At bookstores, I’m always thrilled to come across debut novels. Sometimes, I even squeal a bit with joy. Though there haven’t been many debut books I have loved, every time there’s a book by a new author in the market I’m filled with nervous excitement. It’s also amazing how debut novels come with dust jackets filled with over-the-top claims by bestselling authors. ‘Darling Rose’ by Stephanie Wrobel has the likes of Lee Child and Lisa Jewell calling it “sensationally good” and “absolutely brilliant”. And it had a pretty cover too.
But I should have learnt my lesson by now and not judged a book by its cover. Touted as a thriller that explores the relationship between parents and children, more specifically a mother and a daughter, Darling Rose is dull and predictable. It could have been interesting had the author focused on either making the plot more fast-paced or developed the characters a more. With neither engaging plot nor fascinating characters, the book fails to impress.
I have to say the premise held promise. It was unlike anything I had ever come across. For 18 years, Rose Gold Watts, daughter of Patty Watts, believes that she is sick and needs the feeding tube and surgeries to stay alive. Turns out, Patty has been poisoning her own daughter to make sure Rose Gold can never live without her. All Patty ever wanted was to love someone and be loved in return. Also, she craves the attention she gets as a single mother of a sickly child. Then, she is sent to prison for aggravated child abuse. Rose Gold’s testimony is key in her sentencing.
After five years, Patty is ready to put old grievances behind and Rose Gold, who didn’t talk to her mother for a few years of her jail term, also wants to mend their relationship. She even agrees to let Patty live with her and her son, Adam. But nothing is as it seems. Patty still seems to seek control, if not of Rose Gold, then of Adam. And Rose Gold isn’t as meek as she once used to be and she might not have forgiven Patty.
Wrobel came up with an intriguing idea but couldn’t do it justice. Darling Rose Gold is a colossal waste of a good plot as Wrobel fails to evoke drama and tension in her writing. There is absolutely no suspense. Things are exactly how they appear to be. Even the twist in the end—which you see coming—does nothing to salvage the story. It’s good writing, in bits and pieces, but that’s about it.