Winter Roses by Diana Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Reading Diana Palmer is very much a comforting experience for me. She's like a favorite aunt who I can sit down with, sharing some time, and listen to her tell me an engaging story that will take my mind off the troubles in the world.
She did this with Winter Roses. It's a combination of something old and something new. Similar type of hero and heroine, but there is something in the story that does make it a unique read at the same time.
Ivy has a sister who is fairly malevolent. This is a new thing for Diana Palmer. I've seen the scenario with the less than ideal parent, or sibling. But for the sister to be straight-up evil was a different touch. Ivy's sister Rachel did everything she could to make Ivy's life a living hell. She discredited her to everyone she could, spreading stories about Ivy being promiscuous. She lied to Ivy's father and had him believing that Ivy wasn't even his own daughter. She exploited their father's drinking and told him lies about Ivy that lead to her being beaten and abused by the father. And she engineered things so that when the father died, he left nothing to Ivy. If she could have, she would have left Ivy destitute, were it not for a small bequest made to Ivy by her aunt. Rachel was also a drug addict and a drug seller. I think she is one of the few genuinely evil female characters I've encountered in a Diana Palmer book. That was definitely something new for me.
Ms. Palmer continues the ongoing storyline of the drug cartel that is trying to take over Jacobsville. Old favorites from her books unite to help to take down key players in the drug business. Fans of Cash Grier will be happy to read this book, as he has a pretty good cameo in Winter Roses.
One thing I enjoyed about this story was catching up with old characters from the Long, Tall Texan series, as well as the Mercenary series. Jacobsville is a town I wish really existed. I am so familiar with most of its inhabitants, I feel the urge to wave at them as they walk down the streets and stop and say hi. It must be hard to keep up with all of these past characters, but Ms. Palmer does a good job of it. Since there doesn't seem to be any Black people in Jacobsville, I volunteer to move there and be the first Black citizen in this fine little town (big smile).
Now some readers have issue with the age difference between the hero and heroine. It's about twelve years. Stuart is about 31 in this book, and Ivy is 19 when this book starts. But Stuart is hyper-aware of the fact that Ivy is too young for him, and he gives her a couple more years to grow up. When they get together, Ivy is 21, and an independent businesswoman who I feel is more than mature enough to handle a relationship with a man of Stuart's age. Although she is pretty innocent, you don't feel that Stuart takes advantage of her. He is quite chivalrous and respectful of her, and really steps in to care for her in more than one situation, showing his love through his actions. Readers who weary of the cruel heroes present in some, not all of Diana Palmer's books would find a respite in this story, since Stuart is really rather kind. There is one encounter towards the beginning of the book where he comes on a little strong, but he quickly backs off when he realizes he misjudged Ivy and the situation.
If you don't like a sweet and forebearing heroine, don't read this book. Ivy is both. She is very kind-natured and not what I'd call a fighter, but she does endure under some very tough circumstances. To me that is another form of strength. But she is no alpha heroine. Yet there is not a big contrast between her and Stuart because he is pertty gentle with her. Their relationship preceeds on very well except a small misunderstanding which is dealt with without a lot of hoopla.
The sensuality is light, but there are some passionate moments, fairly characteristic for Diana Palmer's Silhouette Romances. The focus is on the love relationship between Stuart and Ivy, and to me, that's not a bad thing.
So I do have to say that I liked this book a lot, enough for it to rate four stars. It kept my interest, but then I'm a huge fan of this author. I think she's a fine storyteller, combining passion, angst, people you care about, and humor to write a story that will help you to escape for a few hours into a world with decent people who find the love they need and deserve in life.
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