Vanish With The Rose, by Barbara Michaels

>> Monday, May 24, 2004

I hadn't reread Vanish With The Rose, by Barbara Michaels in ages.

There's something fishy about Diana Reed, the old-rose expert hired by a pair of former professors who've bought an 18th-century mansion in the Virginia countryside: she seems to know nothing about plants. Not that the trusting and house-obsessed Nicholsons notice; in fact, after a couple of days tramping the grounds with her newest employee, Emily Nicholson takes her husband off on a cross-country rose-hunting trip, conveniently freeing Diana from her watchful presence for the remainder of the book.

For Diana, this situation is perfect: in real life a successful young attorney, she's come to the mansion to search for her missing brother (last seen working as a handyman for the estate's previous owner). Left alone in the house with Andy, Emily's dilettante son; Walt, a rugged-but-compassionate contractor; and Mary Jo, overworked housekeeper and ex-battered wife, Diana must sort out whether her increasingly frequent visions are a centuries-old psychic legacy or her brother's attempt to communicate from beyond the grave.
I remembered very little about Vanish With The Rose (unfortunately, one of the few things I did remember was exactly what had happened to Diana's brother. Oh, well). I had the impression that it had no supernatural element, but it did, one that was less "important" than the one in favourites like Ammie Come Home, or The Walker in Shadows, but which was, nonetheless, interesting. A B+.

The "ghost plot" was pretty good. I was actually very surprised when we finally got all the info, because Michaels had been very good at distracting us and pointing us at in a completely different direction. And yet, looking back, we had all the clues to figure out what was going on.

I also enjoyed the characters and their dynamics, especially once Diana's story is out in the open and she's sharing the house with Andy, Walt and Mary Jo. The love story was a bit too subtle, though. I mean, if I hadn't read all of Michaels' books before, I'd never have guessed that there was anything between Diana and her love interest!

I suppose Vanish With The Rose could be a little too meandering for some people, but the pacing really worked for me. An excellent comfort read.

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