I read this book via hoopla, an electronic lending service available through my local public library. I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other subject. And of course I am an author of romance novels. Just want to make sure all that disclosure stuff is out there.
I had never read any of Kearsley's work before, but I had read good things about it. And because I've been away from steady reading of romance for a long time, I wanted to get back into it with something I could at least expect would be decent. (I've had more than enough of the crap.)
The opening to Susanne Kearsley's The Rose Garden is moving and evocative. Eva Ward must deal with her beloved older sister's death and decides to return to Cornwall, where they had vacationed as children. So far, so good.
Kearsley's style seemed a little slow, but it was clean and in keeping with the tone of the book. Unfortunately, neither that style nor the story itself completely grabbed me.
Maybe it was because I've never felt comfortable with the whole idea of time travel, but I found the plot slightly awkward. There was a lot in The Rose Garden that kept bringing back to me Daphne du Maurier's The House on the Strand, which I read 35 or 40 years ago. In du Maurier's book, as in Richard Matheson's Bid Time Return, there's an explanation for the time traveling early on. Kearsley doesn't do that with The Rose Garden, and that lack kept my willing suspension of disbelief at bay.
Eva travels back and forth in time, with no control over her leaps in either direction. She has to adjust to circumstances in the old world she travels to, and she has to navigate the awkwardness of not knowing when those leaps will occur or where they will land her. And of course she falls in love with a man who lived and died in that other time.
And maybe it was because reading on the laptop just wasn't comfortable, but I wasn't so engaged that I was willing to put up with that discomfort. Even the complications of the love affair and the dangers inherent didn't generate enough drama, enough suspense, to hold my interest. After slogging through about three-fourths of the book, I found myself skipping and skimming, even though I didn't want to. The end was kind of blah, though it did have a clever twist, but nothing was particularly wow-inspiring.
Not a bad book, certainly, and well-enough written, though I did catch a typesetting/proofreading error in the beginning that really put me off. It just wasn't five-star great. And I'm willing to try Kearsley again.