Book: The Rose Garden
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Summary: Eva Ward returns to the only place she truly belongs, the old house on the Cornish coast, seeking happiness in memories of childhood summers. There she finds mysterious voices and hidden pathways that sweep her not only into the past, but also into the arms of a man who is not of her time. But Eva must confront her own ghosts, as well as those of long ago. As she begins to question her place in the present, she comes to realize that she too must decide where she really belongs. -Sourcebooks, 2011.
I will say this as a warning in advance: If you've read Outlander, this is very similar to it. The summary, of course, doesn't exactly imply that, but once you read it, you start to see the similarities. Kearsley has been embraced by fans of Gabaldon, and Gabaldon herself has said that she's read every one of Kearsley's books, so if you are an Outlander fan who hasn't read any of Kearsley's books, know that the author has endorsed her.
Our heroine, Eva, travels back in time to the 1700s, a few years before the Jacobite rebellion. Unlike being in Scotland, she is in western England. She cannot control when she travels back in time and switches between the two timelines pretty steadily. Her beau is unlike Jamie in many ways as well. So, even though this book will make you think, "This looks really similar to Outlander," it's not completely like it. This book came after Outlander had already been published for years too. While fresh ideas are hard to come by, I don't think Kearsley was trying to copy anyone. I think her story is still unique in its fashion and is still worth the read.
Eva is a compelling character in a lot of ways. She's very thoughtful of others, generous, and patient. She avoids the typical time-traveling tropes by being one of the few calm and collected people to travel through time that I've read. While the situation is still certainly frightening, she doesn't force her fear on anyone else. She's very logical and a quick thinker, so she rarely is placed in a situation that could have been avoided.
The casts of both timelines are enjoyable, though I felt as if I knew the people of the present day better than the people in the past. I could picture them all very well and they felt real to me.
The scifi element of time travel is good and the "logic" of it is mostly sound. There's one little bit that's not concretely explained, only hypothesized, but that doesn't bother me.
I will, say, though, that there is a surprise twist that even I didn't see coming and I really liked it. It fit well with the story and helped to answer a lot of questions.
The writing was very good and the historical period was well-researched for the elements Kearsley was looking to use.
Did I like it as much as The Splendor Falls? Not quite, but only because I didn't identify with Eva as much as I did with Emily. We weren't in the same place.
Also, the only other thing that bugged me is that the book is called The Rose Garden, but the rose garden in the story didn't have any bearing on the plot; why call it that? I tried researching a little to see if Kearsley explained it, but I didn't see anything on her site. Oh well, a minor flaw - if you even want to call it that.
Overall, I give The Rose Garden an A.
Please support the author by buying the book or by borrowing it from a friend or your local library.
Thanks for reading!