Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: The Tender Mercy of Roses by Anna Michaels

The Tender Mercy of Roses
: Anna Michaels
Release Date: May 2011
Author Website

(from book cover):
When the body of rodeo star Pony Jones is discovered in the northern Alabama woods, it is Pony's spirit- invisible to the eye but not to the sixth sense- that helps reveal clues to her murder. Pulled together in a whirlwind mystery of intense emotion and unexpected encounters are her grief-stricken father, Titus, bent on retribution; and Jo Both Dawson, a hard-drinking former detective new to town, who feels an otherworldly connection with the dead woman- and an irresistible compulsion to uncover the truth. What the unlikely partners do find is more shocking then murder itself: long-buried family secrets that will bring them to search their souls for redemption...and tie the three of them closer then they could imagine.

Bottom line- that summary doesn't do this book justice. Yes, it captured my attention, mostly because it promised to have some rodeo. Something I love, and which rarely makes an appearance in books. What I didn't expect was to be sucked into this story so quickly. Not only did it have rodeo, but it had magic, and native lore and mystery and hope. The plot of the story is a standard murder-mystery but the way in which the story is told, from multiple viewpoints, really set it apart from the pack and the characters that inhabit the pages jump out and drag you in.

It was amazing to me how clearly Michaels created unique voices for each of the characters. Pony especially is brilliant. Even in death she dominates the pages, trying to figure out why she hasn't been able to move on after her murder, and trying to help those she loved and could have loved who were left behind. Her voice is spot on. Unrefined and confident and distinctly rodeo.

The rest of the characters seem like old friends- people you see everyday- that you know without really knowing. They felt like family. Titus especially reminded me of my grandfather- even though he died when I was young- Titus is how I imagine he would be. The rock that everyone else clings to, the one who protects us all even when we are past saving. I could go on and on and say fabulous things about every person in the book- from Jo Beth to John Running Wolf, Martha to Maggie- but this review would get unwieldly and I'd end up giving too much away. So I'll leave it at this: every character is written with a purpose. There are no extras here, everyone has a part to play in Pony's story. It's fantastic.

I think for me what impressed me the most about the book was the rodeo. I love the rodeo, there is something magical about stepping into the arena, be it Madison Square Garden for the PBR, or the Cody Night Rodeo, or a dirt patch out in a field ringed with metal fencing. There's an electricity there that Michaels captured perfectly. I could feel it all as I was reading it, like I was there. She nailed it. Other things that stood out were the more magical elements to the story, like the Cherokee roses and the artic wolf. Sometimes the addition of magical elements can take away from the story or seem hokey. Here they felt right. They served as a connection to the past and really helped to propel the story forward.

I really can't say enough about this book. It was a great way to start out the new year!


1 comment:

  1. Wow, five stars! Sounds like a really good read!The title and the glass-ish cover..awesome. Thanks for the review!