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The Widow of Rose House

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A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age debut novel.

It's 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren't as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn't believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor, Samuel Moore, appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn't need any more complications in her life―especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam.

Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva's new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva's history―and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.

352 pages, Paperback

First published October 8, 2019

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Diana Biller

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,310 reviews
Profile Image for Julie .
4,026 reviews58.9k followers
December 31, 2020
The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller is a 2019 St. Martin’s Griffin publication.

My kind of ghost story!

Alva Webster has returned to New York amid scandalous rumors swirling around her after the death of her estranged husband.

Ready to put the past behind her, she purchases Liefdehuis, and old mansion she intends to refurbish, then feature in a book about interior design.

The house, unfortunately, has a reputation for being haunted. This scares away the workers Alva needs, so she eventually succumbs to the overtures of one Sam Moore, an attractive man who is interested in studying the potential paranormal activity in the house.

The chemistry between Alva and Sam is undeniable, but Alva has dark secrets in her past that makes her wary of romantic entanglements.

Meanwhile, it would appear there really is a ghost, prompting intensive research to uncover the truth behind the haunting.

If my memory serves, I added this book thinking I would read it for Halloween, but I never got around to it. Now, over a year later, I’m finally pulling it up to the top of the TBR pile.

While this would be a nice book to read at Halloween, any time is a good time for a spooky ghost story. I had forgotten the premise of the book at first, but soon found myself immersed in the history, the mystery, and the red-hot attraction between Alva and Sam! Whew!

This book surprised me! I didn’t have any expectations one way or another, but this book turned out to be more than I bargained for! The author painted a vivid historical portrait of the time period, created a spine-tingling atmosphere, with shades of Gothic horror, added compelling commentary on mental illness, and provided a wonderful love story to cap it off.

Although this one was a bit steamier than I usually feel comfortable with these days, I really, really liked this story!!

Tackling the TBR list is turning out to be a whole lot of fun!!

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Jonetta.
2,203 reviews918 followers
October 9, 2019
Alva Webster returns to New York from Paris in the midst of false scandalous rumors after fleeing her abusive husband three years before. Now that her husband is dead, Alva wants to move on with her life and purchases Liefdehuis, a neglected mansion in Hyde Park. Her plan is to restore it and write a book about the process. Stories of it being haunted circulate quickly, getting the attention of famed inventor Samuel Moore who wants to research it, scientifically of course. When he sees Alva for the first time, he’s as equally captivated by her as he is her house.

I thought I was getting a creepy, spooky story about ghosts and got a creepy, spooky story about a ghost, a house AND two utterly delightful characters in Alva and Sam. She’s darkness and resilience and he’s a magnificent bright light and energy. Together they make the most fascinating combination with some of the best, most clever and witty banter I’ve experienced in some time. I had this categorized as historical fiction and the 1875 setting makes that completely appropriate but it’s also a paranormal with its ghostly elements, a mystery as the identity of the apparition is explored and a combustible romance as Alva and Sam will rank as a favorite couple of fiction.

This turned out to be much more than I’d anticipated when I agreed to read this story. I read it in one day, not wanting to put it down. Alva’s story is tragic and Sam’s was rather glorious, coming from the most delightful family of inventors. Their presence gave me insight into this free-spirited man whose quirky nature just made him more endearing. But these two fit so perfectly because their imperfections balanced so beautifully. The ghost story is not your ordinary tale either, with an angle I hadn’t foreseen. It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel as it’s so well constructed with outstanding characterizations. It turned out to be a wonderful reading experience and my hope is we haven’t seen the last of Alva & Sam. This needs to be a series...seriously! 4.5 stars

Posted on Blue Mood Café

(Thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)

Profile Image for Katie B.
1,293 reviews2,962 followers
September 22, 2019
3.5 stars

It's not very often I will read something involving ghosts but the synopsis sounded interesting so I rolled the dice and took a chance on this one. Thankfully my gamble paid off and I thought this was a pretty cute historical romance. Always good to step out of your reading comfort zone from time to time.

