This book has made me very grateful that I don’t live in the 19th century! The Rose Garden focuses on the lives of three women, and the daughter of one of them, who all live in London in 1895. Despite being from quite different social circles, circumstances bring their situations together.
Mabel (or Mabs) is trying hard to provide for her younger brothers and sisters following the death of her mother. Through her we see how difficult life was for poor families in the late 19th century. Families lived in grinding poverty with no way out except by doing dangerous and unreliable work. Mabs is lucky in many ways as she manages to get a position as lady’s companion. Mrs Finch does not initially welcome her though and Mabs comes to realise that there is Mrs Finch is pretty much locked away for not conforming to her husband’s expectation of the perfect wife. Her daughter, young Ottilie, is so clever and desperate to continue learning and go to university but told it’s not ladylike and inappropriate. By contrast, Olive Westallen has more opportunities being from a rich family with clearly more tolerant and enlightened parents.
What struck me throughout the book was the precarious position of women at the time for various reasons, no matter their social standing. Although things are not perfect nowadays, then they were completely at the mercy and whim of men. There was one male character in particular who had so much influence simply because he was a man but who, it seemed to me, was more unstable than anyone else in the book.
I found this a really compelling story about female friendship set in a time when the women really needed to give that support to each other. The Rose Garden is a satisfying historical saga rich with intrigue, family secrets and drama.
My thanks to Rosie Wilson at Pan MacMillan for sending me an early copy of the book and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for having me as part of the tour. The Rose Garden is available now in paperback, ebook and audiobook formats. You can buy or order a copy from your usual book retailer.
(At the time of writing, the Kindle version is on offer for just 99p)
From the back of the book
The Rose Garden is a richly imagined historical novel full of intrigue and secrets, spanning the luxury and poverty of Victorian England. Perfect for fans of Dinah Jefferies and Rachel Hore.
Every house has its secrets . . .
For twelve-year-old Ottilie Finch, London is an exciting playground to explore. Her family have recently arrived in Hamstead from Durham, under a cloud of scandal that Otty is blissfully unaware of. The only shadow over her days is her mother’s mysterious illness, which keeps her to her room.
When young local girl Mabs is offered the chance to become Mrs Finch’s companion, it saves her from a desperate life on the canals. Little does she know that all is not as picture-perfect as it seems. Mabs is about to become tangled in the secrets that chased the Finches from their last home, and trapped in an impossible dilemma . . .
About the Author
Tracy Rees was the winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition and the Love Stories Best Historical Read award and was shortlisted for the RNA Epic Romantic Novel of the Year. She is the author of five bestselling historical novels and her first contemporary novel is to be published in May 2021.
Tracy was born in Swansea. She studied languages at Jesus College, Cambridge, then moved to London where she worked in medical publishing for years. She then did a second degree, in psychology, at London Metropolitan University before training and working as a counsellor for people with cancer and their families. She has also been a waitress, bartender, shop assistant, estate agent, classroom assistant, university lecturer and workshop leader.
Tracy and her partner divide their time between the Gower Peninsula of Wales and London.
Visit Tracy on twitter at @AuthorTracyRees or on her website http://www.tracyrees.com