About the book:
Author: Elizabeth Camden
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: 2011
Genre: Fiction, Christian
The Story: after fleeing his native Romania for the safety he hopes American soil will provide, Michael arrives with his two young sons, his sister and two loyal associates in tow. His plan is a simple one – he is determined to reclaim the house in Colden that is his by rights, left to the oldest male relative in an uncle’s will. Closed up for the summer, Michael has the idea that reinventing himself without obtaining a whole new identity is best for gossip-prone neighbors and the different way Americans seem to do things. All he expected was to see the man whose portrait hangs in the hall displaced from the residence. What he did not expect is the opinionated, fiery young woman with the strange name to appear on his doorstep, wanting her father’s prized possessions. Living in the Winslow Street house for most of her life, Liberty is not about to easily give in – her father has legal ownership of the house and she is determined to see the band of people her family sees as interlopers evicted. What she didn’t count on was losing her heart to a man who seems oblivious to proper decorum.
My thoughts: The opening of this story chronicles Michael’s arrival to America and the fierce belief he has that the home on Winslow Street is his and also his mistaken assumption that he will have to physically protect his family and inheritance. Long before the first chapter was through, I was hooked by this story – what was it that Michael so carefully guarded? Why had he fled his homeland in such a rash manner? Why is there seemingly a mystery surrounding his traveling companion, Mirela? Everything about Elizabeth’s opening was brilliant and mystifying. However, I also found the opening somewhat “awkward” or confusing and therefore hard for me to really get “into” its premise as easily as I’d have liked. Perhaps that is too great of a contradiction or maybe that was the reason why I was so intrigued but explaining it any better is not possible. Once I was past the first chapter, I was once again swept into the world that Camden created – and what a lovely one it was.
Camden's debut novel appeared on book shelves just this past summer and before that, I could not remember the last time I read a novel so quickly. I was charmed by it and enthralled with its hints of mystery all at once. The Rose of Winslow Street is much the same. There is beautiful scenery described as fields upon fields of roses and the anticipation of finding secret passages in the house in question is a fun subplot. The pacing is better in this novel as is the detail of writing, and I liked that there is attraction that cumulates between the leading couple. Though unfortunately their love sets out to be more rushed than anything, it comes off as a “sudden” realization of love – not unlike many Christian novels. There was a time or two when I was off-put by the hero’s lack of sufficient manners but nevertheless, I grew fond of him – gruffness and all. Camden’s characters are flawed in their human nature as is usually the case in any story. Libby is insecure about a learning disability that her father continuously berated her for. The professor is a starchy man who settles for nothing less than perfection – that extends not just to his work and inventions but also his children. Libby’s brother, Jasper turned out to be the “ideal” child and it has always irked her father that Libby is not likewise, perfect on every human account.
What I did not like about the novel were some of the characterizations. Don’t mistake me, the characters are endearing but I wasn’t nearly as charmed by Michael as I was by Camden’s hero in her debut novel, The Lady of Bolton Hill. This novel seems more intent on making Michael unattractive than anything else. Being new in a strange land does earn him some points of credulity but I cannot help thinking that he isn’t the sort of man I’d categorize as a “true” gentleman. Sure, he is brave and protects those he loves with a fierceness that may leave you in awe but at the same time I don’t really “feel” as if he and Libby belong together. That being said, I think overall, “Bolton Hill” was a much stronger novel even in its less-complicated narration. Not only did it appeal to the romantic in us but, it also played to a love of mystery by its hints of danger and ruin. At the ending, something is lacking in this conclusion - it didn't reach its potential and is actually bittersweet. “Rose” is not a “bad” follow-up for Camden by any stretch but it was not what I anticipated either. This fall, her third novel releases and still, I am eagerly anticipating cracking its pages.