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Sunday, October 09, 2005

cover of Rose Cottage

The heroine of this Mary Stewart novel is a young war widow who returns to her childhood home (the cottage of the title) to take care of a few things for her grandmother. One of those things is a secret safe, hidden behind the plaster and the wall-paper; the contents of the safe are not rare jewels, but rather the family treasures and documents (birth, baptism, and marriage certificates, and the like). Our heroine is surprised to find that the safe has been uncovered and opened-- with a key-- and that the documents are gone. Her perplexity increases, as she and her childhood friend Davey keep running across odd stories from the neighbors and strange occurrences around the cottage which suggest someone has been around. Although there's no evidence of maliciousness or mischief, the missing papers make no sense to Kathy, because the only living family members are herself and her grandmother.

I enjoyed this book because it seemed to deviate a bit more from the usual Mary Stewart mysterious romance book. In this case, the main character is a widow, which means she isn't looking for love; there is still a romantic sub-plot here, but it is more subdued than in some of Stewart's other books. Certainly, there isn't more than one love-interest, one of whom turns out to be evil. I also enjoyed the mystery, because it is so much more personal to the character, rather than a dangerous political conspiracy or illegal smuggling. The heroine is struggling a bit with her identity-- this is brought to the fore by the play of names. Her married name is Kate Herrick, but when she returns to Rose Cottage she is once again the Kathy Welland everyone knew. Kathy's identity questions are compounded by the fact that she was born out of wedlock, never knew who her father was, and was left by her mother at a young age. So it's quite charming that the mystery touches on Kathy's own questions about her identity and roots.

Rose Cottage is an entertaining read, which doesn't take long to finish. Stewart's descriptions of rural English and Scottish countryside are pleasant, and there is enough local color in the dialogue of the characters to be both believable and entertaining. The central mystery of the plot is not a complete surprise; I guessed the main secret a while before the main characters figured things out-- but this story is different enough from the other Stewart novels I have read, and more personal in its dynamics, that it was still quite fascinating to find out how exactly the story ended. As in other novels by Mary Stewart, she doesn't give you all the details, doesn't bring everything to complete closure-- she gives enough to satisfy the reader, and finish the main story threads (or suggest where they will end), while still keeping a slight air of mystery.

Title:Rose Cottage
Author: Mary Stewart
Date published:1997
Genre:Mystery / Romance
Number of pages: 264


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