Following the death of her sister Katrina, Eva Ward leaves her home in Los Angeles and travels to England to scatter Katrina’s ashes. Eva knows that of everywhere in the world the place that held the most special memories for her sister was Cornwall, where the two of them had spent many happy days visiting Trelowarth, the home of their childhood friends, the Halletts. As well as scattering the ashes, Eva is looking forward to spending time with Mark and Susan Hallett again and helping them think of ways to attract tourists to the new tea room at Trelowarth. What she hasn’t expected is to find herself slipping back and forth in time between the present day and the eighteenth century, a world of Jacobites, smugglers – and a man called Daniel Butler.
I had never read anything by Susanna Kearsley until now, but she was one of those authors I was sure I would like – and now that I’ve read The Rose Garden I’m pleased to have been proved right! I love novels where time travel forms part of the plot and it’s always interesting to see the different methods authors come up with to explain how and why it happens. In this book I thought the author handled the transitions between past and present very well, in a way that reminded me of Daphne du Maurier’s The House on the Strand (which is also set in Cornwall). I also couldn’t help thinking of Diana Gabaldon’s time travel novels, due to the idea of a modern day woman finding herself in the eighteenth century and in the middle of a Jacobite rebellion. But it wouldn’t be fair to describe The Rose Garden as a copy of any other novel because it’s different enough from anything else that I’ve read to be a great book in its own right.
Eva meets some interesting characters in both time periods, though the most memorable are probably the ones she gets to know in the eighteenth century: Daniel Butler, his brother Jack, and their Irish friend, Fergal. It would have been nice to have seen more of Eva’s conversations with Daniel and Fergal though, as this would have helped make their characters feel more fully developed. And in the present day, I would have liked to have spent more time with Claire (Mark and Susan’s stepmother). I suppose there was a limit to how much the author could include, but I did feel there was the potential for this book to be even better than it already was.
I also loved the Cornish setting – it provided the perfect backdrop for both the historical and contemporary periods of the story. I enjoyed reading about Eva’s adventures in both periods and because the two threads of the story were woven together so closely I found them equally interesting. And later in the book the plot took a turn that I hadn’t expected, which was a nice surprise.
I’m sure I’ll be reading more books by Susanna Kearsley soon – I just need to decide which one to try next!