August 13, 2018

THE ROSE GARDEN by Susanna Kearsley

A journey through time and a story of love, The Rose Garden tells the story of a modern woman thrown back three centuries only to find that might just be where she belongs.

After the death of her sister, Eva Ward leaves Hollywood behind to return to the only place she feels she truly belongs, the old house on the coast of Cornwall, England.  She's seeking comfort in memories of childhood summers, but what she finds is mysterious voices and hidden pathways that sweep her not only into the past, but also into the arms of a man who is not of her time.  But Eva soon discovers that the man, Daniel Butler, is very, very real and is thrown into a world of intrigue, treason, and love.  

Inside the old house, Eva must confront her own ghosts, as well as those of long ago.  And as she begins to question her place in the present, she realizes she must decide where she really belongs; in the life she knows or the past she feels so drawn towards.

"I've loved every one of Susanna's books!  She has bedrock research and a butterfly's delicate touch with characters -- sure recipe for historical fiction that sucks you in and won't let go!" - DIANA GABALDON  

Can you get any greater endorsement than one from Outlander's creator, Diana Gabaldon?  Surely my endorsement won't mean nearly as much but I adore Susanna Kearsley and The Rose Garden just as much.   A fan of Ms. Kearsley's work, The Rose Garden did not disappoint me.

As with The Winter Sea, the story has a slower build up, requiring a degree of patience, but the payoff is more than worth it.

The locale with this work is in Cornwall, England - - something that delighted this Anglophile from the first pages.  Even if you didn't read the book's summary, you just know that having the story center around an ancient home like Trelowarth will give you all kinds of literary history, excitement and twists.    In The Rose Garden, you get those in spades.

Although time travel and time slips figure prominently in this work, it's not what I would categorize as science fiction.  Nor is it strictly romance, mystery or historical fiction.  We lucky readers get bits and pieces  of each, as The Rose Garden is liberally sprinkled with dashes of the aforementioned time travel, mystery, history and, yes, even sweet romance (but nothing explicit or tawdry.)

Our heroine, Eva, is lovely because she's smart, inquisitive and a person you really pull for.  Having suffered the terrible tragedy of losing her sister, and now being the remaining immediate family member, she is seeking for something to assuage her grief as well as allow her strong, positive memories of her sister.  I love heroines who are realistic and who don't act in out of character fashions in order to move the plot forward and Eva ticks these boxes.  Her pain, her confusion at the time slips, her interest in turning the former Trelowarth greenhouse into a suitable tea room for tourists all feels organic and true to life and her nature.

Her "supporters" -- Mark, Susan, Claire, Oliver, Felicity, all of them come to life much as Eva has.  All have a very distinct purpose in the story and all are as real as Eva is, thanks to Ms. Kearsley's deft writing hand.

But perhaps other than Eva the most vivid and colorful characters are those that Eva meets in the past - - Fergal O'Cleary, Jack Butler, and Daniel Butler.

I adored Fergal who, despite his gruff exterior and at-first brusque nature, turns out to be the compassionate man who claims Eva as his sister in order to protect her, who teaches her how to cook 18th century style as well as how to properly do her hair and cock a pistol.  Fergal is a loyal friend, whether you are in 1700s England or 21st century America.

The brotherly relationship between Daniel and Jack tells a lot about their characters.  While vastly different in some regards, both are loyal to their king.  Jack brings levity to otherwise serious situations with his happy-go-lucky whistle and fondness for drink at the local pub while Daniel keeps a steady older brother eye out and remembers his lost wife as Eva is attired in her clothing.

Could Daniel have been a better leading man?  I don't think so.  I fell in love with him as Eva was doing the same.  I appreciated that it wasn't instant love and a gradual building of knowledge, time and interests that eventually led o the realization for both that no matter how unlikely, the heart wants what the heart wants.

The Rose Garden proves to be a very satisfying story.  I had a hard time putting the book down and stayed awake into the night in order to finish it.  I was pleased with the ending but sad that it had to end and the story remained in my mind hours after completed.  Like most time travel works, it requires the suspension of disbelief and if you do indeed suspend reality for a while, you will the greatest of entertainment.

I loved, loved, loved The Rose Garden and would not hesitate to recommend this book.  If you haven't read anything by Susanna Kearsley, this is a great book to start with.  What are you waiting for?  Go!  Go!

The Rose Garden is available for purchase at major booksellers and as an audiobook through Audible.

For more information on author Susanna Kearsley, please visit her website here.

The Rose Garden was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of this book affect the outcome of my review.

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