So some of you may remember that I did a review of Changeling Moon by this author a while back that I generally liked, but noted I had picked up the wrong book, since it wasn’t the first in the series. For some reason, my brain will occasionally randomly see a book and leap to, “Oh hey, this looks really cool; it must be the first book,” or “Hey, there are three books here, so it must be a trilogy,” despite what evidence to the contrary may actually be on the back cover.
I have repeatedly torpedoed myself with this glitch and sometimes Frog, who, back in the day, was really upset when I presented him with the first three books of what I thought was a trilogy… and it turned out to be the beginnings of “A Song of Ice and Fire.” I’ll let you imagine how thrilled he was to get to the end of book three, and realize that no, this was not, in fact, a trilogy. Since the books are still coming out, I still haven’t lived that one down.
Well, Black Roses is actually book 1 in the “Trinity Bay” series, so I can finally redeem myself somewhat and at least do a review on the beginning of this series.
Let me start out by saying that Ms. Morgan is an incredibly strong writer, and her sense of dramatic timing, imagery, and voice are some of the best I’ve read. Her prose is always engrossing, and she manages to give the reader a very strong sense of who her characters are, and a vivid picture of their settings without bogging her scenes down. Her world is absolutely believable and real to me as it’s written. This is not a story where suspension of disbelief even crossed my mind. I just believed.
This book is a good read.
Now, with that said, Black Roses has an intensely dark story line, with 1 part ghost story, 1 part murder mystery, and 1 part horror, while teetering on the brink of erotica in places. But really, really uncomfortable erotica that instills in the reader a need to go get clean afterward. This is definitely not for younger readers, or for those who would be offended by themes such as rape, incest, or child abuse. I’m not saying the author promotes these things in the book or in any way holds them out as good things, but they are there, and they make up a great deal of the foundation that the rest of the book springs from.
In the story some of the abuse and killing is exacerbated by supernatural causes, and the author takes us in close to many of the crimes as the plot progresses. It also takes us in close to some of the previous victims, who may or may not have gotten what was coming to them, and really asks the reader to make their own decisions on what crosses the line, and where some of the deeper causes of violence and depravity come from. It also showed the often self-perpetuating cycle of abuse that tends to drag its participants/victims in deeper and deeper.
Our main character, Theresa starts out in a very sympathetic place, having just ended a marriage and moved back to the town where her father lives. For me, it helped that the author started out with such a strong sympathetic picture of the main character, because even with her compelling writing style, the author very vividly describes so much ugliness. Ugliness that I absolutely know exists in the world, but parts of this book really made me feel like I was wallowing in that dirt myself. Without the strong introduction to Theresa, I’m not sure I would have been able to finish. This actually is a huge compliment to Ms. Morgan, because the scenes were that real to me.
Because the main villain in the book is an incubus, I went in thinking there might be some sex depicted, but honestly I kind of thought it might end up bordering on mushy romance. That should not have been my worry. No punches were pulled in the total gross vindictiveness and destruction this incubus wrought in people’s lives with his actions.
Even more than that, Ms. Morgan left me, as the reader, wondering how much of what the incubus pulled out of his victims was something already there that he exploited, and how much was a result of the hate and anger he brought with him. That line in this book was never black and white.
Theresa herself is trying to make sense of the events and crimes, not a necessarily a perpetrator of them, but she does become entrapped in the mire of it all, and spends a lot of the book trying to understand the full scope of everything that is going on, before starting to claw her way out of it.
Taking all of what I’ve said above into account, the book held together really well, and while I can’t say that I enjoyed it exactly, it was compelling and worth the read. It was not comfortable. It was not uplifting, though it did end on an up-note. It was by turns riveting and disturbing. It definitely means that I will be going back and taking a look at the other books in the series with a new eye.
My final word is to go ahead and read it; I think it’s worth it. But brace yourself, because it is in many respects a journey through the darker side of humanity.