171 of 177 people found the following review helpful
Spanning three generations and nearly a century, Leila Meacham's "Roses" is a throwback to epic storytelling in the vein of Edna Ferber, Margaret Mitchell, or Colleen McCullough. The book advertising, itself, makes the comparison to "The Thorn Birds" and those are pretty lofty expectations to set as McCollough's "The Thorn Birds" has endured as one of the most beloved romance sagas of its day. In truth, I don't think "Roses" is the next classic in that vein--but I do believe there is a lot to recommend this sprawling tale of forbidden love and family betrayal.
In a small East Texas town, three families of enormous wealth and power come to reside. The Tolivers are cotton tycoons, the Warwicks are lumber barons, and the DuMonts are retail magnates. The mutual respect formed between these elite families set up a social structure that will have long lasting repercussions through the generations for all their progeny. At the heart of "Roses" is Mary Toliver, a heroine we follow for 80 plus years. Stubborn and single-minded, Mary is a terrific and maddening character--epitomizing the strong-willed matriarch necessary for just such a tale. Her male counterpoint is Percy Warwick, a perfect foil and the love of Mary's life. Of course, these two are made for each other--and of course, they can never truly realize happiness in each other's arms. Their grand romance is played through the decades with enormous vigor, and their dance together is filled with small moments of joy but mostly great tragedy.
The first two-thirds of Meacham's tale is terrifically engaging. Fast paced and fun, I was whole-heartedly invested in the Mary and Percy story and all the subplots in the periphery. Galloping through the years, the ill-fated romance stays center stage even as both parties move off into new directions. I enjoyed the characters and even as they created a new generation, that still remained a part of the main story line. However, all good things must come to an end--and ultimately, for me, the book loses momentum for its final third. Concerning itself with Mary's potential heir, Rachel Toliver (the third generation and Mary's double in both spirit and dedication to the family business to the exclusion of everything else), the story lacks some of the pizzazz that it had previously showcased. Still a solid conclusion, it just didn't captivate me in the way Mary's story had--so there was a bit of a fizzle instead of a crescendo.
I really recommend "Roses" to fans of the genre. Ultimately, I'm probably not the book's intended audience but I like to dabble in soapy sagas every once in a while. And, I found most of "Roses" to be entertaining and involving. I genuinely cared for the characters of Mary and Percy, and if you're going to follow a family saga through the decades--that's got to be a positive!
90 of 101 people found the following review helpful
I am torn over where to begin with this review. The author had the makings of a great book here with a promising plot line and what could have been great characters. Unfortunately, especially in the first half of the book involving Mary and Percy, the characterizations are uneven and undeveloped, and the motivations and actions don't make sense. The second half of the book, involving Mary's granddaughter Rachel, is somewhat better in these regards, or maybe I just got used to the author's writing and filled in the blanks for myself. I was astounded to read that Ms. Meacham was a former English teacher, as her use of similes and metaphors is strained and off-putting, and her failure to correctly provide an antecedent for her many pronouns is rampant. Further, some of her sudden leaps in place and time can be pretty confusing, as they are indicated by nothing at all other than all of a sudden someone else is speaking or the action is taking place somewhere unrelated to what came immediately before. Maybe these missteps were present because I was reading an ARC, and they will be corrected in the final version of the book. I can only hope so, both for Ms. Meacham's sake and the sake of her future readers. A good editor would have been a godsend for this version that I received.
All that said, I was held by the storyline and the suspense until the last page, and I was never tempted to put the book down and not finish it. I think Ms. Meacham does capture the ambiance of small-town Texas (I grew up in a small town in West Texas myself) and it's entirely believable that there were two or three "ruling" families with immense wealth and property and also great respect from the town. She reveals the secrets of these families in a convincing manner and maintains plenty of suspense along the way. My earlier comments about characterization refer primarily to the fact that the actions of the characters are not sufficiently explained by what we've come to know and understand about them. For example, Mary's willingness to accept the vagaries of fate and not fight for true love does not square with her stubbornness about holding on to Somerset regardless of the consequences. Also, Mary's realistic and straightforward approach to the farm and life in general doesn't lend much credence to her devastating actions taken because of belief in a family curse. Of course, people are complicated and do have blind spots, but somehow the most critical step Mary takes is never justified at all by anything we've come to know about her. And Rachel's final decision regarding her law suit is never explained at all. I've tried to avoid any spoilers in the preceding but I felt that I needed to justify my own statements by giving a few examples.