It's 1875 and you aren't going to find many people who have a kind word to say about Alva Webster. Even though she had been living in Europe, gossip about her and her marriage still found its way across the Atlantic Ocean. After the death of her abusive husband, she has returned to New York with the hopes of restoring, Liefdehuis, a mansion in desperate need of repairs. However, rumor has it ghosts haunt the home and not many people will even go near it. Professor Samuel Moore is highly interested in checking the place out for research purposes but Alva is wary of the idea and him. Perhaps he can charm his way into her heart.

So while ghosts are an aspect of the story, it wasn't the only thing going on, In my opinion the romance was the strength of the story as Alva and Samuel had good chemistry together and I loved their banter back and forth. I don't normally read many historical fiction books taking place in the 1800s, and I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed reading about this time period.

My only slight criticism about the book is I felt the dialogue at times was too modern. A few times during romantic scenes, I would find myself questioning if certain words or phrases were realistic sounding for that time period. I could be wrong though and it's not like it truly affected my overall enjoyment of the story.

I think there's a little something for every type of reader with this book. If you like romances, the 1800s time period, and/or ghosts, consider checking this one out as it's a cute and enjoyable read!

Thank you to St. Martin's for sending me an advance reader's copy! I was not obligated to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,226 reviews1,276 followers
October 7, 2019
"The haunted mansion is the perfect home: spacious, well-furnished, and it entertains your guests for you." (Walt Disney World)

The Widow of Rose House is a colorfully wrapped package that touches on moments of the Gilded Age, the draw of romance, the weight of shifty crime, and the eerie stream of the paranormal. Diana Biller will see to it that you are entertained throughout.

Alva Webster sits rigidly at a table in the famous Delmonico's restaurant in New York City. She knows that there is an abundance of eyes upon her every move. Although she is meeting a publisher to discuss a book proposition on home decor, Alva knows that she, herself, is the title of every topic discussed at every table.

A recent widow living previously in Europe, Alva has decided to come back to New York. But what has followed her here are horrendous rumors of her questionable lifestyle abroad. Scandalous, you might say, even though it is nothing but lies. But lies are like little demons jumping from one pointed tongue to another here in New York City.

Alva has recently bought a property in the Hyde Park section of the city. Rumors abound that this said mansion is haunted by its previous owners. Even the workmen that Alva has hired for the renovation left their tools and materials behind in their haste to escape the creepiness from within its walls.

Soon Alva is contacted by Professor Sam Moore who wishes to proceed with paranormal investigations in the mansion. He comes from a very quirky family of delightful scientists. In time, Sam and Alva combine their efforts into finding out what is at the core of the mansion even though Alva has a real flesh and blood enemy pursuing her.

I enjoyed The Widow of Rose House and would rate it at 3.5 kicked up to a 4 star review. Although a historical fiction novel, the relationship between Sam and Alva has a more modern day vibe as you'll find out. I also would have liked to have experienced more creepy inner explorations of the mansion throughout the book......unexplained voices and chilling experiences in the build-up and less romance. But that's just me. Still a worthy read that will grab your attention.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to St. Martin's Press/Griffin and to Diana Biller for the opportunity.
Profile Image for Holly.
196 reviews65 followers
October 6, 2019
The Widow of Rose House is a very enjoyable and satisfying read. It is a story of second chances and redemption. This book is a mix of different genres and multiple themes - suspense, mystery, paranormal, romance, abuse, bullying, and mental illness. Above all else, The Widow of a Rose House is an engaging romance novel with a paranormal twist. Most importantly, it has an unusual take on haunting and ghosts, which I found clever and captivating. This is not your usual ghost story by any means!

Our heroine Alva is a strong woman with a traumatic past who is determined to rely only on herself. While Alva is a complex character, she is richly developed and very likable. She has just bought an old house that is rumored to be haunted. At the same time, she is trying to overcome her past and her distrust of other people. Alva is on a journey of self-discovery to reclaim her life and her happiness.

