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Book Review: Harrowing Roses, by Barbara Cooper

I accepted a review copy of Barbara Cooper‘s Harrowing Roses from Lola’s Blog Tours. The book was also featured over on Sadie’s Spotlight. You can hop over there for author information and contact details.

Harrowing Roses

Can our heroine save the missing girl’s life … and her own?

Dana feels the atmosphere of the marsh seeping into her skin with each day she spends in the cold unwelcoming mansion of her father’s estranged family.

When her young cousin, Debra Lee, mysteriously vanishes, Dana turns to Henry – an attractive neighbor in the isolated cabin nearby, to help her search for her.

Is her cousin dead? What are these strange visions and dreams that her new friend is having … could they be connected to the missing girl?

Despite the hint of something unnatural and strange, Dana is inexplicably drawn to the surrounding woods and to Henry himself.

Does he know more about Debra Lee’s disappearance than he’s revealing… and is it the right time for Dana to start being afraid?

my review
I’m going to state up front that this book starts out very rough. The narrative is rambly— very stream-of-consciousness that repeats and contradicts itself regularly.  I found it hard to follow and there are some obvious grammar mistakes that yanked me even farther out of the narrative. But the book does eventually manage to reign it in (to an extent) and becomes readable.

What’s more, many (not all, but many) of the grammar mistakes are double negatives so common as to practically be regional colloquialisms (or actual colloquialisms, things people commonly say but aren’t correct). Page two, for example, has this one: “…she would leave, and he wouldn’t see her no more…” Had these speech patterns been used consistently enough to feel purposeful, I would have believed the author did it to provide color and depth to the character’s internal thoughts. And this would have added subsequent depth and character to the book itself. But they aren’t and, when combined with the other more pedestrian editing errors—to vs too, then vs than, odd punctuation, super inconsistent tenses, etc—it’s clear this wasn’t authorial choice. It’s lack of external editing.

I took several sentences to make that point. But please don’t take it to mean the book is an editorial disaster. It really isn’t. The book is quite readable. I mention it mostly because I feel it was so close to being something meatier than it turned out to be. But there’s just an informality to it that I don’t think was intended and this often results in lack of clarity, which kept me from really being able to sink into this story.

If this is where I stopped the review I can’t imagine I’d rate the book very well. But for all of the quirks in the writing (that I think a competent editor could clean up and make a stronger story) there is something in the book that appeals…or there is if you stick with it long enough. It has a gothic…dare I say, harrowing quality to it. It reminded me a lot of The Ocean at the End of the Lane and/or We Have Always Lived In the Castle, not in plot but in atmosphere and tone. By the end I had largely forgotten the rough start.

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Barbara Cooper has informed me (over on Goodreads) that I am wrong and the book is considered to be without grammatical errors…

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