I also think some family genealogy charts would have been helpful to remember who's in what generation and their relation to the rest of the family.
I hope the final published version of this book will have taken care of all my misgivings, and with that in mind, I recommend this book to anyone who likes a multi-generational tale of passion, suspense, and tragedy.
45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I started it one snowy evening and had to stay up and finish. I was totally enthralled with Mary's life and what had happened to lead up to the opening moments in the first chapter. The book sets the stage for flashbacks and the is divided into three parts: Mary's Story, another main character's story (no spoilers from me!) and then the present when everything wraps up. Even though I knew how Mary's life had ended up, I was so captivated by her and the other characters that I kept hoping that she would make different decisions, change her life, etc. This book was a wonderful guilty pleasure....kind of like 'The Thorn Birds" lite.
I did think that the third section dragged a bit. Maybe because I was so wrapped up in the past and Mary's life, I did not care as much about her great-niece Rachel, or maybe I was just tired. But things started to seem a bit redundant, especially the symbolism of the red and white roses.
But all in all, I HIGHLY recommend this book!
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
This is the first book I have read by this author, and I loved every chapter!
It is a quite volumnous book though it turned out to be a quick, enjoyable read.
It tells a story of the history of the DuMont, the Tolliver and Warwick families, who started their empire in small town in Texas, and it spanned over a century. It detailed their tragedies, their conquests, their romances and their heartache. A lot of the book focused on each family's professions, and while I know nothing about farming, I truly enjoyed the information and came to understand it in a way I had never before imagined.
The author's descriptions of the characters, the time period, and overall her attention to detail just swept me away to a magical era in a way that was not cumbersome or boring, and I did not feel the need to skim or pass over this book at all. Instead, I savored every word. It had the feel of Gone With The Wind, in that it was an epic love story, yet bittersweet.
I highly recommend this book to anyone that likes a good old fashioned saga.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2010
Wow, This book was infuriating, It was sheer stubbornness (and my book club) that had me sticking it out to the end. The characters were just not believable. I find it hard to fathom that after Somerset cost Mary the love of her mother and brother, she'd not only allow it, but encourage it, to cost her the love of her life. That she would then groom her grand-niece to inherit it, only to pull it out from underneath her; that her niece would make all the same mistakes. The only likeable characters were Percy and Matt, and even they were not credible. Ollie was completely one-dimensional and unbelievable. No one is that saintly and selfless - he was ridiculous. And her mother? Totally over the top, and not in a good way.
I can't believe anyone could compare this to Gone with the Wind - comparable to the movie version maybe, but it is nowhere the quality of the book. It is no Gone with the Wind. Not even a Thornbirds. I would compare it to a Harlequin romance.
A good editor would have helped too. The conversations were repetitive, and the book did not need to be 600+ pages long. If you like long, epic pointless melodramas with unlikable, unrelatable characters, then this is the book for you.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Roses is a book in the tradition of Gone With the Wind, Giant, The Thorn Birds, any Rosamund Pilcher book--thick, hefty novels that tell a TALE. This was definitely a hard-to-put-down novel. Once the story got rolling along, which was fairly quickly, this was a satisfying, enjoyable read. It is the story of two star-crossed lovers in the early 1920's-1920's thru the present, and the decisions they made that ultimately kept them apart. Mary Tolliver and Percy Warwick love each other thru their entire long lives and their regrettable choices may be duplicated by their grandchildren if changes are not made. This is a well-written, solid tale which takes the reader through the lives of these two very likable, stubborn and independent characters. A good, solid, read!!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
_Roses_ is a book that could've been excellent if it weren't for too many unappealing characters and a hideous theme.
I've been a long time about reviewing this--it took me months to get through it. When I picked it up I thought it would be like a cross between James Michener's _Texas_ and some epic romantic saga, which isn't the worst expectation to have, although Margaret Mitchell clearly had more influence than Michener. Do not, do not, do not buy this if you're looking for straight-out historical fiction. The emphasis is on romance and drama. 'Powerful epic' isn't a term I'd use for this novel, but the problem with _Roses_ is not its genre. Romance and drama make for wonderful reading when done right. Leila Meacham comes close enough that I enjoyed entire stretches of the story, but....
