Desert Isle Keeper
The Widow of Rose House
Diana Biller’s The Widow of Rose House is a wonderful gothic romance with a sense of humor that pits a skeptic against a scientist with a love for the paranormal.
Alva Penrose Rensselaer Webster is still battling a society that prefers to penalize her for leaving her husband Alain while ignoring the fact that he was abusing her physically. Three years of scorn and gossip have passed by, and now Alain has been murdered, allowing Alva the possibility of a new life. Thus, she’s trying to clean up her image by planting herself in New York. Alva’s plans include publishing a guide to etiquette as Mrs. Webster, which will help fund her plan to refurbish Liefdehuis in Hyde Park, a dilapidated mansion with a negative history that she buys because she pities it.
While lunching at Delmonicos, Alva is approached by the awkward inventor, Professor Samuel Moore, creator of the Moore Lantern (and conduit, and rail system), an expert in engineering who comes from a gregarious family of accomplished scientists. Sam also has a penchant for the paranormal, and he approaches Alva with a proposition; he wants to find out if the hauntings reported at Liefdehuis are genuine and examine the house’s metaphysical energies. Alva considers those rumors simple gossip, the result of people trying to scare her off thanks to her reputation, but Sam will not give up and starts interviewing the house’s former employees in order to obtain evidence. Alva gets her own when multiple builders she’s hired to restore Liefdehuis flee the place and refuse to return, claiming they’ve seen a ghost. Eventually Alva lets Sam try to examine the place – against her better instincts, but desperate to have a livable home. Together, Sam and Alva research the history of the house to get a bead on their ghost and clear its energies for once and all –and they also begin to fall in love. But will the ghosts of the pasts – Alva’s, in the form of her dead husband’s just-as-abusive twin, Alfred, and the house’s – part these two for good?
The Widow of Rose House is a great little romance. It’s heartbreaking, feminist, filled with romantic life and touched with a sense of the utterly creepy and spooky. Its sense of humor is a surprise which colors all of the words between its pages.
Alva is smart and indomitable, and has developed an outer shell that’s hard to crack, although she does have have her weaknesses, of course. And creative, loving Sam makes a good foil for her with his happiness, his intense affection and his expansive sense of wonder – something that needs to be awakened in Alva.
The romance between them works because of the delicious banter and the fact that they make each other better but don’t disappear into one another. They’re both dedicated to the mystery and to helping one another grow, and the reader’s reward is their success.
The solution to the ghost plot is fairly unexpected and interesting (and plants some unique red herrings in the reader’s path), although I have to say that I liked the book’s ghostly antagonist much better than I did its human ones.
The book’s only real flaw is its pacing. The conclusion runs a little too quickly and is rather too pat, speeding things to a comfortable conclusion that doesn’t take the time to smell the roses its richly earned. But the epilogue’s content is perfectly sweet and romantic, which makes the rushed conclusion worthwhile in the long run.
The Widow of Rose House is a wonderful romance with a warm heart – and chilly extremities – that will win it many fans.