Jove, June 2005
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
BLACK ROSE is the second installment in Nora Roberts new In the Garden trilogy. This story features Roz Harper, the mistress of Harper House, and Dr. Mitchell Carnagie, a professional genealogist she has hired to uncover the true identity of the Harper Bride ghost.
Roz Harper has turned the haunted one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old Harper House into a thriving nursery business she calls In the Garden. Forced by financial setbacks after a disastrous second marriage, she turned her Memphis mansion into a haven for a new collection of friends and family. Two of her three grown sons are on their own, and she oversees the nursery business with the help of her son Harper Ashby and landscape designer and business manager, Logan and Stella Kitridge. A young mother, Hayley, and her new baby girl Lily, also live at Harper House and help out. Plus, there is David, her gay surrogate son who cooks and runs the household for Roz. Business is great and with Christmas approaching Roz doesn't have much time for a personal life.
Chemistry sparks between Mitch and Roz from their first meeting, and the Harper Bride ghost immediately makes her displeasure known over Mitch's presence in very specific and violent ways. As their romance heats up, the appearance of the ghost and her reactions escalate. But the ghost isn't the only trouble at Harper House. Roz's ex-husband, Bryce, has resorted to underhanded financial dealings and rumors in order to harass her. Bryce is a con artist beneath his polished exterior. Now he is using Roz's identity to run up debts and leaving her to pay the bills. She is suffering privately with the humiliation of his actions and is reluctant to let anyone close to her help. Mitch is not an easy man to keep out and soon he and Harper form an alliance of support that she finds hard to resist.
Dr. Mitch Carnagie is falling in love with Roz. He is very open about his feelings and eager to explore their relationship. But first, he must overcome Roz's distrust of men and discover what fuels the Harper Bride's personal campaign to get rid of him. He believes the answer to one of those questions lies in the Harper House history. If he can discover who the mysterious Amelia is and how she is connected to the Harper family, perhaps one mystery will be solved.
BLACK ROSE is a well written romantic drama. It is exactly what readers have come to expect from Nora Roberts and she delivers. The backdrop of gardening, genealogy, ghost stories and multifamily relations adds an interesting layered dimension to this story. Roberts also lays the groundwork for a romance for her son Harper and house guest, Hayley, which will be featured in RED LILY.
Roz is a tough character. She isn't the kind of woman who is looking for someone to fight for her, yet her relationship with Mitch softens her a bit and Roz needed some softening, in my opinion. This area of change is one aspect of Roz's personal journey in this story. Roberts has done a good job creating a character who deals with many stressful situations, takes care of others and has denied herself a soft place to fall, until Mitch enters her life. I have no doubt many women readers will find a commonality with Roz's character. However, the violence of the ghost story was a bit disturbing, and the way Roz seems to take the paranormal experiences in stride, seemed a little odd. The complete mystery of the Harper Bride has not been fully told and is still waiting to unfold for readers in RED LILY.
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