chance to revisit beloved stories and characters. For new readers, they provide an entry point into Garwood’s world of fiery heroines, dashing heroes, and sweeping romantic adventures.

Few authors can claim the broad readership and lasting impact of Julie Garwood. Though she may be gone, her unforgettable stories ensure that her spirit lives on. For as long as readers crave bold, heartfelt romances brimming with wit and imagination, Julie Garwood will remain an icon of the genre.

Notable Julie Garwood Books

Here is a selection of some of Julie Garwood's most popular and noteworthy novels from across her prolific career:

Gentle Warrior

Garwood’s debut medieval romance introduced her hallmarks: feisty heroines, alpha heroes, and witty dialogue blended with touching emotion. The book tells the tale of Gillian, a Saxon woman determined to repossess her stolen land from the Norman knight who conquered it. Little does she know he’s vowed to protect her from less honorable men. Their clashes lead to a tender romance neither expected to find.

The Bride

This beloved historical from 1989 cemented Garwood’s star status. Set in Medieval England, it chronicles the arranged marriage between Jamie, a headstrong young woman, and the legendary warrior known as the Black Lyon. Forced proximity leads to unlikely love, as Jamie’s compassion melts the Lyon’s hardened heart. The book spent over thirty weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

For the Roses

Garwood proved she could master contemporary settings with this critically-acclaimed tale of two rival families engaged in a bitter struggle over a Kentucky horse farm. Despite generational animosity, wild child Mary Rose falls for straitlaced Douglas. Can their love overcome long-held grudges?


The second installment in Garwood’s popular FBI thriller series amps up the action and passion. Agent Brodie heads to Montana to investigate a kidnapping masterminded by a sinister cult leader. There he encounters local teacher Evie, whose bravery in confronting the cult puts her directly in harm’s way. To keep her safe, Brodie must put his own life on the line.

The Secret

This 1992 historical stands out for its daring English heroine, the unforgettable Lady Judith Hampton. After her husband’s death, Judith is determined to solve the mystery of his past misdeeds. This leads her directly into the path of powerful Highland warrior Iain Maitland. Their electric chemistry simmers as Judith unravels long-buried secrets.


Whether writing about firefighters, FBI agents, or Scottish lairds, Julie Garwood possessed a singular talent for bringing vibrant worlds and compelling characters to life on the page. Her stories remain as fresh and engaging today as when first published, cherished by generation after generation of romance readers. Though she may no longer be creating new literary magic, Garwood’s existing books ensure her rightful place among the immortals of the genre.

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