The Invisible Rose
I actually had to look up the genre for this novella because it has a kind of Medieval feel to it, though the characters pop out occasionally with a non-period appropriate “Great!” As a Fantasy, however, all expressions are valid. The genre label also takes into account the defining plot detail of The Invisible Rose.
Gabriella and Doshi are princesses of marriageable age of Glamdire. Gabriella, the eldest, is showy and charismatic and beautiful. She’s known as the Wild Rose because of her promiscuous tendencies. Doshi, well Doshi doesn’t have a nickname because no one ever notices she’s there. That is, unless she’s spilling tea on a potential mate or tripping over her gown. She despairs of ever finding a love like her parents had. Then a wish and a magic gift give her the opportunity. The only problem? She falls for her sister’s intended.
The overlooked heroine is a powerful trope in literature, especially romance. Who hasn’t felt marginalized? Doshi is sweet and kind and as beautiful, if more understated, than her sister. It is her lack of confidence that keeps her on the sidelines. Only with her gift, a kind of disguise, is she able to actively explore the bolder part of her nature.
I quite liked Tarin, the sisters’ suitor. As a character, he’s well-fleshed out, and quite realistic. Though he’s already halfway in love with Doshi, he is not immune to Gabriella’s charms and enjoys being in her company, though he sees through her glittering exterior soon enough. For me, one of the more annoying themes in the wallflower storyline is the hero’s sudden blindness to everyone around him. Though the notion is quite sweet, it’s also patently idealistic. An author has to have a deft touch in order to make it work for me. Cove sidesteps this problem neatly by allowing Tarin to be deceived by Gabriella’s charisma and discover the shallowness of her nature on his own.
Cove does a nice job exploring an old convention, but doesn’t really expand or push boundaries. I would have liked to see some more delving into the relationship between Gabriella and Doshi, particularly at the end, when circumstances suggest that a confrontation is inevitable. As it is, the story has a nice romantic ending, but the subplot feels … well, overlooked.