Having read, loved and re-read (many times) all of Susanna Kearsley's previous books, I had high expectations for 'The Rose Garden'. And I wasn't disappointed.
Like several of her other novels, this is essentially a story about love and friendship complicated by time. As with 'Mariana' and 'Sophia's Secret' (known as The Winter Sea outside of the UK), there is a link between the past and the present, in this case through the heroine, Eva. The love story is as beautiful as we have come to expect from Kearsley, and albeit somewhat predictable, the humour and dilemmas the characters face gives it an original feel.
There are plenty of interesting characters, both in the past and the present. The Halletts who own the house in Cornwall where Eva is staying are all very believable as old friends of hers. Daniel, the hero of the tale, is the kind of character that leaps off the page, and I found myself grinning stupidly whenever I was reading a passage he was in. Fergal - a wryly funny Irishman - is another highlight of the 'past' storyline.
Eva finds herself quite literally divided between her life in the modern world helping out at the eponymous rose garden, and the past of almost 300 years ago where smugglers and rebellions are the reality.
There is a nice little twist to the story near the end that I hadn't seen coming - one of those little details that you kick yourself for not noticing, and Kearsley wrapped all the loose ends of the plot up very neatly. This is the kind of book that you wish hadn't ended, even though you can't pace yourself because it's such a page-turner. If you're already a Susanna Kearsley fan then don't miss this one, and if you're new to her books then this is as good a place as any to start. 'Sophia's Secret' is still my favourite I think, but 'The Rose Garden' isn't going to let me forget about it just yet. I'll definitely be re-reading it in a few months when the paperback is available. I only read it in Kindle format this time around because I couldn't wait the extra weeks to buy a physical copy!