BOOK REVIEW: Thorns of Rosewood by G.M. Barlean

Gloria Larson is happy to take a job as editor of a weekly newspaper in the small town of Rosewood, Nebraska, even though her parents don’t like the idea one bit. The town holds a secret—her birth mother’s identity. Gloria’s parents worry she won’t like what she finds, but once Gloria starts unraveling the story, she can’t be dissuaded.

Gloria is armed with three pieces of knowledge about the woman who gave her up for adoption. 1) The woman was in her forties. 2) She lived in Rosewood. 3) She was accused of murder in 1974. No wonder Gloria’s parents don’t want her to dig into her past.

How many women in Rosewood in 1974 could have been accused of murder? Only four, it turns out. Articles in the newspaper archives show a picture of four women dubbed The Thorns of Rosewood. The women were suspects in the disappearance of a judge’s wife, but once again, Gloria knows three things: 1) No body. 2) No proof. 3) No charges. It looks as though the Thorns got away with murder.

Gloria wants the truth. Did these Thorns of Rosewood murder the judge’s wife? She finds the four women at an assisted-living facility in Lincoln, Nebraska. They tell her they are ready to confess. This is Gloria’s chance to get the story of a lifetime and find out who her birth mother is…and why that woman gave her away.

I'm struggling to understand how taking a small town newspaper editing job is a catalyst to launch career opportunities for a near on 40 year old woman.  And how her bestie is, at the same time frame, moving to find her fame and fortune in NYC.  This feels a little off kilter to me, and at times I feel like the main character should be 20-something instead of looking at 40 in the mirror.  Be that as it may it was just one minor 'say what' issue with the book.  The rest was fairly well built around four elderly women's history in the town of Rosewood.  A history that predates the 1974 murder accusations.  And a history that included 5 best friends, not just 4.  Oh and don't forget the quintessential mean girl of small town life.  Regardless of decade there is always a 'mean girl'.  That one girl that intentionally makes all the other girls lives miserable.  The girl that ends up missing in 1974.  The girl the others are looked at for murder.  No body, no confession, no charges.  But apparently a baby that was given up for adoption during this same time frame.  Oh the drama to unfold!

I liked the development of these characters.  Though to be fair I felt at many times that Gloria was a bit weak, weak in her maturity not as a character.  (One of those multiple times where her age felt more 20ish than 40ish.)  The 'Thorns' were questionably developed, until they started telling their story.  I have read other reviews where they felt that the women were wishy-washy ish.  However, remember that time period this happened in.  Women were not empowered to be strong, independent, and resilient like now.  As they told their story you felt their sense of empowerment develop.  Their sense of themselves and their rightful place in the world.

The two drawbacks from this, for me was Gloria's romance.  Again, how is she 40ish?!?  It felt contrived and forced.  Really, he's cooking for you at your house on a second date?  When the dates don't even really back the story legitimately.  It felt more like oh yeah this girl is 40 she needs a love interest type development.  The other drawback was the ending of the 1974 part of the story.  It felt a little too pat.  Too easily contrived.  Like, I've built this amazing story of bullies and intrigue and things getting way out of hand (like they are want to do after all) but here's a nice little bow to make everyone breathe a little easier.  I mean it worked, and still left a bombshell but it felt too pretty.  Does that even make sense?

I promise I did really like this book.  It had that ability to suck me in and keep me engaged.  It had the ability to truly draw me into the story, despite the aforementioned discrepancies.  It kept me engaged to the last little bit.  Hand's down, I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery with a healthy dose of chick lit thrown in for good measure.

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Thorns of Rosewood (Rosewood Series, #1)
About G.M. Barlean
My life is full, my friends are many. I write, I read and I read about writing. When I'm not doing that, I'm quite probably cooking.

I have a wonderful husband, two grown children busy living their own lives, a silver Schnauzer and a shedding white cat.

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