Review: Gather Ye Rosebuds by Joan Smith (1993)

Posted May 13, 2024 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

A strange little book, an intriguing mystery combined with the usual (for this era) unconvincing romance. It gets a bit convoluted, but very funny as the principals are supposedly working together but also trying to keep vital clues secret from each other.

Here’s the premise: Zoie Barron is an aspiring artist, planning to renovate a room of the family home to use as a studio. It was her late uncle’s room, and while clearing it out, she discovers a valuable diamond necklace, reported stolen by a neighbour some five years ago, just when the uncle returned from India and moved in with the family. Is he a thief? And if so, how can she return the necklace to the family of the owner (now dead) without any awkward questions being asked? Her attempts become increasingly awkward, and the whole scheme is soon uncovered by Lord Weylin, the head of the neighbouring family, and nephew of the necklace’s owner.

From then on, Weylin and Zoie join forces to solve the mystery of the necklace, and the strange history of the lady who owned it originally and the man who ended up with it. Or at least, they claim to join forces, but repeatedly they conceal information from each other that would reflect badly on their own family. The comedy arises from their various lies, together with the discovery of them. Probably this fell into the category of ‘Regency romp’ in its day, but there’s an element of silliness that had me veering towards three stars some of the time. But there are also some stronger moments, and the romance, while overshadowed by the mystery, is allowed to develop slowly over much of the course of the book, and I always give credit for that, since it isn’t always the case for books of this vintage. There is a nice kissing moment in the rose garden by moonlight, too, so brownie points for that. An interesting and (for me) unexpected ending to the mystery, but quite logical. It’s a quirky read that won’t suit everyone, but being generous, I’ll settle for four stars.

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