Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rescuing Rose by Isabel Wolff: a disappointing romance

Agony aunt Rose has more than a few thorns digging in her side at present. Her seven-month marriage is in tatters, the bills are mounting up at an alarming rate and to top it off, she's being plagued by a stalker who seems to know rather a lot about the mysterious circumstances of her birth. It's usually Rose who dishes out the advice, but now she must rely on her wacky friends to come up with some solutions.They suggest she advertise for a lodger and at first, geeky accountant Theo seems the perfect choice for the now resolutely single Rose. However, she becomes intrigued by her new housemate's fascination with astronomy and he soon has her starry-eyed. But the path of true love never did run smooth, and the starcross'd lovers face stiff opposition in many forms, including the increasingly deranged stalker who is intent on getting Rose's attention by fair means or foul…

This started out so well. I’ve enjoyed one or two Wolff romantic novels before and so I was looking forward to this one. At first, I found myself warming to agony aunt Rose and her eclectic set of relationships and was eager to know how she would resolve matters with her soon-to-be ex husband Ed and her new lodger Theo. Not to mention her disabled neighbour Bev, and her long friendship with the twins (though I found it really hard to tell the difference between the twins at all).

After a while however, I found myself more and more willing to put the book down and go and do something else. Anything else. Because the trouble with this novel is that it has all the ingredients it needs, but doesn’t know how to blend them together. Plus it outstays its welcome by quite a long marker, which is another negative. New romantic interest Theo starts out very well – a warm picture of a blunt but caring Yorkshireman – but somehow manages to transmute himself to something very close to an emotional bully. Rose has gone through quite a difficult childhood and doesn’t know who her real family is, but Theo regularly berates her for not facing up to the truth in very harsh terms and seems very quick to criticise her at any opportunity, even immediately after their first romantic night together. Heavens, no wonder Rose is cross! I’m all for the strong hero, but not when he has absolutely no emotional common sense whatsoever.

I also lost interest in Rose herself about three-quarters of the way through the book, when she stops being a normal, kind-hearted woman and strangely becomes a mouthpiece for every kind of counselling cliché in the known universe. Honestly, all her ‘coming to terms with her past’ and ‘moving on’ type talk made my teeth itch. I wanted the old dippy Rose back – she was far more human. Plus I really hated the way she ended up treating her ex-husband, and accusing him of turning his back on his family when actually she’s been ignoring and hating her own for years. I had every sympathy for Ed here, no matter his evident lack of generosity, as I’m not too fond of my own siblings either and would have to be heavily persuaded to do anything remotely nice for them at any point. So the way Rose trampled on Ed’s family difficulties made me feel quite ill – how very judgemental our agony aunt actually turned out to be …

Aspects of the book I enjoyed were the talking bird (more, please!), plus neighbour Bev’s story and her carer dog (and usually I hate dogs), and how Bev turns her life around – in a human and charming way – and wins through. In some ways, it was more Bev’s story than Rose’s so perhaps Wolff focused her efforts on the wrong heroine? I also thought there was a whole other book in the information given about Rose’s mother, though in context here it was unfortunately rather Mills & Boon and overwrought.

So, all in all, a good start but a poor finish.

3 stars. Disappointing and too long

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