A perfect foil and a delightful character himself is Sam Moore, a member of a family of scientists and inventors. His family is highly appealing and I would love to see more stories about them, especially Maggie, who loves French fashion and explosions as well as Henry who is an honorary family member since the age of 10 and Sam’s BFF. Sam is the epitome of the absent-minded professor, interested in inventing anything that will make life easier, such as a boot lacer-upper. He is quirky, endearing and downright lovable, determined to win over Alva. It also helps that Sam is very interested in studying ghosts.

There is a lot of witty banter between Alva and Sam that will put a smile on your face. You cannot help but root for this adorable couple. They make for an engaging and clever team that works well together in discovering and identifying the ghost. In fact, I could totally see a series of books featuring them as ghost hunters, solving the mysteries and freeing the ghost(s).

As a debut novel, Ms. Biller has quickly made a name for herself with The Widow of Rose House and I look forward to reading her next story.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press - St. Martin’s Griffin and NetGalley for an advance reader. Opt in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Natasha Niezgoda.
565 reviews222 followers
March 1, 2021


Like seriously - HAWT!

But before I get into that, alllllow me to set the scene. It’s 1875 and you’re in Manhattan. You’ve got this tall-inventor-genius-human-man "Sam" (who is beautiful) and then this striking-defiant-strong-badass-babe "Alva" (who has a past) as your main characters. She owns this brownstone mansion and he’s heard it’s haunted and wants to have some talks with the ghost friends that are hanging out. Oh and also make out with her.

YES, I know - you never knew you needed a gilded age, gothic romance before right?! WELL LET ME TELL YOU - YOU DO!

Because Sam and Alva are EVERYTHING. It’s like the perfect cold-shoulder/eager-beaver love story, but like, all fancy because it’s 1875 and they don’t flirt using words like “wanna hang out, it’s gonna be lit”.

I kid you not, how this is written builds the PERFECT sexual tension that you are literally saying ANYTIME NOW ... PLEASSSSSE!

And then... it happens. And you get a 25-page love scene that is so fulfilling that you’ll wanna reread it. YERP. I said it. TWENTY. FIVE. PAGES. And it’s not crude - it’s just OOOPH GIRL!


Oh but Natasha what about the ghosts and everything else?! Oh well thank you for asking - it ends up being actually a really really cool subplot. Because it opens the door to conversations about how women were treated, how a woman’s reputation is also solely contingent on her husband/family, how extortion was prevalent, and how families physically disowned members due to scandal or could-be-scandal.


In all seriousness, I really loved how this book touched on mental health. And the negative connotations and downright torturous medical practices that were established and performed on patients in the 19th century.

So yeah l, was it EFFING steamy and incredible? YES. Hands down. But was the moral beautiful and something that I could totally appreciate? 100%

IT’S A TOTALLLLL 5 STAR READ FOR ME ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and like I NEEEED Diana Biller to write another book ASAP!
Profile Image for Debra .
2,283 reviews35k followers
January 12, 2021

Alva Webster is restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion. In a way, she is attempting to restore herself as well. Her reputation has been severely tainted by her deceased abusive husband. Her new mansion comes with a dark history, it is rumored to be haunted. Alva is not one to buy into ghosts and haunted homes, she is going to write her book and restore the mansion.

Samuel (Sam) Moore is a charming, well known, and intelligent Pioneer in electrical lighting. He hails from a family of scientists. He wants to get to the bottom of the ghost mystery. He is handsome, charming and quick witted.

Together they will attempt to solve the mystery surrounding the home as well as battle the sparks that are flying between them.

This was a nice change of pace to the books I have been reading lately. While it deals with the paranormal, it also is a romance of sorts. A light haunting. some romance what more could I want.
Profile Image for Melanie A..
1,064 reviews395 followers
December 6, 2019
"I simply cannot fathom why you are so constantly surprised by the height of my esteem for you."
WOW! Pure, unadulterated, beautiful ROMANCE...this one took me completely by surprise!

First, a huge thank you to Carol for bringing this book to my attention. 🥰

Plot in a nutshell : Alva Webster is a social pariah after the scandal surrounding the death of her husband. Leaving Paris to return to her native New York, she takes on a project to restore a dilapidated mansion along the Hudson River.

