The Dark Rose
Erin Kelly
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Buy *The Dark Rose* by Erin Kelly online

The Dark Rose
Erin Kelly
Penguin Books
336 pages
January 2013
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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The dark, obsessive tendrils of murder delicately weave their way through Kelly’s state-of-the-art literary thriller. Passionate dreams are shattered, Louisa Trevelyan and her young lover, Paul Seaforth, both overwhelmed by a series of past wounds that threaten to derail their lives forever.

The bulk of The Dark Rose takes place when Paul and Louisa are working at the Kelstice Lodge Estate on a project that aims to restore an Elizabethan garden to its former glory. Much of the focus turns on Kate and Paul's burgeoning relationship. Each has ostensibly come to Kelstice to hide and hope in equal measure that a new start will somehow help counteract the pain of the past.

The gentle rise and fall of the Warwickshire countryside does nothing to lesson Paul’s harried memories of the time he lived at the sink estate of Grays Reach, a part of the Thames estuary that loosely stitches Essex to Kent. Dangerous "without a force field of friends to protect you,” the walk to and from school was "an assault course" of lurking bullies, and the question of Paul’s daily survival hinged on tough-as-nails Daniel Scatlock.

A small-time petty criminal who could neither read nor write, Daniel lived with his father, Carl, the two fully complicit in the theft of copper wire and steel from surrounding neighborhoods. While Paul harbored dreams of one day attending teacher’s college, he first had to extricate himself from the vice-like grip of Daniel, whose quiet rage seemed to run like an icy stream through both their veins.

Moving the reader through three decades, Kelly’s riveting thriller reveals the unfortunate circumstances that led Paul into Daniel's hardscrabble, down-on-your-luck existence. Was Paul a faithless son, a false friend, or the man who left someone die? “You kept my secret, I know yours, and now that makes us even,” remarked Daniel as he became like a “dead weight” always pressing down on Paul’s chest.

Like some fairy-tale princess trapped in her tower, Louisa’s life was also transformed when, back in 1989, she met super-sexy underground band singer Adam Glasslake. Totally captivated by his dark denim and rough leather, Louisa was instantly attracted to this emotionally distant man. While Adam demanded reciprocal worship - “I recognized you as soon as I saw you" - his rumored history of promiscuity and his mysteriousness only added more layers of deceit to Louisa’s already complicated feelings of misplaced adoration.

As Louisa fanatically hugs television images of Adam while drunk, there’s a sense of finality and a tentative confidence that the demon has at last been driven out of her psyche. Yet Louisa, who believes in the power and the responsibility to fix what is wrong, is protected, as though the layers of cover she has built up over the years have grown deeper. Running from their past mistakes, Paul and Louisa find themselves both on the perilous side of love when Louisa trusts Adam with her heart and poor Paul with her secrets.

In this suspenseful, tightly-plotted tale, the effects of fanatical passion hinge on revelation, faith, and a fair amount of stupidity. While Kelly’s flashbacks of dark insight are entwined with Paul and Louisa’s conflicted world, the allegory of the dark rose remains a chilling reminder of the lengths one has to go to hide from murder and from death.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2012

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