Blood Red Roses
By Margaret Lawrence

Avon, 1998, 390 pages

Reviewed by J. Ashley (12/98)

Hannah Trevor of Rufford, Maine, faces a painful problem--her illegitimate child by the man she loves may be taken from her by the courts because she has no money or property. The Rufford community accepts Hannah's child as the last from her late husband, though it is widely known that Daniel Josselyn, a former British officer who changed sides during the War of Independence, is the true father. But Daniel is still married to a frail British gentlewoman, and can do little to help Hannah and the child. As Hannah debates what to do, a family is found slaughtered in their home in the woods, the father of which has a surprising connection to Hannah's past.

This historical novel with mystery interludes portrays the problems faced by a small post-Revolutionary community, and reminds the reader that the break from Britain did not bring instant freedom for all. Injustice and inequity still existed, especially for women.

I should have liked this book better than I did. The author writes beautiful prose and has a sense of drama and history I haven't seen in a long time. Her characters got under my skin, and I found myself arguing with them, a sign that the writer has done her job. So why didn't I like it? I don't know. For one thing, I wished Daniel could have been more assertive; he was good at standing around moodily, but Hannah had to face most things alone. Also, I suppose I'm at a time in my life when I'm impatient with writers' fondness for bleakness and despair. I found myself wondering how many pages of angst I'd have to get through before the plot moved on again.

That said, I think the author is a fantastic writer who wrote a book that didn't push my buttons. I would not discourage anyone from reading it. This author can write.

This is the second book in the Rufford series. The first, Hearts and Bones, was nominated for every award given to mystery writers, I think. The third, The Burning Bride, is now out in hardback.

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