Thursday, June 9, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [adult]

This review appeared in the Stratford Gazette on June 9, 2011
Written by Shauna Thomas, Librarian 
 
The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearley
 
Fans of Ontario author Susanna Kearsley will be pleased to hear she is back; and her new novel, The Rose Garden, is built from the same elements that made Marianna and The Winter Sea impossible to put down. For those unfamiliar with her work, Kearsley's made a name for herself penning tales of romantic suspense featuring appeal factors like time travel, flawlessly researched Celtic culture and landscapes, and warm, likeable characters. She has a knack for building steamy, suspenseful tension into book you can lend your grandmother without blushing, and as far as I'm concerned that is a serious skill. Indeed, most of Kearsley's books could be considered a slightly cleaned-up, faster-paced readalike for Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, and make an excellent next read when you've run out of books featuring the masculinely divine Jamie Fraser. Her latest outing, The Rose Garden, is no exception.
 
After the death of her film star sister, Hollywood PR agent Eva finds herself making the journey from California to the home of Mark and Susan, close family friends in Cornwall. At a loss for what to do without her sister, she decides to end her Hollywood career and put her skills to work saving Trelowarth - the manor that is home to Mark and Susan - from financial ruin. Throughout the novel, Kearsley sustains an atmosphere of the lush, natural mystery of the Cornish landscape, to the degree that Trelowarth becomes a full presence and character within the story. With the aid of friends from the neighbouring village, Susan plans to open a tea room at Trelowarth, and Eva will build the website and look after drawing in the crowds.
 
In the meantime, however, Eva begins suffering what appear to be hallucinations. Initially, she blames her sleeping pills and grief for the excursions back in time to when Trelowarth was smuggling hub during the Jacobite Rebellions. But when one hallucination abates, leaving her standing in the 21st century wearing clothes she's been loaned in the 1700s by an intense, handsome (and ostensibly imaginary) smuggler named Daniel, she's forced to re-evaluate.
With help from local folktales, Eva begins to reason out what is happening to her on her journeys back in time. Reason, however, doesn't help her stay detached on these journeys - her undeniable connection with Daniel has drawn her into the intrigue of his smuggling and activities within the Jacobite uprisings. Worse, local law enforcement have noted Daniel's attachment to Eva, and want to make her a pawn in their plans. Kearsley skillfully builds tension between the two times, and the reader is hard pressed to put down the book before discovering whether Eva can master her time shifting before someone gets caught or killed.
 
Perfect for the beach or cottage, The Rose Garden is an enchanting journey you'll want to share.

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