As you saw in my recent post about cozy mysteries and September TBR, I’ve been itching for books featuring small-town heroines solving murders and being
annoying too innocent. The first series I embarked on was the Rose Gardner Mystery books, novellas, and eventually spin-off series. I don’t want to do full-blown reviews like I have in other series binge reviews, so here are some highlights on the whole thing.
These books did somewhat remind me of the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries movies that I love so much, but the town, local job, and main character don’t have the same appeal to me. I appreciated getting to know more about Rose and others in the town throughout the series though. Overall, the entire series got more and more interesting, complex, and BETTER with each story.
Rose was overly innocent and naive, especially in the first book. She was under her mom’s thumb like nobody’s business and then went in the complete opposite direction when she was murdered (this was a good thing overall – her independence). The books were quite southern, which is generally not my cup of tea for whatever reason, but I was able to get used to it. I don’t know how to describe it but I was often frustrated by Rose as a character – her dialogue, interactions with people, and the way she was written overall. If I wasn’t determined to read this series and give it a shot because my friends called it a “great book crack series,” I would have DNFed with book one based on Rose alone. I’ve never encountered a more naive and immature 24 year old in my life and it was so annoying to read about throughout the entire first book. She definitely grew on me more in the second book overall, but her scenes where she got drunk and was obnoxious were SO annoying. By the fourth book, for example, I really liked her a lot. Like I’ll say a million times here: the series and characters got better and more interesting with each book. Legit. Her sister was TERRIBLE and unreasonable in most ways throughout more than half of the series. I loved meeting other characters in the town, like Bruce Wayne, and seeing how they all connected as the story went further. More characters kept getting introduced and thrown into things, which made everything more complicated, but it didn’t bother me too much. I’m not going to talk about any of them (except for my secret weird love for Skeeter Malcolm) because spoilers.
I expected there to be multiple romances throughout the series because it’s like nine books long… and yes, Aurora Teagarden had a new boyfriend in each movie for some reason. This series had more of a love triangle in many ways.
Joe annoyed me because he was overprotective at first. Yes, he was a cop and yes, he needed to make sure she didn’t get herself killed, but I hate when men are like “don’t do anything without asking me first.” Rose was naive and stupid about a lot of things, sure, but I wished he wasn’t so controlling still.
Mason, the local District Attorney, was someone I enjoyed from the start. I could tell that his gruff nature would be more of a “hate to love” situation as time went on. I was happy to see them start up a romance for a bit because he seemed to genuinely care about Rose.
Skeeter, the leader of the criminal underworld, isn’t exactly a love interest but they grow close throughout the series. I don’t want to spoil anything since he becomes the most involved more toward the final third of the original series.
My friends who read these books said they were crack books – addicting and easy to read. I think this true for the most part, but I often wished they had a bit more action? Some parts are repetitive, which makes the book drag on a little too much? I will say it again though – each book got more interesting, had more action, and featured better writing.
(1) I noticed that the synopses of each book tend to give away a BIT too much of the plot within. Yes, there are good twists and turns throughout, but I often thought that they gave away too much. I would rather be surprised. There were some instances where something in the synopsis happened over 60% of the way through the book!
(2) As I’ve emphasized, the third book is really where the series starts to hit a stride and feature better writing, but the second half of the series definitely has some crazier plot points. Rose, who was once the most naive person on earth in book one, is suddenly working with criminal masterminds and solving high level mysteries/cases? That all happened QUICK.
(3) I burnt out after reading six in a row. I had to take a break for a few months before launching into the final three stories. It was definitely helpful and an interesting time to stop, since the last three books get utterly wild! I probably could have read straight through, in hindsight, but I’m glad I paused for a couple of months to resume in January.
(4) I didn’t end up reading the novellas because I didn’t want to spend money on them. I didn’t miss anything for some of the earlier books, but the novella that happens between Thirty-Three and Thirty-Four was probably necessary. Something major happens in there. You obviously come to understand it throughout the next book, but it would be better to see it happen I think.
Overall and what’s next
I’m so glad I read this series. It was definitely a rollercoaster ride from start to finish (okay maybe from book 3 or 4 to finish). There’s a spin-off series, ROSE GARDNER INVESTIGATIONS, that I will definitely make it a point to read in 2019. If you like Hallmark Mystery Movies and don’t mind some long-winded weird books to start a series before it kicks in, give it a shot.