Eva Ward was due for a trip back to her childhood summer home on the Cornish coast, but she didn’t expect the next visit would be to spread her sister Katrina’s ashes. That Katrina had a husband or had made a life for herself as a film star in LA didn’t matter. Cornwall is where she truly belonged, so that’s where she’ll be laid to rest. For Eva, it’s nice enough to be staying in her old room at Trelowarth House and to see her friends Mark, Susan, and their stepmother Claire. Upon her arrival she quickly becomes aware of the time and financial demands posed in the upkeep of the historic estate and volunteers to help the Hallet siblings with their plan to open a tea room. If that wasn’t enough to keep her in Cornwall, Eva begins to hear voices and see people from eighteenth-century Trelowarth. As the “sightings” increase, Eva is increasingly drawn to one man in particular. Already questioning her home in LA sans Katrina, Eva must decide what makes a place home and where she belongs before its too late.
Ever since I read the lovely The Winter Sea earlier this year Susanna Kearsley has become an auto-buy author for me. I excitedly added The Rose Garden to my most anticipated books list when I saw that it was scheduled to release in October. I was happy to see the publisher go with the same cover design but with a warmer, more vibrant color scheme. The blurred, dreamy lines reflect the magic of Kearsley’s assured prose well. Both novels share alternating contemporary/historic settings, but what I wasn’t aware of is that both would take place in the Jacobite era. How Kearsley would find a fresh angle on the rebellion I wasn’t sure but she managed it and then some, writing an unpredictable time travel plot which pleasantly baffled me at every turn. Though the eighteenth century storyline may be more suspenseful as there are serious risks and threats to Eva appearing randomly and inexplicably on the Trelowarth grounds, I found each era equally interesting as Eva’s future is tied up in both. At first I wasn’t completely sold on why she was drawn to smuggler, sailor, and Jacobite supporter Daniel Butler, and in the end there are not many tangible commonalities between them to go on. But I felt their strong, palpable physical attraction to one another from the beginning. Likewise the theme of home and belonging being defined by a feeling or person rather than a situation or place goes hand-in-hand with a love relationship transcending time, lifestyle, and interests and by the conclusion I appreciated the open, unpredictable, and dual nature of Eva’s chosen life. It’s very romantic in a kind of restrained way and unending sense of longing. Beautifully written, The Rose Garden is recommended for fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Rebecca, and historical fiction.