Review

The Dark Rose

by Erin Kelly

Journalist Erin Kelly catapulted to literary heights in 2011 with THE POISON TREE, a dark tale of secrecy and family protection. Originally released in the UK as THE SICK ROSE, her second stand-alone is a complex drama of love and love betrayed. Appropriately promoted as sophisticated psychological suspense, THE DARK ROSE rockets Kelly’s career into the stratosphere.

"Kelly masterfully orchestrates character conceit and arrogance to draw in readers with the tension of a violin string.... Kelly’s keyboard is a Stradivarius and she a literary virtuoso."

Like a butterfly flitting between 1989 and 2009, the tale of teen Louisa Trevelyan’s obsessive love of Adam Glasslake takes a tragic turn, and Louisa goes on the lam. The crumbling Kelstice Lodge estate was purchased “with a view to restoring the garden to its Elizabethan glory,” Louisa’s secret garden --- or, rather, garden of secrets. Now at age 39, Louisa chooses Kelstice not for love of landscape but for the remote location. Petty criminal Paul, who is 20 years younger, is in a witness protection program. He is situated there for the same reason, and to work in community service.

Paul is Adam’s doppelgänger, and it’s time for his “vagrant soul to find new flesh.” Memories of Adam “nibbled like fleas in the bedclothes at night,” and Louisa uses Paul to fill the love void. “Her three months with Adam remained the longest relationship of her life.” But Louisa adjusts to sharing her life and bed with someone half her age. In youthful exuberance, Paul jumps over a wall and breaks a rambling rose, dooming it to the compost heap. He pledges to replant another.

In obvious reference to Louisa’s attempt to use Paul as a surrogate to regrow her love with Adam, readers learn: “When a new rose is planted on the same spot as an old one, you get a sick rose; it doesn’t bloom, and it’ll probably die. You can’t expect something that beautiful to bloom twice.”

Kelly masterfully orchestrates character conceit and arrogance to draw in readers with the tension of a violin string. With more turns than race car wheels on a twisting track, dramatic events blossom to reveal a shocking conclusion. Kelly’s keyboard is a Stradivarius and she a literary virtuoso.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on February 2, 2012

The Dark Rose
by Erin Kelly