A Rose in Winter
The first chapters of A Rose in Winter held a lot of promise. The foundation was laid for a very interesting tale and I began to feel I had really found something. But as the story unfolded, the promise went unfulfilled. The final result is a good story that is flawed for three reasons: an inconsistent plot, characters who behave illogically, and a frustrating lack of detail.
Lady Solange and her father’s ward, Damon, Lord of Wolfhaven, have been friends all of Solange’s life. One day, the couple becomes aware their friendship has turned to love, and they finally confess their romantic feelings. Minutes later, Solange is told by her emotionally remote father (the Marquess of Ironstag) she is to wed to the Earl of Redmond, handsome lord of a neighboring demesne. The fear and confusion Solange feels over this union was solidly written, and I really started worrying for our heroine’s fate at the hands of the obviously slimy Redmond.
To “convince” Solange to marry the earl, Ironstag threatens to ruin Damon, so the reluctant bride puts on an act to drive her True Love away. Damon must not have been aware of the other bazillion times this device has been used to part lovers, because it works, leaving him feeling bitterly betrayed. Damon accepts Solange’s little five minute routine and skulks off, acting not in the least suspicious she might have been coerced into this union.
Solange and Redmond marry. Their wedding night sets up a frightening scenario for our lady, and it is at this very point the story could have really taken off. The evil Redmond has Solange locked in a windowless tower, she’s naked and completely vulnerable, only sixteen, virginal, friendless, terrified. Redmond has a knife, he slices her delicate wrist, she bleeds, and then . . . and then . . ?! And then you turn the page and it’s nine years later. Huh? The penultimate villain is forthwith relegated to single sentence references and allusions throughout the remainder of the story. An excellent device for pulse-pounding conflict evaporates.
Solange and Damon travel back to England and are together day and night literally for weeks, but never discuss her now deceased husband, nor her nine years of married life. Then, once safely at Wolfhaven, two ghosts are introduced into the story. Ghosts? This was so out-of-the-blue, I didn’t know what to think.
In what could have been a very nice twist on the heroine-as-healer theme, Damon’s healing prowess is referenced but never demonstrated. When Solange finally hints to Damon what Redmond did to her, Damon rushes from the room, stomps down the hall (I thought to get his herbs and stuff), then returns to Solange (empty-handed), and proceeds to change the subject (Nice scars, so, how ’bout those Mets?)! No hugs, no kisses, no ointment.
But the part that had me shaking my head was the end. It had been well established that these two characters meant everything to each other and had always confessed and confided all to each other (i.e., open communication). Yet, when said open communication would have averted disaster, Damon and Solange clam up! Don’t you just hate it when that happens? Damon says (and I quote), “You should have told me and trusted in me,” and Solange replies, “You’re right, I should have” A blistering dénouement.
Well, now I’m going to shock you. Despite everything I just said, you still might want to give this book a try. Solange and Damon are very appealing, and if you don’t mind a story that’s light on detail, you’ll find some good stuff mixed in with the plotting anomalies. I was frankly impressed with the imagery and emotion the author conveyed – but felt it all should have led somewhere, dag-nabbit! The potential was genuinely there; in places, real ingenuity and talent glimmered through. Ms. Abé’s next book is The Promise of Rain, and I, for one, am hoping it will be there that glimmer turns into some real shine!