Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: The Dark Rose

Summary: Paul was led into a life of crime by his boyhood protector, a bully named Daniel; but one night, what started as a petty theft turned into a grisly murder. Now, at nineteen, Paul must bear witness against his friend to avoid prison. Louisa's own dark secrets led her to flee a desperate infatuation gone wrong many years before. Now she spends her days steeped in history, renovating the grounds of a crumbling Elizabethan garden. But her fragile peace is shattered when she meets Paul; he's the spitting image of the one person she never thought she'd see again. 

These two, scarred and solitary, begin a secret affair. Louisa starts to believe she can again find the happiness she had given up on. But neither of them can outrun his violent past. 

A story of secrets and guilt set among the ruins of a sixteenth- century English garden, The Dark Rose explores the extremes of obsessive love and loyalty, devotion and desperation. Like Kelly's critically acclaimed debut novel, The Poison Tree, this fantastically creepy, atmospheric novel thrills until the final shocking moments. -- Pamela Dorman Books

You might be a little surprise to see that I'm featuring THE DARK ROSE by Erin Kelly as part of Mystery Mondays because it definitely doesn't fit into the classification of a traditional mystery. However, I do consider THE DARK ROSE to be a novel that falls into the suspense/thriller category (and since it's my feature), I've decided that it works. As I read this book, I struggled with how to describe it, but I guess the best term might be "psychological suspense."

THE DARK ROSE tells the story of Paul, a young man trying to escape from his crime-ridden past, and Louisa, a woman who is similarly trying to put some dark secrets behind her. When these two meet and start a secret affair, they both believe that there might be a chance for them to move forward and find some happiness. However, they quickly learn that it's virtually impossible for them to escape their dangerous pasts.

I have to admit that I'm not quite sure what to make of THE DARK ROSE. I don't know that I loved it, but I do know that I read the book in just a few hours and couldn't put it down -- so doesn't that say something? And when I look back, I can find many positive things to say about the novel including the character development and the surprise ending. It's just that I'm not sure I appreciate this genre like many readers do. While the story takes place during the present, it certainly had gothic elements to me (especially the setting); and I'm not usually drawn to stories like this.

So I'm not entirely sure I'm the best judge of how THE DARK ROSE compares with other books like this because, frankly, I don't know if I've ever read anything quite like this one. I suspect that it is quite good, though, because it did get a starred review from Publishers' Weekly. What I can say is that this book evoked unusual feelings in me, and I do think that's a testament to the author's storytelling abilities. I was at different times curious and confused; however, it was the way this book creeped me out and put me on the edge of my seat that set it apart from other novels. And I have to say that I was blown away by the shocking conclusion to Paul and Louisa's story. Honestly, I never saw it coming!

There were many really good things about THE DARK ROSE. I appreciated the writing and setting a great deal, but it was the character development that really stood out for me. Both Paul and Louisa were extremely complex characters, battling many inner demons while also trying to move on from their dangerous pasts. I'm not entirely sure I really liked either character a great deal, although I definitely liked Paul more than Louisa; however, I found both of them to be very interesting. And their relationship... that was even more fascinating to me! As I read this novel, I could see the two characters getting together and the tension just kept building. I just sensed that this novel wouldn't be one with a happy ending.

I do think THE DARK ROSE would make for an interesting book club pick. I couldn't find a discussion guide, but I don't think that would be an issue -- there are plenty of things to discuss especially as they pertain to Paul and Louisa's characters and their relationship. Some of the more interesting themes you might want to explore friendships, loyalty, love, passion, obsessive love, and guilt. And I also think the symbolism of the title is worth some discussion too.

I don't know if I loved THE DARK ROSE, but I did appreciate it. I'm pretty sure that fans of psychological suspense and gothic literature will enjoy this book a great deal.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I like the idea of "creepy" and "atmospheric"!

bermudaonion said...

I do like a good creepy book from time to time, but can't read them if Carl is out of town.

Amy said...

oooh I like creepy and also reading a book in just a few hours!

Laura Fabiani said...

I have to be in the right mood for psychological thrillers because they can stay with me for days.

Serena said...

Psychological suspense novels are my favorites. Thanks so much for the review...I'm with Jill ... I like creepy and atmospheric

Beth Hoffman said...

Sometimes (thought not often) I'm in the mood for psychological suspense!

Kaye said...

Sounds interesting. Sometimes a gothic feel, even in the present time frame, is good. It does seem that the book really resonated with you, despite your ambivalent feelings, if you couldn't put it down.