A friend strongly suggested that I should read this book which was written by a friend of hers. I am acquainted with the author and I have read her other paranormal mystery series featuring a dog that channels Elvis. I liked those all right and was going to go on a trip so I decided to read this on the trip. It is a really, really good book. Great characters, great scenes, great read.
The first word that comes to mind in describing this novel is magical. The murder of Pony Jones, a young rodeo bull rider, is investigated by two determined detectives, a grieving father, and Pony's lingering spirit. Blooming Cherokee roses make Pony's spiritual presence known, and form the link between her spirit and those who are seeking the cause of her death. As a reader, you will be bound to unforgettable characters, intrigued by mystery, and moved by the strength of the human spirit. This is a book you don't want to miss.
"While the body of rodeo star Pony Jones lies motionless in the northern Alabama woods, her spirit is on a mission to find her killer. Invisible to the eye but not to the sixth sense, the only thing Pony can do is guide the living to the truth.
Her grief-stricken father, Titus, wants nothing more than retribution for his daughter's death, so when former police detective Jo Beth Dawson comes to town, something compels him to seek out her help.
But when Jo Beth and Titus team up to track down Pony's murderer, it turns loose a whirlwind of intense emotion and unexpected encounters. As they uncover more and more clues leading them to the killer, dark family secrets are revealed and the two must search their souls for redemption."
The Tender Mercy of Roses was a quiet novel driven by the main characters and the secrets that have shaped their lives. The story is shaped by Jo Beth, a former detective turned self-destructive alcoholic, with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Jo Beth is one of those characters that I couldn't help but feel for from the very beginning. Both her past and her downfall are given to us in pieces throughout the story. This helped to add layers to the story as Jo Beth is pulled into the investigation of Pony's death. My favorite part of this book was hands down the characters in the story. I felt they were well developed, realistically portrayed, and just were plain interesting. I wanted to read about their stories, figure out the secrets that they were possibly hiding, and see how it all tied into the mystery of Pony's death. The mystery was part of the story but it wasn't the main focus. Instead, the focus of the story was the past and how hidden secrets affected all of the character's lives. It was Pony's story, her father Titus' story, and of course it was Jo Beth's story as well. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. The writing was gorgeous at times and I found myself just going along for the ride that the author was leading me. This wasn't a fast-paced novel by any means but instead a novel that was meant to be savored and enjoyed. I really liked the atmosphere created within the book. The author was able to create a haunting atmosphere where nothing is what it seems and the most important thing was staying true to oneself. I found the ending to be very satisfying and I was sad to see it end. All in all, this is a book that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend especially to those who enjoy literary fiction. Recommended!
Disclosure: I was sent this book to review from the publisher as part of a Gallery Books Blog Tour. My thanks for the chance to share my honest thoughts!
FIRST SENTENCE: It don't take no high school education to figure out I'm in a pickle.
A wisp of a girl, with her tiny red cowboy boots - that was Pony Jones. Raised alone by her father Titus after her mother Morning Star, who was 1/2 Cherokee, died in childbirth, she was the first woman to ride the bulls in professional men's rodeo - and she won. Now, at 26, she finds herself dead somewhere on the TN/AL state lines, and for some reason, God won't let her move on. Not only that, but he keeps whipping her from place to place and person to person. She has to help someone, but she really wishes God would let her know what the heck He wants her to do. It's bad enough being a ghost, but to see good food and not be able to eat it? That just ain't right.
Jo Beth Dawson lives in her portable trailer, with booze to keep her company. A former policewoman from Huntsville, granddaughter of Clint Dawson, who formed the first professional rodeo, she is a woman who has given up on life and living. She used to have a savior complex, but when that didn't keep a 14-year-old boy from jumping, the spotlight shone hot and heavy on her actions, and the scrutiny and questions caused her to leave town and her life. When her best friend Maggie asks her to come back to visit, she packs up and drives from her current spot in Hot Coffee, MS. When she parks her trailer at a campground along the way, she discovers Pony's body, covered with a flower called the "Cherokee Rose". Calling the police brings her former partner, Sam Donovan, into the picture.
