Roses for Chloe by Elaine Grant
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12439-7
***
Caroline Plantation in New Bienville, Louisiana, is as much a setting as it is an integral part of this story. The Bienville women and the Brandon men have a tragic history. During the Civil War, Chloe Bienville died waiting for her fiancé, Zach Brandon, to return. Generations later, her great-niece, Donet Bienville mourned her loss of Lee Brandon. Now the last Bienville woman, Delaney, is about to meet the remaining Brandon, Tyce.

Right before her death Donet Bienville hires Tyce Brandon to begin the restoration of Caroline Plantation with the enticement that she will deed the plantation to him. Generations before, the plantation belonged to the Brandons. Tyce's life goal is to own and restore the plantation to its original glory. Before her death, Donet shows Tyce the new will, giving ownership of Caroline to him. After her death, the will is nowhere to be found. The new owner is Delaney Bienville from New York. A Yankee, for land's sake. Tyce feels betrayed and angry.

Delaney Bienville has reason to hate Caroline Plantation. Years before, her father chose Caroline over his own family. Without seeing the plantation, Delaney sells it to land developers who plan on turning it into a mall. I can just imagine Tyce saying, "Over my dead body." When he does uncover Donet's updated will, the situation deteriorates for Delaney. Her slime-bucket wannabe fiancé has written the contract so that she will lose more than a million dollars if she forfeits on the sale.

Roses for Chloe has historical interest, in addition to two charming ghosts – Chloe, who visits Tyce and then Donet, who only appears for Delaney. Through them, we learn the back story of Chloe and Donet's tragedy and realize the importance of Delaney and Tyce's ultimate resolution. We also witness the two present lovers as they silently weigh the sale of Caroline against their love for the other. There's a lot of soul searching and vacillation, a lot of early anger and ultimate acceptance that love is more valuable than any belongings.

Tyce is a true Southern gentleman, trying to show Delaney the importance of Caroline. As she slowly accepts his love of the plantation, she realizes that her perceptions of her father might have been off-kilter, too. Tyce's ancestral home is more than crumbling mortar and decaying wood. It defines him in a way that she doesn't yet understand.

Delaney starts off as abrasive. She's determined on her course of action and vows not to be swayed. Her abrasive behavior ultimately mellows, but her prissy, childish combativeness became tiresome. Over halfway through the book, she's still doubting Tyce's motives and decides that "he was hoping she would sell to him for a pittance, then he would make a showplace of the mansion and sell it for a fortune."

Chloe, Donet and Tyce's Cajun cousin are all interesting secondary characters who add to the story's charm. But there always has to be a fly in the ointment, a stick in the mud and this fly on a stick is in the form of Delaney's quasi fiancé, who takes no time in showing his true colors, along with his greed. He's what we in the South call a carpetbagger, certainly one of our highest insults. He deserves that and more for his vile, despicable actions.

As a rule, I rarely notice covers, but the matte finish caught my attention. As I stared at the cover, seeing the high ceilings, tall windows and carved moldings, I realized that it did remind me of the plantation homes I've been in. Then I noticed, although it was barely discernable, that the woman on the cover was almost transparent. A very interesting artist's concept.

Roses for Chloe is a sweet story which features a strong, honorable hero and two wonderful secondary ghosts. The romance aspect is slighted simply because of Delaney's attitude. Tyce needed a stronger heroine, someone I could really imagine him falling for, instead of this on again/off again woman who took too long to accept true love. After all, generations of happiness were in her hands.

--Linda Mowery


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