Jove November 2004
Reviewer Sissy Jacobson
Thirty-something Stella Rothchild is brought to her knees when her husband is killed in a commuter plane crash. But for the sake of their two young boys, she has to pull herself together and get on with her life. After walking through a fog for a couple of years, she is finally able to make some decisions. She relocates her family from Michigan to the Memphis, Tennessee area where her father and stepmother live, and goes to work for Rosalind Harper as manager of In the Garden nursery. Roz, who has a reputation for being tough, insists Stella and her boys move into the three story, one hundred fifty year old Harper House with her. Roz knows what Stella is going through, having once been left a widow herself with three young boys. Now, except for David who runs Harper House for Roz, the house echoes with emptiness.
Logan Kitridge, a landscape architect, is a thorn in the flesh for Stella. Stella wants inventory and billing up to date at all times; Logan’s filing system is more like scraps of paper found in his pockets or taped to the dash in his truck. Logan is free-flowing in his thinking; Stella is linear. Aside from that, Stella has to give him his due … he is an outstanding landscape artist who rolls up his sleeves and works along with his crew. It doesn’t hurt that he is sexy as all get out and likes Stella’s boys to boot.
BLUE DAHLIA is the first of three connected books in Nora Roberts’ new In the Garden series. We are introduced to Logan and Stella, the protagonists in this story, and Stella’s boys, Gavin and Luke, and Roz and her son Harper, who works in the nursery with Roz and lives in the converted Carriage House. We don’t learn too much about him in this first book except that he loves working with the plants and seems to be a caring person. Roz has two more sons, one an attorney and the other studying to be a doctor, but we don’t meet them. One evening after Stella and her sons are settled in, young, single, expectant mother Hayley appears on the doorstep. She is from Arkansas and is a "southern cousin" – you know, third cousin twice removed from her father’s mother’s side of the family (or something like that), sort of cousin. She is taken into the fold and also goes to work in the nursery. Then we have the ghost of Harper House. She’s known as the Harper Bride and is a non-threatening entity. She has always been present, in a loving sort of way, when there were young boys living in the house. She’s been absent since David and the Harper boys hit puberty, but now that Gavin and Luke are there, she’s back. However, she seems to think she has to protect the boys from Stella. No one has ever seen her act this way. Stella, Roz, and Hayley decide to go through photograph albums and old papers to try and find the identity of the Harper Bride.
Nora Roberts has again given her readers what they want in a romance. Her popularity as an author is due in part because she writes something for just about everyone. In BLUE DAHLIA her plot is flawless, the characters are full-blown, the tension is mild (we don’t have to wade through a lot of turmoil between characters), and the descriptive portions are so realistic I can almost see the landscapes and smell the scents of the south. Except for a touch of the paranormal, this book reminds me in a way of some of her earlier work. Sad to say, we will have to wait until June 2005 for BLACK ROSE, and November 2005 for RED LILY, the next two books in the series.
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