Friday, May 17, 2013

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

Skeptic scale: ♥♥♥

Eva's beautiful and charming sister dies leaving Eva unmoored and looking for a place to call home. She returns to the summer home of her childhood, Trelowarth mansion in Cornwall where she and her sister shared many happy memories. While there Eva starts experiencing some strange "hallucinations" of a time in the 1700s at Trelowarth. It turns out these aren't hallucinations but she's actually traveling back several centuries and meets people who are involved in the Jacobin uprising to return the Catholic King James from his exile in France in order to take over England's Protestant rule of Scotland. These men are also privateers - smugglers of contraband like brandy, tobacco, lace and other goods the British government taxes heavily.

One of the men she meets is the mysterious, handsome Daniel Butler - staunch Jacobite and privateer who captains his own ship The SallyEva passes in and out of the time periods without warning and she can't really control the timing of when she enters and leaves each period.

I don't like supernatural, magical stuff at all. The time-traveling was perhaps a little too much for me but I will say that SK is such a good writer that some of the romance of the story did sneak in and make me happy that the two main characters found each other - even if it was a cross-century romance. Talk about long distance!

The book was well-written and develops a nice, moody atmosphere but I just didn't buy the love story. Why does she love him? He's tall, dark and handsome, sure but what else? The two characters spend very little time getting to know one another and I don't buy that if someone from the future comes to visit, you don't immediately sit them down and make them tell you everything they know. Wouldn't you just be naturally curious? The characters in the 1700s seem to be a uniquely un-curious lot. The H does some gentle questioning (about the invention of matches!? There is a political event going on that could change the course of history and you want to know about matches?) and the h is extremely guarded about sharing her knowledge so as not to spoil things and rend the space-time continuum. 

The point SK wanted to make was that ultimately, even if you know what the future holds, you still need to do what you must in the present. But I guess I fundamentally don't believe that* so the story was a little tough for me to truly fall for. 

* The plot to return King James to the throne of Scotland ultimately failed and a lot of people lost their lives. If you know what will happen in the future, even if you can't change it, wouldn't you do everything in your power to at least minimize the horror for as many people as you could? This is what I find frustrating and confusing about time-traveling stories that tell you the future is "fixed". Seems like a fateful and passive way to think about things. You may as well not exist at all then - because the future will just happen all the same without you in it. 

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