Sunday, February 8, 2009

Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts ****

I went back and forth between a 3 star and a 4 star rating for Blue Dahlia. This is the first of the In The Garden trilogy, featuring 3 women who work at the In The Garden nursery in Tennessee. This story features Stella - a young widow with 2 young sons who moves to Tennessee after her husband's death to be near her father and step-mother. She gets a job working for Roz Harper, In The Garden's owner, and living at the Harper estate where the nursery is located.

The Harpers have lived on this property for generations, and there's a rumor that a ghost haunts its halls, as all good Southern mansions should have. Apparently this ghost prefers children and reveals herself mostly to them, and is fairly benign, so the story goes.

Logan is the nursery's landscape designer - a surly fellow who lives nearby. Roz and Logan have a sort of understanding - they each let the other do their jobs with little to no interference. The job that Stella's been hired to do is Manager - she's a left-brain spreadsheet wonk who also loves plants, so it's her dream job, and Logan's nightmare. She nags him for invoices, for inventory reports, for plans - you'd think that would drive him nuts. Of course it does.

Here's, ironically, what got me about this story. There was so much potential conflict - Roz, the hard-headed woman business owner, Logan the loner artist, the ghost, a woman with 2 young kids - oh, and a pregnant distant relative with an unknown background who shows up unannounced. Yeah, yeah, yeah, there was a teeny touch of conflict, but mostly Roz loved Stella, let her do what she wanted and loved Stella's kids just as much. Everyone loved what's-her-name, the preggers cousin; everyone even loved Logan. Ok, Logan and Stella struck a few sparks outside the chemistry. But there was chemistry too.

And Stella, Miss Straight-forward, figured out right off the bat she was gonna do it with Logan, so she just invited herself over one afternoon to get it over with. How romantic is that?

So what we had was this sweet story about a young widow finding love again, with a ghost who wanted to protect Stella's boys, a good business woman with a talented, loving son who lived nearby and a perfectly respectible pregnant cousin who gave birth at the end. Yawn. Apparently one book will be about Cousin and Loving Son, and the other about Roz and the university professor who does genealogy on the side, the guy hired to get the background on the ghost.

I enjoyed the story - NR is a superb story teller - but it wasn't very, ummmm, interesting. Does that even make sense? I mean, she threw in a bad mother (Stella's) but countered it with the wonderful step-mother. There's potential for Cousin since she never quite got around to telling the baby's father about her pregnancy - well, it was because he was dating someone else so why upset them? Roz has an ex-husband who might want to do her harm, since she caught him with his hand in the till and his dick in another woman before she booted him out. So maybe the next 2 stories will be more interesting. I guess the ghost's background hasn't yet been revealed (at least, to the characters - the reader meets her in the prologue) so there's potential there.

But it fits my Serial Readers Challenge, and it fits the A To Z title challenge! So all is not wasted. There's a dog too but, sadly, the dog wasn't interesting enough for Notable Pet rating.

No comments: