The Dark Rose: A Novel by Erin Kelly
Publisher: Penguin/Feb. 2nd, 2012
Kind thanks to Penguin for providing a review copy
“Paul was led into a life of crime by his boyhood protector, a bully named Daniel; but one night, what started as a petty theft turned into a grisly murder. Now, at nineteen, Paul must bear witness against his friend to avoid prison. Louisa’s own dark secrets led her to flee a desperate infatuation gone wrong many years before. Now she spends her days steeped in history, renovating the grounds of a crumbling Elizabethan garden. But her fragile peace is shattered when she meets Paul; he’s the spitting image of the one person she never thought she’d see again.
These two, scarred and solitary, begin a secret affair. Louisa starts to believe she can again find the happiness she had given up on. But neither of them can outrun his violent past.
A garden is being brought back to its Elizabethan splendor by a group of horticulturists, botanists and volunteers in the English countryside, and Louisa Trevelyan loves her days coaxing new growth out of the ground and unearthing old delights from the original garden, but is still haunted by a devastating event nearly 20 years ago. Paul Seaforth is sent to Kelstice Lodge to volunteer in the garden until the murder trial of his childhood friend, where he will serve as the star witness. Louisa is shocked when she sees Paul for the first time, since he is the doppelganger of the man she was obsessed with 20 years ago. Their lives will entwine in ways they never could have imagined, and each of their secrets will lead to shocking revelations.
I advise you to seek out a quiet and comfortable space when you start The Dark Rose, because you won’t be getting up for a while. The novel follows three separate timelines; the present, Louisa’s story, which begins 20 years ago (in 1989), and Paul’s story, which begins when he’s a young boy and comes full circle in present day. In spite of their 20 year age difference, Paul and Louisa are both victims of co-dependent relationships, although for very different reasons. Paul’s childhood friend, Daniel, was his protector against other boys who would have otherwise bullied him relentlessly. Bookish and shy, when Paul discovers Daniel’s weakness, he’s determined to protect him in his own way. Both have lost parents (Daniel’s mother and Paul’s father), and they naturally fall into a friendship. Things begin to escalate, however, when Daniel and his father begin to involve Paul in increasingly criminal activity, which culminates in the murder that Paul witnesses. Louisa’s obsession with rock singer Adam Glasslake is explored to heartbreaking effect. If you’ve ever loved someone just a little more than they love you, you’ll feel Louisa’s pain, even as you cringe at some of the lengths she goes to in order to keep a hold (however tenuous) on the handsome, brooding Adam. The author seamlessly weaves both stories together and I found myself glued to the pages, wanting to know what happened next. The atmospheric writing, taut characterizations, flawless pacing, and an unlikely, yet sweet, romance, will have you riveted, and there are some jaw droppers that I honestly didn’t see coming. Paul and Julia’s pasts, and futures, will come together in a shocking climax that will leave you breathless. Fans of flawless psychological suspense won’t want to pass this one up, and it will also appeal to fans of Tana French. The Dark Rose is absolutely not to be missed!