Saturday, 15 June 2013

Review: Rose Harbor in Bloom (Rose Harbor #2) - Debbie Macomber*

Hailed as “the reigning queen of women’s fiction” (The Sacramento Bee), #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber is renowned for her novels of love, friendship, and the promise of fresh starts. Now Macomber returns to the charming Rose Harbor Inn, where each guest finds a second chance and every room comes with an inspiring new view.
 Since moving to Cedar Cove, Jo Marie Rose has truly started to feel at home, and her neighbors have become her closest friends. Now it’s springtime, and Jo Marie is eager to finish the most recent addition to her inn. In memory of her late husband, Paul, she has designed a beautiful rose garden for the property and enlisted handyman Mark Taylor to help realize it. She and Mark don’t always see eye-to-eye—and at times he seems far removed—yet deep down, Jo Marie finds great comfort in his company. And while she still seeks a sense of closure, she welcomes her latest guests, who are on their own healing journeys.
Annie Newton arrives in town to orchestrate her grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. While Annie is excited for the festivities, she’s struggling to move on from her broken engagement, and her grandparents themselves seem to be having trouble getting along. Worse, Annie is forced to see Oliver Sutton, with whom she grew up and who has always mercilessly teased her. But the best parties end with a surprise, and Annie is in for the biggest one of all.
High-powered businesswoman Mary Smith, another Rose Harbor Inn guest, has achieved incredible success in her field, yet serious illness has led her to face her sole, lingering regret. Almost nineteen years ago, she ended her relationship with her true love, George Hudson, and now she’s returned to Cedar Cove to make amends.
Compassion and joy await Jo Marie, Annie, and Mary as they make peace with their pasts and look boldly toward their futures. Rose Harbor in Bloom is Debbie Macomber at her heartwarming best.

Despite being hailed “the reigning queen of women’s fiction” I’ve never actually read a book by Debbie Macomber so it was with great interest that I began Rose Harbor in Bloom, an advanced reader’s copy (ARC) received from the publisher, via NetGalley.

The novel follows three main storylines, that of Jo Marie Rose, Annie Newton and Mary Smith. As such the novel switches narrative throughout, at first I found this quite annoying as the narrative changes perspective with each character. I also wasn’t overly keen on the first person narrative style of Jo Marie Rose’s chapters; however, as she is clearly the main thread of the series the deeper connection needed between the reader and her character is understandable. Despite all this the three storylines are crafted well, each chapter ended with enough of a cliffhanger for me to want to carry on reading to get to the character's next chapter. I must admit this ploy kept me up quite late without even realizing it – crafty, Macomber, crafty.

The outcome of each storyline is obvious from the off, however, isn’t this the way in most romances? The devil, in this case as in most, is in the details. Macomber has created a rich cast of characters that despite their numbers don’t get confusing and each feel well developed and placed within the series. I have a feeling that Macomber excels at portraying small town life, I can easily see the appeal of her Cedar Cove series (now an Hallmark Channel tv series). The characters within Rose Harbor in Bloom span the generations and it is easy to see that Macomber’s target demographic is older than most, not that this is a bad thing. The absence of the steamer scenes, de rigueur in most romance novels of late, made for a change of pace within the novel, placing an increased emphasis on sentiment and anticipation of romance for the characters.

With the numerous characters covered in the text most readers will be able to connect to at least one within the story, whether it be the young Annie and her childhood crush, war widow Jo Marie, recuperating Mary or even Annie’s bickering grandparents. Moreover, in spanning the generations Macomber covers the different stages of love with each character, adding a nice depth to the text. Our main protagonist, Jo Marie is recovering from the loss of her husband, Mary is reconnecting with a lost love, Annie is embarking on a new relationship and the Shivers are celebrating their fifty-year marriage. Not all the characters get their HEA in the novel and it’s easy to see where the next in the series will pick up.

Macomber’s novels are more heartwarming than heart racing, perfect for when you want that sentimental fix. Although a bit more sedate than my usual choice, I enjoyed Rose Harbor in Bloom a lot more than I thought I would. I might not be reaching for another Debbie Macomber anytime soon but she’s definitely an author I’ll keep in mind for the future.

*ARC copy received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Rose Harbor in Bloom is due for publication on 13th August 2013.

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