Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: Roses

Roses by Leila Meacham

Publication Date: January 2010
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 609 pp
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN-13: 9780446550000
ISBN: 0446550000

(Received for review from Hachette Book Group)

Synopsis (Courtesy of Barnes & Noble):

Spanning the twentieth century, Roses is the story of the powerful founding families of Howbutker, Texas and how their histories remain intertwined over the span of three generations.

Cotton tycoon Mary Toliver and timber magnate Percy Warwick fell in love, but because of their stubborn natures and Mary's devotion to her family's land, they unwisely never wed. Now they must deal with the deceit, secrets, and tragedies that surround them, and the poignant loss of what might have been - not only for themselves, but also for their family legacies.

With expert and unabashed big-canvas storytelling that reads like a Texas Gone With The Wind, Leila Meacham pens an epic of three intriguing generations. A deeply moving love story of struggle and sacrifice as well, Roses is steeped with nostalgia for a time when honor and good manners were always the rule.


Though a 600 page novel may seem somewhat daunting, Roses is excellently written and will hold your interest all the way to the end. Author Lelila Meacham's book has been touted as a Texas version of Gone With the Wind or a sweeping multi-generational story like Thornbirds. I found elements that reminded me of both books in Roses and was very excited to read it.

Young Mary Toliver was your typical 16 year old heiress in the early 1900's, when her father unexpectedly left her the family plantation, Somerset. Effectively cutting out her mother and brother from the every day operations. Mary's mother never recovered and her brother settled in Paris away from hum-drum, Howbutker, Texas. Mary's family along with the DuMont and Warwick families founded the town and were respected elders in the community. When Mary falls in love with Percy Warwick neither of them is willing to face the consequences of what would happen to their respective families if they stayed together.

Years later Mary and Percy have married other spouses. Mary needed help to save her beloved Somerset, and when Percy refused to help her she married Ollie DuMont. Unrequited love isn't the only secret between Mary and Percy, they have a secret that they can't share with anyone, and it could destroy them both. Through three generations we learn more about their story, their families, there successes and heartbreaks. Love, betrayal, tragedy and suspense.

I liked this book a lot, though I am somewhat skeptical of any book living up to the tradition of books like Gone With the Wind and Thornbirds. Those books don't come along very often. But, I will say I can see why Roses was compared to those books. Mary Toliver was definitely a very strong female, southern character, much akin to Scarlett O'Hara, because of her stubbornness and determination. The story that covers three generations of the same family is also similar to Thornbirds in the fact that there is definitely unrequited love and a secret child involved.

Roses is a family saga, about the struggles and successes of three families in an east Texas town and how their relationships are intertwined throughout their history. I thought that the love story between Mary and Percy kept my attention and made those 600 pages seem to fly by. The Toliver "curse" was an interesting feature that kept me reading, trying to figure out all the in's and out's of these families.

There are parts of the book that do drag a bit and seem off the pace, but I think that is something that is indicative of long drawn out stories. Every moment can't be as exciting as the one before it. There were parts that I felt like it was extremely detailed and other areas where I felt like it glossed over things I would have liked to have known more about. But, all in all it was a very good book and well worth my time. I am a big fan of historical fiction and romance and this was a very satisfying book. It seemed to lead up to the ending well, though it was what I expected. The reader will enjoy the twists and turns of this family and compare it's members to members of their own families because the characters are so believable.

Roses is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Leila Meacham writes of East Texas with authority. She has lived in Texas all of her life with the exceptions short sojourns out of state with her Air Force husband and her birth in Minden, Louisiana, because her father could not get her mother across the border of the Sabine River into Texas for her to be born. She says that as far as she knows, it's the only regret he ever had of his daughter.

Leila graduated from North Texas State University with a Bachelor's Degree of Arts. She married a pilot in the US Air Force during the war years of Viet Nam and served in numerous capacities of volunteer work as a military wife before resuming her teaching career in San Antonio. She taught high school English until her retirement from that profession, developing the gifted and talented program still used in the tenth grade curriculum of Converse Judson. She was twice elected by her peers as Teacher of the Year.

She came to her love of writing late, she says, even though she dabbled briefly into the process when she wrote a romance novel in the mid-eighties that she never expected to be published. It was followed by two others because she was under contract, but the experience and genre left her with a desire never to pick up a pen again.

"That changed when I ran out of things to do after retirement," she says, "and one day I sat down and wrote ROSES."

Leila has no children and has been married to her husband for forty-three years.