Vanish with the Rose by Barbara Michaels: B+

From the back cover:
Diana Reed has much to hide when she arrives at the Nicholsons’ 18th-century estate. Masquerading as a landscape architect specializing in “ancient” roses, she’s hired by the eccentric couple to restore the gardens, but her real interest lies in the manor’s more recent history.

Sinister scenarios ensue at the Nicholsons’ estate. Ghostly music echoes in the halls. The smell of roses haunts empty rooms. Diana must hurry if she is to solve her highly personal mystery before she becomes another of the garden’s well-kept secrets.

While I definitely enjoyed reading Vanish with the Rose, it was quite a slow read for me. At first, all we know about Diana Reed is that she’s pretending to be an expert on roses in order to gain access to property newly acquired by a pair of lottery winners, Emily and Charles Nicholson. Her true agenda is not mentioned for some time, but it eventually comes out after she befriends the Nicholsons’ housekeeper, Mary Jo, and all of a sudden things change quite a bit.

As it turns out, Diana is there investigating the disappearance of her brother, Brad, who had worked for the previous owner, an old woman notorious for her ornery disposition. The handling of this revelation is interesting in that several members of the cast, whom we’ve already met without suspicion, are suddenly revealed as potential suspects. Meanwhile, ghostly music disturbs Diana’s sleep and she experiences several visions from what seems to be someone else’s perspective. After the Nicholsons head off on vacation while landscaping work proceeds, Diana, Mary Jo, Walt (the head landscaper), and Andy (Emily’s son) remain at the centuries-old home where they look for leads on Brad and try to avoid Mary Jo’s abusive ex-husband, Larry.

So, essentially what we have here is a supernatural cozy mystery, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure. As I said, I enjoyed reading the book, but the narrative would meander something awful. Things do come together tidily enough at the end, with some fun misleads and twists along the way, but I can’t help but feel some liberal editing would’ve produced a tighter story.

I have no complaints at all about the characters, though, since I liked them all quite a lot. Diana has a lot of baggage from her parents, and takes some time coming out of her shell, but her new friendships help her to achieve this. Walt is gruff and sensible, Mary Jo is “determinedly rational,” and Andy is one of those fellows who appears glib and irresponsible, but is actually dependable in a pinch. The interplay between them is amusing, and while Diana has chemistry with both the guys, I’m quite happy about how things ultimately turn out in this regard.

Even though the story drags in places, Vanish with the Rose is a solidly entertaining tale, and definitely one worth reading.

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  1. Danielle Leigh says

    oh god, I can eat these Michaels books like candy. They have about as much nutritional value as candy, but man they can be fun. *feels nostalgic*

    • I can totally see the candy comparison! This is my… third Michaels book so far, I think, and I’m sure I will be reading more.

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