THE CRIMSON ROSE
by R. Casteel

March 2002
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It is an understatement to say that Rose Ann Shawnassy and Mark Grady’s wedding is ill-timed. Mark barely got his first kiss as a husband before they were torn apart by his fellow Marines to board the bus headed for his next assignment – Beirut, Lebanon. Rose Ann is left to drive home alone after the ceremony, to break the news to her adopted father of her precipitous marriage.


As the book is dedicated to those lives lost in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy and the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, it is only a matter of time when Rose hears the news of Mark’s death. As a new wife with a baby on the way (hence, the “shotgun wedding”), Rose carries her loss deeply, appreciative of the fact that she still has Gunny and the rest of her makeshift family at the diner for support - until Mark’s family discovers that they have a new addition….


Dennis Grady is suspicious of his brother Mark’s sudden marriage – more suspicious of Rose Ann. Already presuming her a gold digger who has somehow found out about Mark’s legacy, Dennis sets out to acquaint himself with his new sister-in-law. But, of course, Rose proves him wrong… and they both set out to fight the attraction that stems from their meeting.


Although the premise of the story is interesting, several factors prevent me from enjoying the story.


The dialogue was unnatural – it is hard to imagine someone saying such platitudes out loud, especially on the beauty and goodness of Rose’s character in a contemporary setting. (Actually in any setting - just think of Bertrice Small’s notorious “love lance”!)


Although it’s fiction, the espionage bit was just too unbelievable. And the introduction of Rose Ann’s parentage was just enough make it over the top.


The bombing in Beirut is one of America’s historic events that I vaguely remember – but I’m fully aware of its importance. Though I appreciate the historic aspect of the story, I didn’t feel that it warranted full-texts of Reagan’s speeches (three of them!) to be included in the book. It seemed too much like page fillers.


For the good stuff, it started out with a bang. The introduction of Rose Ann’s marriage, her interesting family, and her subsequent sorrow at her loss, though a bit melodramatic, were well-drawn. Mr. Casteel’s talent lies in creating interesting and real characters such as Gunny and Pete – both gruff on the outside but softies on the inside. Even the waitresses added a certain dimension to make the diner someplace that you’d want to go to. The fact that the television was always on in the background, presenting news of the Middle East crisis, made Rose Ann’s fears for her husband’s well-being palpable on page, creating a definite tension before news of Mark’s death came about. And the romance between Dennis and Rose is reasonably good.


But as this is a review from one person’s point of view, it bears to keep in mind that reading preferences are subjective. So if you like your romance with a good dose of patriotic sentimentality, this book’s for you!


Reviewed in May 2002 by Veronica.

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