The Widow of Rose House

Written by Diana Biller
Review by Elisabeth Lenckos

Alva Penrose Rensselaer Webster is no longer welcome in New York City. Her family denies her existence, and society shuns her without reprieve. For it is 1875, and the press has written up “Mrs. Webster” for presumably indulging in licentious behavior while living in Paris as the wife of an infamous bon vivant.

However, when her French husband is murdered, Alva sets sail for her native land and purchases a dilapidated mansion, Liefdehuis, in Hyde Park, which she is intent on renovating. And not only that: she plans to write a book on interior decoration, hoping her work will serve not only the rich, but the aspiring middle classes. But the house Alva acquires turns out to be haunted, and she has to rely on the aid of a dashing innovator, Samuel Moore, to exorcise demons that might just be her own.

A romance-cum-ghost story, The Widow of Rose House resounds with echoes of Edith Wharton and Gilded Age novels, which dissect the upper crust of New York Society with elegant mercilessness. Mrs. Webster’s fate recalls that of Ellen Olenska in The Age of Innocence who, after making a similarly disastrous match, returns home, but is sent packing back to Europe in disgrace. Will Alva share Ellen’s fate? Other than Newland Archer, she is fortunate that Samuel Moore is a man who cares nothing for convention. Still, Alva and Sam experience a haunting, as well as a real-life, dangerous adversary who threatens their happiness. Very entertaining.