For some reason, Jo Beth can't get rid of the image of the young girl in her little red boots. She finds herself drawn into her own investigation, of both her family and of Pony's death. In the end, she will uncover the secrets that bind these families together.
The Legend of the Cherokee Rose and the Trail of Tears(nu na hi du na tlo hi lu i)
When gold was found in Georgia, the government forgot its treaties and drove the Cherokees to Oklahoma. One fourth of them died on the journey west. When the Trail of Tears started in 1838, the mothers of the Cherokee were grieving and crying so much, they were unable to help their children survive the journey. The elders prayed for a sign that would lift the mother's spirits to give them strength. God, looking down from heaven, decided to commemorate the brave Cherokees and so, as the blood of the braves and the tears of the maidens dropped to the ground, he turned them into stone in the shape of a Cherokee Rose. The next day a beautiful rose began to grow where each of the mother's tears fell. The rose is white for their tears; a gold center represents the gold taken from Cherokee lands, and seven leaves on each stem for the seven Cherokee clans. No better symbol exists of the pain and suffering of the "Trail Where They Cried" than the Cherokee Rose The wild Cherokee Rose grows along the route of the Trail of Tears into eastern Oklahoma today.
Source: The Cherokee 1994 Heritage Calendar by Dorothy Sullivan, Memoray Circle Studio, Norman, OK
Told in varying POV's, from the first-person voice of Pony, to the third-person of Sam, Titus, Jo Beth and others, this is an intricately woven tale of love and heartache, as well as hope. I was drawn in from page 1, to the story of Pony and her father Titus, whose loss of Morning Star caused him to retreat from the world to live in virtual isolation with the only person he had left. You will smile at some of Pony's dialogue (I know, it's sad that she's so young and she's now a ghost, but your personality doesn't leave you just because you're no longer among the living), and some parts of this novel brought tears to my eyes, mixed with a tiny smile - the kind of sad/happy feeling. The only reason this doesn't get five stars from me is that there is some fuzziness around Sam's story and his relationship with Jo Beth, and that doesn't really get cleared up, although I hoped it would. The killer and his/her reasons are not clear until almost the end, and I was happy to see just desserts paid.
Cherokee Rose was the name of Pony's grandmother, and in this novel, the roses serve as a harbinger of sorts. They show up at Titus's home, and he knows his daughter is gone. They surround Pony's body, and pop up in various places where they never were before.
A murder mystery mixed with family drama and secrets, The Tender Mercy of Roses is a wonderful, emotional story that will have you smiling on one page, and blinking back tears on the next.
Then lo and behold the preacher waxes eloquent about a option called endowments. Now, I had two of them suckers setting on my chest. I knew on account of my science teacher. The week before he'd invited me to his house to look at the stars through his telescope. While I was on his back porch trying to find the man in the moon, he sneaked up behind me, told me I was "well-endowed," then proceeded to try to feel both of 'em. I run back into the kitchen, grabbed the nearest weapon and whacked him over the head with his own corn bread skillet. He's the one ended up seeing stars.
...Jo Beth overhear Mrs. Claude Upton refer to her as "poor little rich girl with a no-good daddy." Though she had been only six at the time and hadn't seen her daddy in two years, Jo Beth lit into Mrs. Upton like one of the wild bulls Rafe Dawson used to ride at the rodeo. "You take that back! If you don't I'll have my granddaddy hogtie you behind a mean bull and drag you all over Tupelo." Then she'd spat on Mrs. Upton's Etienne Aigner shoes.
Sam knew then, understood with the same clarity he's had when he'd gone home from work and found Lana's closet empty. Titus Jones had no interest in how the cops were trying to solve the crime: he was going to hunt down the man who had murdered his daughter. God help the killer.
Writing: 5 out of 5 stars Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars Characters: 4 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 4.5 out 5 stars