I was excited when I picked up Goddess of the Rose by P.C. Cast at the used bookstore when I did my binge buy over Labor Day weekend. A friend of mine had enjoyed the book, and I loved the dedication: “This book is for everyone who fell in love with the Beast, and then was truly disappointed when he turned into a handsome prince.”
Also, I was stoked to read about a heroine named Mikki (that’s my nickname).
It sounds pretty good, right?
Well, I should have reined my high hopes in a bit more. While there were good parts to the story, I had a number of problems that ultimately made it difficult for me to enjoy the book.
Synopsis, courtesy Amazon:
Empousai family roses have bloomed for centuries, thanks to the drops of blood their women sacrifice for their gardens. But Mikki would rather forget this family quirk and lead a normal life. Until she unwittingly performs a ritual, ending up in the strangely familiar Realm of the Rose. As its goddess Hecate reveals, Mikki is a priestess-and the Realm’s been waiting for her…
Long ago, an enraged Hecate cursed her guardian beast and the entire Realm with a slumber only a priestess can undo—and she’s counting on Mikki. The beast at first terrifies Mikki—but soon intrigues her more than any man ever has. But the only way he and the Realm can be saved is for Mikki to sacrifice her life-giving blood—and herself…
Now, I love Beauty and the Beast and I love the retellings of the story, so at first glance, this is right up my alley.
The Guardian was a great hero, a gentle giant who was utterly lonely. The people around him are either afraid of him or see him as little more than an animal. He just wants to be loved, truly loved, and it’s been withheld from him for his entire life. I spent most of the book just wanting to give him a big hug, and I would have loved to see more from his point of view.
It was also great to read a book that was, at least in part, set in Tulsa. It’s very, very rare that I find a book set in Oklahoma, so it was a nice change of pace to recognize the areas and places mentioned in our world.
I liked Hecate’s realm, though I wish it had been more fleshed out. It felt a little thin, particularly for a place that’s supposed to be on the crossroads between the real world and the magical one.
And Mikki herself was a huge problem for me. She’s thrown into a crazy situation that, for the most part, she handles well, despite nobody really being around to guide her. On the other hand, she complains so much about some things that I wanted to reach into the book and slap her.
Firstly, there was a lot of man-hating. It’s a trope that crops up in romance, particularly contemporaries, on a regular basis, and it drives me up the wall.
Mikki’s complaining that all men were pigs and none of them were good enough for her made her seem bitchy and insecure. She has one terrible date that we see, but other than that, the level of “I hate men” seemed really disproportionate to the rest of the story.
When I see so much of that in a romance novel, my first thought is not “Yeah, men suck.” My first thought is, “The common denominator here is YOU, sweetie.”
I also had to wonder about the “romance novels are NOT trashy” rant near the beginning of the story. I was torn on it. On the one hand, I wanted to cheer for Mikki putting the guy in his place. On the other hand, it also seemed a little like the author was stepping in to defend her chosen genre. Which is all well and good, but I dislike it when writers use their characters as a soapbox.
Plus, Mikki spends a lot of time harping on the age difference between her and the previous Empousas. It switched between “I’m too old for this shit” and “Bah, they’re all babies. Get off my rose-covered lawn, childish nitwits, and let a real woman show you how it’s done!”
She’s been plunged into a completely new world and she’s trying to learn on the fly, and that aspect I totally understood. It was when she started the constant comparisons to the younger Empousas before her that made me roll my eyes. It added another layer of insecurity to what I already got from the man-hating.
There was also a scene with Mikki later in the book that was on par with the “don’t run up the stairs, run out the damn door!” scenes from horror movies. It’s rare that I actually yell OUT LOUD at a character for doing something stupid, but here I did. (And no, I don’t care that it was clearer later that she was under an external influence. I was already hacked off at her for being dumb.)
She had some good qualities, but she just came across as so abrasive for much of the story that I had a great deal of trouble relating to her.
Even so, I might have been able to tolerate that if the writing itself had been better, but it was just kind of meh overall. There were several instances of redundant or poorly worded phrases (my personal favorite being “spherically shaped circle”).
Plus, for some reason, the book went from having very clearly delineated viewpoint changes in the first third of the story to just cramming it all together in for the last two-thirds. (I HATE it when that happens. The rest of your story has to be AWESOME for me to tolerate it.)
Overall, I was really disappointed in the story, especially considering I had such high hopes in the first place. It had some bright points, but there just wasn’t enough to overcome all the problems I had with it.