By Ashley Clark
“From the broken ground, somehow those delicate, vibrant petals came anew, offering a fragrance that might catch on the breeze and carry down the street to where the bluebirds flew. And that rosebush carries with it a heritage, too – from the ground where the last rose blooms.”
–Clara Adelaide Abel
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‘Where the Last Rose Blooms’ is a riveting dual-timeline historical fiction novel and a part of Ashley Clark’s ‘Heirloom Secrets’ book series (but can also be read as a stand-alone book).
Initially, the dual timeline threw me a little. It felt as if I were reading two entirely separate books; one was a sweet rom-com with the most adorable meet-cute, while the other was a deep exploration into the human heart, ethics and the horrors of slavery. But as I immersed myself in the pages, as the plot thickened and the characters developed, these differences added to the book’s charm, and somehow the rom-com and historical drama intertwined unexpectedly and delightfully, creating one whole, vivid and intriguing story that I couldn’t put down.
The story begins in modern-day New Orleans on Valentine’s day, setting the scene for an endearing blossoming of friendship and love between a quirky florist and a dreamy, albeit unorganised customer, on his way to a blind date – with all the customary rom-com vibes. The novel then transports us to Charleston in the 1860s, where we follow cotton heiress Clara on a journey of self-discovery, redemption, and espionage.
So much of the book’s beauty was found in the congruous search for family between both timelines; a mother searching her daughter and a daughter searching for her mother. All the while with themes of redemption and restoration flowing throughout each story.
I loved the recurring themes and references to flowers: “A symbol of femininity – how that which is delicate can also be strong.” This, and the idea of floral spy codes in espionage, made this book unique. If you’re wondering what in the world floral spy code is… you’ll just have to read this book!
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