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Black Rose (In The Garden Trilogy) Mass Market Paperback – May 31, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Book two of Roberts's In the Garden trilogy (following Blue Dahlia) ably showcases the author's many strengths, from her creation of appealing characters to her melding of the eerily paranormal with the delightfully down-to-earth. Rosalind Harper is the owner of a historic Tennessee mansion and the force behind the thriving garden business on its grounds. Widowed young and then scarred by an unwise second marriage, Roz has sworn off dating, instead inviting a collection of family, friends and their children to share her home. Unfortunately, the house is also inhabited by a mysterious ghost, known as the Harper Bride. Roz hires genealogist Dr. Mitchell Carnagie to track the Bride's identity, but the unpredictable and passionate relationship that develops between the two sets off still more malignant displays from the ghost. Roberts postpones the ghost story's resolution for the trilogy's end, but brings Roz and Mitch to a satisfying commitment complete with realistic power struggles and peace treaties among their various children. Roz's inherited privilege is off-putting at times, and her calm in the face of ghostly attacks seems far-fetched. Yet she remains a warmly appealing heroine, resolutely finding her path through a midlife romance that is more complex and hard-fought than 20-something love.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Roz Harper has a thriving gardening business and family and friends she dearly loves, but every so often she misses having a man in her life. Roz loved her first husband and the father of her children, but her second husband turned out to be a cheating, thieving scoundrel who left her wary of romance. When Roz hires a genealogist to investigate her family's past, and hopefully discover the identity of the "Harper Bride" ghost who haunts Harper House, the chance for romance unexpectedly reenters Roz's life. But once Roz begins dating Mitchell, the Harper Bride's visits turn increasing violent as the ghost does her worst to prove to Roz that all men are untrustworthy. Roberts takes a smart, stubborn, and refreshingly older heroine, pairs her up with a hero who appreciates her strengths, and, writing with her usual sharp wit, works her reliable brand of literary magic in the second title in her Garden trilogy, an irresistible and occasionally quite-eerie tale of romance, family, and friendship. John Charles
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
In this second in the "In the Garden" Trilogy the "Harper Bride" becomes very possessive of Stella's children. Nobody can understand why; in all the years that Roz has seen her singing to her boys when they were little, she never hurt anyone!
Roz decides to hire someone to put together her family ancestry and find out who this ghost really is. Dr. Carnigie is hired to trace her family history and there is instant chemistry between Roz and the very handsome Dr. Carnigie! Everyone in the family is happy for Roz that she may have found someone to make her happy, except for the Harper Ghost!
Why would she be upset? Why is she becoming so mad after all these years? Roz must find the answers before the ghosts kills someone!
Rosalind Harper is a strong, independent, mature woman. She lost a husband young, made a mistake with a second marriage, but has lived a life of class and poise, correcting mistakes and building her life from tragedy. She may be the mistress of Harper House, but her focus is her family and her business, the In the Garden nursery. Since the events of Blue Dahlia (In the Garden, Book 1), Roz, along with friends Stella and Hayley and their respective loves and children, have had to put the search for the identity of the Harper Bride on hold. Genealogy expert Dr. Mitchell Carnagie was unavailable until a previous engagement was concluded.
When Roz's path crosses Mitch's again during a wild spurt of Christmas shopping, more than talk of ghosts gets stirred up. Mitch's project is finished and he's ready to start the search for Amelia full time, and Roz realizes that the sexy doctor might just be the balm to that niggling bit of loneliness that tugs at her heart. What she doesn't realize is that her resident ghost has no love of men, and as the relationship between her and Mitch heats up, Amelia turns her viscous will into keeping them apart.
Some of my favorite romance reading of all time has been various Roberts' trilogies. I love how she weaves interesting and sympathetic characters who are easy to fall for into an overall arc that spans three books, while maintaining a level of storytelling that supports each book individually. She truly is a master at that impressive feat.
I'm particularly fond of lead character Roz Harper, a woman of advancing age, within spitting distance of fifty, with concerns and attentions suited to her age and her milieu. She's got an ex-husband who's a rake and a snake, and she's forced to deal with him, though it goes against her grain to do so in the manner in which it is forced. She doesn't break under pressure of ghost or male ego, and holds close to her heart those she considers friends and family. As a character, she's the epitome of grace and cool southern charm...with just enough fiery temper to keep her from being too Stepford.
While I am known for having a fondness for damaged characters who rise above their personal demons to wage battle against the forces of darkness, I admit I found Roz's well-balanced, independent nature both an admirable and welcome change. She's got a steel spine with pleasant touches of softness for contrast and depth, and she approaches problems with a keen mind and determination. I couldn't help but like her. And respect her. Mitch was a charming counterpoint. A man who is aware of his demons and admits to his past mistakes as he takes responsibility for them. He's a good man, honest and hard working, with the confidence to appreciate a woman of strength without the games and machinations so often seen in younger couples.
Their relationship sparks and simmers, developing slowly but sweetly along with the plot threads of the Harper Bride, who shows her nasty side in all its freaky glory more than once, and the ex-husband, who's a sleaze of the first order. There are ancillary plot threads of extended family that also add to the mix. Together, the plot develops with solid pacing and depth, each aspect complementing the other and building off each other nicely.
Knowing that this was the second book in the trilogy helped assuage the impatience to get the answers to Amelia's past, and Roberts takes time to provide glimpses of her history and add some truly atmospheric creepiness to her haunting ways. As a result, Amelia is just as well rounded...if definitely unbalanced...a character as the living members of the book.
My only complaint...well...not really a complaint, more as a dissatisfied observation, with this book in particular and the series as a whole is that the characters all seem a little too perfect, a little lacking in flaws and insecurities and peccadilloes. They all make noises about their hang ups - Roz's temper and stubbornness, Mitch's tendency to be messy and forgetful, etc., but in the end, they're all just a little too perfect, always doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. It's a little disconcerting. And not always the easiest thing to relate to. I think that's why, despite the fact that I liked the book quite a lot, I never actually connected to it on a personal level, and why, though I admired Roz and had quite a lot of affection for Mitch, I was never completely invested in their relationship or the continuing saga of the Harper Bride. Not enough to be rabidly enthusiastic of it, anyway.
I liked it, though. Quite a bit. And anyone who enjoys romance mixed with haunted houses and a centuries-old mystery and a lot of horticulture will probably enjoy it, too.
Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.