The Rose Garden

Written by Susanna Kearsley
Review by Ellen Keith

Canadian author Susanna Kearsley’s time-travel books have always enthralled me, and The Rose Garden is no exception. Its heroine, Eva Ward, has returned to Trelowarth, a house in Cornwall, where she and her sister spent many happy hours as children. Her return is for a more somber reason – to spread her sister’s ashes at the place she loved best. Eva’s own future is unsettled after her sister’s death, and she welcomes brother and sister Mark and Susan’s invitation to stay at Trelowarth for the summer and help get Susan’s tea room off the ground.

At first, Eva attributes the fact that she’s hearing conversations in the next room, which turns out to be unoccupied, and seeing paths in the woods that don’t actually exist, to her grief. When she finds herself at Trelowarth three hundred years in the past, facing its occupant at that time, a Cornish smuggler who accepts her presence matter-of-factly albeit with curiosity about her era, she realizes something more is happening.

Kearsley inserts Eva into a fully realized world of sympathetic smugglers, odious constables, and Jacobites and makes Daniel Butler, Eva’s host in this world, a compelling character that causes Eva to question in which world she belongs. Daniel’s loyal friend Fergal and roguish but lovable brother Jack give Eva pause – is she altering history by being there? And how can she not share what she knows about the future?

This book pays homage to Cornwall’s past and present. Although Eva recognizes the conditions for women were not ideal in 18th-century England, that concern doesn’t overwhelm her experience. In present day, Eva avails herself of a local historian to inform herself about her hosts in the past and proves herself up to the challenge of navigating between two worlds. I know Kearsley writes stand-alones, but can I put in a bid for a sequel, please?