Back in May I was feeling a little stressed and so I decided to just cruise the library shelves and pick up a selection of books that appealed to me. It was a fantastic stress relief and free too which is always a plus! One of the books I picked up was the first in the In the Garden series - Blue Dahlia. I read this series when it first came out. I remember enjoying it and anxiously awaiting the final book in the series but other than that there's a nursery and a ghost that was about all I remember.
Blue Dahlia: This one surprised me by how quickly I was hooked me once I started reading it. Like most of Nora Roberts' trilogies there's a lot of setup in Blue Dahlia. We see how Stella and Roz meet and how Hayley is added to the mix. What was a bit unusual in this one was the varied ages and responsibilities of the characters. Roz is in her mid-40s and owns In the Garden Nursery and the house and grounds it sits on, Stella is a widow in her 30s who takes on the management aspect of the nursery, and Hayley is in her mid-20s and looking for a fresh start. The characters aren't perfect and don't always get along in perfect harmony which was nice. This book focused on Stella and I absolutely loved her. She's organized, tough, and very human. Her worries were easy to relate too and I loved how straight forward she was. Logan is a great character as well and I loved their interaction. The ghost story aspect of the trilogy starts slow and begins building up in intensity. I suspect it will seriously ramp up in the 2nd book though I don't quite remember. Basically, I loved the characters, loved the setting and loved the subplots. Next time I'm at the library I'll definitely be picking up Black Rose. If you haven't read much Nora Roberts and like a little ghost story with your romance this would be a great series to start with.
Black Rose: Sometimes the 2nd book in a series can suffer from all kinds of growing pains and if it's the middle book in the trilogy it can feel like filler between the beginning and the end. That's not the case with Black Rose. While at least one subplot has not been completed there's enough progress on it that it works. It helps that both Roz and Mitch are strong and interesting characters. They're both in their late 40s and have both been married before and have self-sufficient children. I love Mitch. He owns up to his mistakes but he's fought his demons and made peace with the baggage. He has nothing to prove and is pretty comfortable in his own skill. As for Roz - I mostly just want to be her when I grow up. She's tough but loving and for the most part doesn't care what people think but does understand the importance of maintaining a certain image. Roberts does a good job of portraying Southern society though I cannot imagine any kind of fist fight happening at a gala no matter what the circumstances are (though that scene was pretty satisfying!). We get a little more knowledge on the ghost both from flashbacks and from discoveries made through supernatural happenings or through Mitch's research. We see more of Stella and Logan and get some fun hints of what's coming up. I'm just glad I've already got my copy of Red Lily ready to go! I can't wait to read Hayley's story and find out what happens with Amelia!
Red Lily: I found Red Lily to be a little darker and in some ways more subtle than the other two paranormal-wise. Amelia's story is coming to an end and she knows it. In a panic she's trying to hold on to Hayley which gets more than a little creepy. The connection between Hayley and Harper has been growing throughout the previous 2 books and has actually been commented on a number of times by different characters. In Red Lily they are brought front and center and we see there thoughts and worries and they navigate the start of a relationship. With so many other people involved, including and especially Hayley's daughter Lily, the navigation is very tricky and their concerns are realistic. This was the first time I've read a trilogy that had the mother's (Roz) story in one book and the son's (Harper) in another. I liked that this was addressed and while Roz was willing to hear more information than I would have wanted to hear it wasn't a full disclosure. This was a great conclusion to a solid series. Hayley and Harper are likable, smart, and interesting with real worries and realistic reactions. It was lots of fun seeing Roz, Mitch, Stella, and Logan as established couples. The mystery wrapped up satisfyingly with just the right amount of creep.
Overall I really enjoyed this series both the first time and for a reread. It's got great characters, an interesting setting, and a great ghostly mystery. I liked that characters had such a range in ages - from mid-20s, to 30s, to late 40s - as it really provided different perspectives and different issues. It was a little disconcerting that while I remember identifying with Hayley the first time I read it and I now felt most connected to Stella!