From the publisher:
A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age debut novel.
It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor, Samuel Moore, appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life―especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam.
Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history―and her heart.
Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.
Based on the marketing and publisher description of Biller’s debut novel I picked it up expecting a Gothic ghost story with a bit of romance. Instead, it is a romance with a bit of a ghost story. Although I was slightly surprised by this, it was hard to be upset when The Widow of Rose House is one of the best romances I have read in 2019. There are three main storylines at work in Biller’s novel: the romance between Alva and Sam, Alva’s continual battle to recover from the trauma of her marriage, and the haunting of Liefdehuis the mansion Alva is restoring, and Biller does a good job of balancing all three. I loved reading the development of Sam and Alva’s relationship as their banter turned into a deeper emotional connection. Each of their interactions is truly a delight to read. Sam was a wonderful romantic lead; intelligent, funny and empathetic. Alva’s character was equally fascinating. She is resilient, brave and independent. I was really rooting for her to get her happy ending with Sam. In addition to the characters and romance, I also really enjoyed the Gilded Age setting of The Widow of Rose House. The Gilded Age is not a very common setting in historical romances and each location whether it was the glitz and energy of Manhattan or the desolate beauty of the mansions of the Hudson River Valley was expertly brought to life by Biller. Then, of course, there is the haunting of Liefdehuis. This ghost story is more creepy and atmospheric than particularly scary, and for the most part the haunting takes a back seat to the romance and character development. So even if you don’t typically read paranormal stories don’t let that deter you from reading this romance.
A satisfying and emotional romance with an interesting Gilded Age setting and touch of Gothic mystery. I will be eagerly awaiting Diana Biller’s next novel. Highly recommended.
11/19 Caitlin Brisson
THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE by Diana Biller. St. Martin’s Griffin (October 8, 2019). ISBN 9781250297853. 352 p.