The Widow of Rose House was written by Diana Biller. I’m a big fan of historical romance; I don’t read very much of American historical romance, but the premise piqued my interest.
Alva Webster has returned to New York after living abroad, accompanied by her scandalous reputation. She intends to renovate a Hyde Park mansion, detailing the process in an interior design book full of photographs, an innovative and creative venture that hasn’t been done before.
But the workers have abandoned the project because they say the house is haunted.
And then this pesky scientist keeps popping up because he wants to study the ghosts.
Alva doesn’t want to rely on anybody but herself, but Samuel Moore is sweet and kind and very earnest.
I adore cinnamon roll heroes, and Samuel is a perfect example of this trope. He has a very strong physical presence, and a brilliant mind. He can be somewhat socially inept, but this comes off as charming rather than off-putting. He looks at the world and sees ways in which everyday life can be improved. He earnestly believes that ghosts are real, and he intends to prove it with his inventions.
Alva has endured far more than anyone should have to, and thanks to her inheritance, she doesn’t have to rely on anyone. She is reluctant to allow Samuel into her sphere, and the process of learning to trust and adapt is a satisfying arc. The reader is aware that she is harboring devastating secrets, and at times, her fear is almost palpable.
As for the ghosts- I shan’t say too much on the subject, other than that it fits in well with the larger themes of the book: redemption, acceptance, and acknowledgment of suffering.
I appreciated the worldbuilding. Gilded Age New York has been explored before, but I loved seeing it in new ways- the extended Moore family are all scientists, and they are famous for their numerous inventions. Samuel, of course, remains blissfully unaffected by his membership in a world-renowned family- yet another reason I loved seeing him as the romantic lead.
Speaking of which, the chemistry between Alva and Samuel develops slowly. Samuel remains very respectful of Alva’s boundaries in terms of a physical relationship. He does keep loitering about because he really really wants to see if the ghosts in the house are real, but he doesn’t make any attempts to cajole Alva into bed; he follows her lead.
I would recommend The Widow of Rose House. This book marks Biller’s debut, and I was utterly enchanted by this book. I loved the balance between the poignant and the humorous, the latter of which is a result of Samuel completely ignoring social mores in pursuit of science. I am certainly looking forward to reading more from Biller in the future.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.