by Lauren Royal, historical (2003)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-20988-5

Following Violet and Lily, Rose is the story of Rose Ashcroft, the middle sister, in Lauren Royal's Restoration-era "flower" trilogy. This one suffers from the same fatal flaw that plagues Lily: like Lily, Rose is so girly and naive that she makes me want to cry vinegar tears. Frankly, a twenty-one year old spinster running around acting like a thirteen-year old girl is not my idea of fun.

The story opens with Rose all jealous over her younger sister Lily getting married before her. This only solidifies Rose's determination to land a wealthy, titled husband. One guy likes her, Christopher "Kit" Martin, but because Kit is a commoner, albeit a rich one, she deems him unworthy of her affections. She goes to King Charles' court and promptly falls in love with Gabriel, a dashing fellow, because Gabriel is tall and handsome. But her mother is intent on matchmaking Rose with Kit, so she asks Kit to look after Rose and make sure that the silly chit is not debauched by the hedonists in court. Kit kisses Rose, and Rose is dismayed that only Kit's kisses make her tingle all over. So she runs around kissing every other man in Court, hoping to find one that will prove to her that Kit isn't the only man for her, and I roll up my eyes in disgust.

Lauren Royal doesn't seem to know what to do with Rose. She starts off writing Rose as a spoiled and shallow creature but along the way, the author decides to develop Rose the way one would develop a typical, formulaic bluestocking heroine, and the result is bizarre, to say the least. I get Rose running around doing things that brand her as a spoiled rotten dingbat, then at the same time the author tells me that Rose can read and she is smarter than everyone else and she is close to crying because Kit has such a sad, sad past and now Kit is her friend so everything is okay again, gag. Instead of redeeming Rose, the author alternately interchanges Spoiled Rose with Bluestocking Rose at various points of the story and the result is Schizophrenic Rose running around behaving like a naive teenager in first throes of puppy love.

The inconsistency in behavior also extends to Rose's mother, a woman so determined to be proven right that she plays fast and loose with the potential ruination of her daughter so that Kit can step in and save Rose from herself. The Ashcroft family motto is "Question Convention", but in this case, it's more likely to be "Question Momma's Sanity".

Kit also has some inconsistencies - he wants to be a Deputy Surveyor and he doesn't want love because his parents were happily in love but they led a simple life, which Kit finds disagreeable. Say what? How is love so hateful again in this instance? I also wonder what this man sees in Rose. Maybe a woman that plays so hard to get is a challenge, but in this case, Rose isn't playing hard to get as much as she is just a very gullible simpleton that doesn't know what she is doing half the time.

The setting of Rose could have worked if the author hasn't then proceeded to write the story as if she's writing yet another Silly Bluestocking and Stereotype Hero story. Rose needs to have the heroine growing up. It needs the author going the extra mile in making both characters experience growth in maturity. It needs a few epiphanies. Instead, the author chooses to throw in bluestocking clichés and utilizing a subpar external suspense element that sees Rose transforming miraculously into a selfless superwoman. The unfortunate result is a love story that never transcends clichés. At the end of the day, nothing about the romance or the characters feels genuine.

Rating: 59

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