In the news lately we’ve heard a lot about men using their power/status to take advantage of women, often convincing them to participate in questionable activities (or worse). If this could happen in a modern society where women strive for equality, imagine what it must have been like during the Regency era where woman had little say in their role in life. This theme provides an underlying source of embarrassment to the main character in Winning Violet by Becky Lower, the first book in the Flower Girl series.
Violet Wilson is one of four sisters who assist their father Edgar at the Mulberry Hills Nursey/Landscaping Business in Salisbury, England. The harassment Violet receives by one of the male employees keeps her holed up in the greenhouse away from others, especially men. Humiliated by her own actions she feels the entire situation is her fault so she never reveals her trepidation to the family.
Such is her attitude when Parker Sinclair arrives from the McMahon Nursery of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania looking for roses to create a flowerbed at the entrance to the gardens at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Sinclair arrives the worse for wear since he was attacked upon his arrival at Portsmouth. After the sisters minister to his health and provide him with some clothes (a difficult task since the man is so tall) the landscaper is able to set about his work with Violet to select the best variety of roses and learn something about cross pollination, Violet’s specialty whose research might land her a spot on the lecture tour of the Royal Horticulture Society. While at first she is annoyed at the interruption to her work, she can’t help but feel attracted to the American. Parker, in spite of his negative attitude towards the British (due to the devastation brought about by the War of 1812), finds himself inexplicably attracted to Violet, even though he has avoided women since the death of his wife and child eleven years earlier. Yet how can the two resolve their issues when their homes are thousands of miles apart separated by the Atlantic Ocean? This push pull dominates the storyline as the lovebirds try to figure out not only their feelings, but also whether there can be any sort of future between them.
While the opening sequence showed promise, the total package was rather dull. There was too much tell and not enough show, plus the plot was full of repetitions especially since the narration alternated between the two protagonists who agonized over their insecurities throughout the novel. I would have liked to see more character development, especially the relationship between the sisters. Instead, the lack of depth lead to a superficiality, even though some motivations were explained via the introspections of Violet and Parker. Ultimately, there just wasn’t not enough story to carry an entire novel. Then on top of it all, much of the lovemaking was clumsy and awkward, not romantic and tender.
One aspect of the book I found interesting was the details about the propagation of roses. However, I did notice some inaccuracies which were not a part of this time period. The Royal Horticulture Society didn’t get that title until 1861 and was known in 1823 as the Horticulture Society of London. Botany was a man’s world, both in England and America, and women were not allowed to be a part of this group, even if they had something to offer, unless they submitted articles for publication under a male pseudonym. If there was a lecture tour, there was no way Violet would be allowed to be a part of this tightly controlled, select group of men.
Basically, due to the numerous inaccuracies and a lack of appropriate details, the entire novel was simply a nod to the Regency era. Two and a half stars.
A thank you to both Edelweiss and Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.