But: the black servants who wouldn't be out of place in _Gone With the Wind_, even in the parts of the book set in the '80s, made me twitch uncomfortably. Only one main character has a mother who's not utterly vile. Every page on which Rachel's mother Alice appears is painful to read. The male lead of the love story is a proud, uncompromising jerk who blames his unhappiness on Mary and Mary's plantation. The book emphasizes again and again the idea that the only correct priority for a woman is her husband and his dreams. She should sacrifice everything she has, everything she loves, to support him, while he is expected to sacrifice nothing; it doesn't matter whether it's the early twentieth century or the 1980s.
The real tragedy of _Roses_ isn't that Mary and Percy didn't marry--I'm rather convinced they wouldn't have been happy--but that Mary never realized that in the marriage she did make, she had a man who loved her, understood her, respected her dreams and ambitions, supported her, and wasn't too proud to accept help from her, either. Pride is the besetting sin of half the book's cast and they make the lives of those they claim to love miserable with it. Mary's mother, Rachel's mother, Mary's brother, and Percy all demand that their child or sister or beloved sacrifice her own loves and hopes and dreams on the altar of their pride, give up being the person that she is to become whatever's more convenient for *them*. Mary found a man who loved her for the woman she was and treated her as a partner, but until the end she pined for Percy Warwick. *That* is tragedy.
The finale is hollow. It may work for you if you've been persuaded along the way that Mary and Percy are in the right. If you haven't been, it doesn't; the ending depends on the reader taking that viewpoint, as it requires the reader's imagination to fill in some crucial changes of heart that don't take place on-camera. Unfortunately no number of characters marveling to themselves that Mary and Percy had done the right thing could convince me they actually had.
Originally I gave _Roses_ three stars, based largely on Ms. Meacham's talent for writing and the passages I enjoyed. I've decided after three months' retrospect this wasn't true to my overall experience. Despite its good points this book is one I remember with frustration and regret, and I can't recommend it.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2010
This was a disappointment. The characters are two-dimentional; the male protagonists are noble and upright while the women are conniving and unbelievably cruel. The main message is that men can have a fulfilling career and love too, but women have to choose between one or the other. The blacks in the story are happy children who willingly tend to their employers' every whim. The writing is very amateurish, and I found the abundance of cheap similes and metaphors annoying and the "corn-poney" expressions off-putting. This would have been par for the course if it had been written in the 1940s or 1950s, but now?? It's going in the book-swap box at the gym...
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Tolivers, the Warwicks and the Dumonts are the founding families of the small east Texas town of Howbutker. The Tolivers own a cotton plantation, the Dumonts sell dry good and the Warwicks are timber barons. The families have been friends for years and their histories are intertwined. Percy Warwick and Mary Toliver were deeply in love but, sadly, never married. That horrible mistake, and all of its consequences, have haunted Percy and Mary and their descendants for years. Mary's great-niece and Percy's grandson find themselves trying to wade through all the deceit, secrets and lies.
Roses by Leila Meacham is a grand, sweeping multi-generational saga set in east Texas. It's over 600 pages long, but once I got into the story, I found it went very quickly. At first, I thought it would be difficult to tell the families apart, but found that wasn't a problem since there weren't too many characters and they all had strong, distinct personalities. I liked all of the characters in this book, except for Lucy, and I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. I loved the fact that most of the female characters in this book are strong, driven women.
There were enough unexpected twists and turns in the plot to keep me interested and I found myself staying up late more than once to find out what was going to happen next. I enjoyed this book and think it would be a great read for cold winter days.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I LOVE large books, so this one was right up my alley. I loved the whole idea of the multi-generational, soaperish type of book. I love the whole idea of the roses. The characters I really got into, not so much Rachel though. I got to know Lucy, Mary, Percy and Ollie a whole lot. Even Matthew and Wyatt more.
I know there are a few reviews so I won't say the same thing, but I really think you will enjoy this book. Especially if you love a clean, enjoyable book! It has lots of romance, secrets kept here and there from everyone and family ties.
Mary is my favorite character, she did what she knew to had to be done. Too bad she wasn't able to tell Rachel everything, but I am glad Percy was able to come through for Mary. Lucy ended up becoming a major character too! Loved her sass!!!