COMING UP ROSES – Catherine Anderson
Southwestern Oregon , 1870
The meeting between Widow Blakely and Zach McGovern of the neighboring farm is not a felicitous one. Kate heard the newcomer to the area is planting grapevines and intends to make wine, that “sinners' swill,” so when he shows up looking for his dog—the very dog now digging up her rose garden—the friendship is off to a bad start. However, a few days later, Kate's four year old daughter Miranda is in dire trouble beyond Kate's ability to save her; with no one else around, she hurries to Zach's to plead for help. Zach must brave a nest of rattlesnakes to rescue the child, which he does, but not without being badly bitten. Kate manages to get Zach to her house where he clings to life for days. One of Zach's men comes to help her care for him and to take over farm chores, for there is no one else. Kate's husband disappeared just six months ago and was presumed drowned in the river; his body never surfaced. Kate runs the farm by herself and is barely holding on.
Zach is much weakened by the ordeal, but as he recuperates he gradually realizes that something is not right at the Blakely place…and it seems to harken back to Kate's marriage. He also comes to win the trust of Miranda, a very shy and frightened child.
Aware readers will soon guess that Joseph Blakely was a manipulator and abuser whose influence on Kate still lingers. The slowly building relationship between Kate and Zach is an emotionally moving one, though it has its lighter moments. For instance, big, rough, and possibly scary Zach's winning over of Miranda—who proves to be a charming youngster when not frightened—is delightful.
There is more conflict in COMING UP ROSES than shown above. Zach has secrets as well as Kate, and the ones she carries burn in her soul. Added to that, Joseph Blakely's nasty brother is a definite menace.
COMING UP ROSES is one of those books that quickly capture one and stir deep feelings. Though a long time fan of Ms. Anderson's, I missed this novel when it first came out. It's definitely worthy of being released once again.