The title: The Rose Labyrinth
The author: Titania Hardie
Publication: Atria, 2008
Got it from: Amazon, 2009
Explaining the plot of this book is almost impossible, but I'll give it a shot. It's been described as a sort of feminist Da Vinci Code, involving papers belonging to Queen Elizabeth's I's astrologer, John Dee. It involves a family called the Staffords, who are directly descended from Dee, and a woman named Lucy King who is awaiting a heart transplant and becomes involved in the Staffords' lives. It took me awhile to figure out just what the heck is going on. At first there's a long section with Will, the younger Stafford son and his visit to France and it was some time before I realized that Lucy's doctor was Alex, Will's brother. Anyway, I don't think I'm giving too much away when I say that Will makes a sudden and swift exit early on in the plot but re-emerges (sort of) later on, when Lucy gets her heart transplant. (Cough). Then there's a developing romance between Lucy and Alex, who undertake to finish Will's quest.
I think the many, many bad reviews on the Amazon UK sight are correct. This book is dreadful. The romance part of this book was okay. I'm not generally against doctor-patient romances, so I could live with this one. But none of the characters were very likable. As somebody pointed out, all the women are beautiful and fragile and courageous and all the men are tall, handsome and brooding. Without actually developing any personality.
And the mystery/suspense part? Ghastly. First of all, everything is written in purple prose, long flowery sentences empty of meaning. The characters all spout long, convoluted sentences about esoteric wisdom and other gobbly gook that's impossible to follow. Pages and pages of it, on and on, without there ever being anything exciting like car chases or mortal peril. And they kept throwing out new ideas that never went anywhere. I would read something and think, "Okay, this is what the book is about." Then I'd read something else and think, "No, okay, this is what the book's about." I kept waiting for that a-ha moment when suddenly it would all come together and I'd see the big picture, but that never happened. Instead, I just heard endless things about Chartes cathedral, the wisdom of hearts, the number 34, the Rapture, mythical and Biblical allusions, Shakespeare, the Wizard of Oz (seriously) and on and on.
And yet, weirdly, I didn't hate this book. I kept feeling there was a good book in there somewhere, with a re-write and 150 pages or so chopped out and, you know, an actual point. I'm the first to admit I love when authors assume you're smart and don't spell things out to you, but these opaque "riddles" the author kept handing out would probably remain opaque if you sat there for ten years thinking about them, because they make about as much sense as the Muppet's Swedish chef. I've spent three months reading this book on and off and all I can say is - don't.