Roses by Leila Meachum
Reasons for reading: have read good things about it; Plant title for What's in a Name? Challenge
Description: "Spanning the twentieth century, Roses is the story of the powerful founding families of Howbutker, Texas, and how their histories remain intertwined over the span of three generations. Cotton tycoon Mary Toliver and timber magnate Percy Warwick fell in love, but because of their stubborn natures and Mary’s devotion to her family’s land, they unwisely never wed. Now they must deal with the deceit, secrets, and tragedies that surround them, and the poignant loss of what might have been—not only for themselves, but also for their family legacies."
My thoughts: Publisher's Weekly described this book as "a good old-fashioned read" and I think that sums it up well, I had the same feeling right from the beginning. It's a sprawling saga of a book and it's chock-full of everything - love, lust, friendship, honour, betrayal, deceit, betrayal, grief... In every generation there's one member of the Toliver family so tied to Somerset, the cotton plantation, that it becomes more important than anything else, no matter what the cost is in human or financial terms. This devotion brings more heartache than joy and there's even talk of a Toliver family curse because of it. The characters - dashing but sometimes ruthless Percy Warwick, stubborn Mary Toliver and amiable Ollie DuMont are all well-drawn and I really enjoyed the way the book traveled through history, including the impact that both World Wars and Korea had on the families. I could have used a family tree at the beginning, but I do realize that would've spoiled some of the revelations in the book - but with 3 generations all interwining, it got a bit confusing at times. (Probably just me!)
I liked recurring theme of the legend of the roses - the three families decided that a red rose meant one was asking for forgiveness and a white one meant it was granted. A pink one was unthinkable - it meant there was no forgiveness to be had. So when pink comes up in the book, it's bad news. I enjoyed that this giving and receiving of forgiveness kept coming up, even after people thought the legend was dead.
The repercussions of secrets of the past are visited on Rachel Toliver (Mary's great-niece) and and Matthew Warwick (Percy's grandson) and it's up to them to decide if they can overcome a lot of history and move forward to make their own future.