Scent of Roses
This romantic suspense story offers readers the best of both worlds: an eerily compelling mystery, and a sweet love story with a satisfying resolution. While the mystery is likely to make more of an impact on the reader than the romance, both parts of the plot are well thought out and believable.
Elizabeth Conners is a psychologist working in her small agricultural hometown of San Pico, California. After a messy divorce and several years of living away, Elizabeth returned two years ago to be near her now deceased father. She is good at her job and finds San Pico relaxing and peaceful, even if she doesn’t want to live there forever.
When a teenaged client confides to Elizabeth that he is worried about his pregnant sister Maria, who he says hasn’t seemed herself lately, Elizabeth inadvertently becomes involved in a mystery which turns out to be unexpectedly complex. She is aided by attorney Zachary Harcourt, the illegitimate son of Fletcher Harcourt. Harcourt Farms is San Pico’s main employer and primary form of income. Since Fletcher’s recent hospitalization after a life-threatening accident, Zach’s older brother Carson has been running the business. As Zach and Carson compete for Elizabeth’s affection, she begins to realize that the once delinquent Zach is a much better man than his supposedly upstanding brother Carson.
The pregnant Maria admits her fear that the tiny house she shares with her husband Miguel on Harcourt Farms’ property is haunted. Elizabeth quickly overcomes her disbelief as she sees evidence of it herself. Although Zach is harder to convince, he too eventually admits the possibility. Zach and Elizabeth work on uncovering the mystery surrounding the house, while their relationship, which was rocky at first, quickly progresses as they recognize their true feelings for each other.
Although the plot was intriguing, the main characters could have been better developed. The hero and the villain were likable and rotten, respectively, and neither of them possesses realistically modifying characteristics. The story is told primarily from Elizabeth’s point of view, so the reader isn’t privy to an outsider’s perspective of her.
Maria and Miguel, the ones primarily affected by the mystery, are the most interesting characters. While they are somewhat stereotyped, so much of the action revolves around them that we get to know them pretty well. It’s very easy to sympathize with Maria, and her husband is the only character who undergoes any kind of change during the course of the story, from macho tough-guy to caring man.
While the story is very plot driven, as might be expected in a romantic suspense novel, I would have liked the characters to be better developed, to have felt some connection to them. This lack of characterization is the main drawback for me.
However, I was captivated by the plot. According to the author, the mystery was inspired by real events, which makes it even creepier. The multiple layers of secrets that Elizabeth and Zach uncover deepen the intensity of the drama. There’s the apparent haunting of Maria and Miguel’s house, which manifests itself in different ways, including noises, visions, and an unpleasantly strong odor of roses. Elizabeth and Zach have to dig deep into the past to find out what happened at that location. They also have to contend with Carson’s mysteriously antagonizing behavior, as it’s clear he doesn’t want their interference and that he has something to hide. However, the mystery of the past is much more compelling than the one that takes place in the present, and which reveals Carson’s true character.
Overall, despite the lack of depth the characters display, Scent of Roses is an engrossing read. I found myself trying to unravel the mystery before the protagonists, and I was shocked to find out the situations leading to the haunting, especially considering the author’s description of the true part of the story.