Signet (May 2012, originally pub. 1970), Paperback / Ebook, 431 pages
Historical / Western Romance
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As is often the case when I read a Catherine Anderson historical novel, Coming Up Roses made me glad I was born in the century that I was. It tells the story of widow Kate and her daughter Miranda, who are struggling to survive on their own, but also are recovering victims of terrible domestic abuse from Kate’s now deceased husband Joseph.
Kate is determined to make it on her own and never again enter into the ‘life sentence’ that is marriage. Because as soon as she remarries once again she becomes a man’s property. Despite her terrible financial struggles she refuses to accept help, that is until one day when her daughter has a terrible fall into a snake infested well. Enter kind and also widowed neighbour Zachariah. When Zachariah nearly dies saving her daughter, Kate is left very indebted and nursing a very poorly man in her home.
The story of Kate and Miranda’s lives thus far is a sad one, and Andserson portrays their wounds with both sympathy and empathy. Domestic violence is always a difficult and horrific subject, but domestic violence in a time when a woman has no rights is very different to the modern world we live in now. The emotion and the pain comes through vividly, as does the sense of both desolation and isolation.
Zach is at times brash, he swears, he has a terribly behaved dog, and burn scars on his face. But at the heart of things he’s a gentleman and a kind and sexy cowboy, a typical Anderson hero in fact. But what he does have in spades is understanding and patience. Because of Kate’s past, the love story is a slow one, and it has to be, there is no immediately tumbling into love at first sight for Kate, it wouldn’t have been believable if there was. The book is both a love story but also Kate and perhaps more importantly Miranda’s journey to recovery after their awful experiences.
Coming Up Roses is an old print of Anderson’s that has recently been reprinted. I think you can tell in the writing style that it is an earlier work and I think some of her newer novels personally are better. But in general I prefer her contemporaries anyway. I felt like the writing had a few flaws that gently irritated me. For instance, the fact that Kate never asked where Zach got his burn scars from until the shock revelation at the end. If you love someone, you’d have asked. I felt that the general curve of the court trial at the end of the novel, given the time the book was set in was sugar coated, I’m not sure in that time period we’d have got the happy ending Anderson delivered. Call me cynical. I know this is a romance and it needed a happy ending, I would have felt robbed and outraged if it didn’t, but it felt a bit like a modern day outcome.
However, don’t let these issues put you off, fans of Anderson’s work, like me, will still very much enjoy this book. It has a rich setting and a beautiful love story. I always enjoy the fact that her heroines always have a large obstacle to overcome, and that the heroine gets her knight in shining armour, even if it comes in the form of a dusty cowboy.
Despite my irritations, this was still a good book. Delivered with Anderson’s warmth and insight into human emotions. I loved Kate, Zach and Miranda and they all very much deserved their happily ever after. Not my favourite of hers, but still an engaging, easy page-turning read.