Saturday, June 5, 2010

Review: Roses by Leila Meacham

Genre: Historical Romance/Family Saga
Publisher: Hatchette,  2010


East Texas 1916: In the great mansions of Houston Avenue, Howbutker, live the town's founding families, the Tolivers, the Warwicks and DuMonts. Over generations they have settled their differences by exchanging roses: a red rose for forgiveness and a white rose to accept.
But when proud, precocious teenager Mary Toliver inherits cotton plantation Somerset from her father, the first seeds of discontent are sown. On becoming the new mistress of Somerset she defies her mother and brother. And it is not the last time will sell her soul for the sake of the family soil. When she declines the proposal of handsome timber magnate Percy Warwick . the man who has loved her since childhood, it is a shattering choice that will spell heartbreak for generations to come.....

Perhaps my expectations were too high. Roses received a great deal of attention when it was released and I've read numerous glowing reviews that speak of being 'swept away', 'held captive' and 'keeping the tissues near' but it certainly didn't have that effect on me. The storyline is very much what one would expect from this sort of generational saga and told from the perspective of three of the main characters, Mary, Percy and Mary's granddaughter, Rachel, none of whom I found appealing,  it provides the usual tale of lost inheritances, unrequited love and family feuds.
An 'epic saga of secrets' it isn't. The characters may not know the truth but the reader does and I felt like no more than an observer waiting for it all to happen. Reading it was like driving down a long straight road with nary a corner to offer an element of surprise or the unexpected.

In a novel of this length I would have liked to learn more about the history and social issues of the time and as I'm never likely to visit Texas some vivid description of the landscape would also have been welcome.

I can see why it's popular and its pleasant enough light reading but I find it hard to believe that it's been compared to Gone with the Wind.

Royal Reviews Historical Challenge

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M is for Meacham


  1. I hate it when this happens. Read a novel following the hype and then find it fall flat on my face. It just happened to me last month with Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. I went in with the hype and couldn't enjoy it much.

  2. Sometimes they do compare books and I do not see it at all

  3. I have read mixed reviews about this book. Most negative reviews say that it wasn't as good as it could have been. I still want to read it, and I have it on hold at the library. I try to ignore the hype about book if I can. In the past I have been unable to read a few books that got RAVE reviews. I am usually so far behind anyway, that by the time I get to a book, all the hype is about something else. Lucky for me I guess.

  4. I enjoyed this book a lot, but then I'm a fan of meaty generational sagas with a sense of place. It delivered on that score for me. That said, novels of this type haven't been in fashion in the US for many years, and perhaps that's why it was promoted as something new and different. The comparisons to GWTW fit in some ways (strong-minded, stubborn female character who loves her land above all else) but not in others (it has a very domestic feel with little sense of the politics of the time).

  5. It's a shame this novel was a let-down for you. Sometimes having seen really glowing reviews of a novel you're reading just works against you.

  6. This is a book I would have read regardless of hype and promotion. What surprises me is the response reflected in reviews because I would expect that someone reading Roses would probably have read authors like Kate Morton and Jennifer Donnelly , for instance, whose sagas I think are way better.
    Sarah - I like nothing better than 'meaty generational sagas' too but this one didn't deliver for me.

  7. Interesting...I, too, was really interested in this book when I first saw it floating around webberworld, but it seems to be getting mainly iffy reviews from bloggers I read. I wonder if the cool reception may be partially why I saw in marked down 50% at my local Barnes and Noble...

  8. if you like "meaty generational sagas, try Penny Vicenzi's trilogy starting with No Angel and then Something Dangerous. I forget the third book's title but the first two in the saga are the best. Set in England and eventually NY during WWI and ending up somewhere in the 70's maybe 80's.