But she's not the only one interested in the house . . . except scientist Samuel Moore wants access to the house for the most absurd of reasons: to research the existence of ghosts.

So I needn't have worried that I would be put off by the paranormal aspect of The Widow of Rose House. The main focus was very much on the romance between Alva and Sam, and what a romance it was!
When they spoke she wanted to linger, to say one more thing, to hear what he would say in response. He made her want to laugh. That made him dangerous.
I can't tell you how much I loved these two together; Sam's sunny disposition was the perfect foil for Alva and her carefully guarded heart and painful past.
How did he do it? One minute her world was blackmail and anger and skeletons in dark, shadowed corners, and then Sam Moore walked in the room.
I'm not even sure what to gush about first. The quality of the writing?
...surely things that happened after midnight, under a clear, full winter's moon, and with no one else observing them didn't count?
Or this author's incredible sense of romance?
She was his person. If she was complicated, then he loved her complications, too.
Or the wonderful undertones of humor than ran through the entire book?
"You're the most impossible man I've ever met."

"I'm not in the least impossible," he said. "I'm not even improbable."
This one was completely swoon-worthy and it will definitely make my top 10 for the year. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Profile Image for Dilushani Jayalath.
907 reviews161 followers
February 20, 2020
" Real life is people leaning on each other when things are hard. it's loving each other so much there's no question about facing things together. It's fighting for each other and with each other and being damned grateful every morning you wake up together"

Actual Ratings : 3.8 stars

There are two main reasons that I have included this somewhat cliche quote as the beginning of my appraisal of this book. First, to remind anyone who's under the false notion that this is a horror novel, or one of Gothic haunting or such. Second, the story does not actually stick to the norms of that of a historical novel, for which banner this book is advertised under.

Despite my considerable low rating for the book (although 3.8 stars is not that bad), I have to mention it really pains me to give this book such a rating. I began this book with a lot of expectations and to say they were dashed to the ground maybe slightly exaggerating. By no means would I say this book was bad. It is just, it did not meet my criteria for a very good book. The cover is so lovely that I can really hug it to sleep, but as the saying goes, one should not judge the book by its cover.

For my part, I think most of my disappointment stems from the reason that there was barely a horror story involved in this book. I was highly anticipating a gripping ghost story and ended up with fair romance with a pinch of a ghost who appeared when the time wanted to and completely disappeared from the story for most of it. Even till the last few chapter I expected the story's climax would have to do with a major revelation in terms of the ghost. But nope, nada, we instead got was a romance. I for one think I would have given this book a higher rating if we were not, at the beginning promised a horror novel but rather a romance novel. If that was the case I would have happily given this a 4 star and even higher. In terms of that this book was far superior to others of its genre.

In terms of romance, the book had indeed one of the best hero's of historical romance. While we are bombarded upon literally by alpha and somewhat toxic males (who for reasons unknown for me, always rakes) in historical romance, this book gave us the miracle of Samuel Moore. He is what always of us envision when we think of eccentric professor. He was funny, awkward and had his head in the clouds for most of the story but that is what really managed to make this book and him magical and in my opinion what literally carried the book forward. In this we have a gender reversal in a way and have a strong headed female and a empathetic male characters. I do not mean this in a negative manner but a truly positive light. My favorite character, which you might have already figured from all of this above was undoubtedly Sam. The wonder of this book? You would not actually have a character you would dislike. Even the side characters from the Moore family to Liza were just a hoot to read. I would have liked a bit more information of Rose though. By the end I felt like our author was giving more attention to the romance than what she started on. Our poor Rose was simply abandoned in the plot as much as by her family.

There were certain aspects such a very very long winded sex scene and some points which I am not sure were historically accurate that might push the book back in reviews. Mostly I wanted to bring to attention was the language. I felt as if it was certainly much more modern than what they would have used in that era. Even the thoughts were much more forward. Then again this is only the second historic book I've read set in America so I do not have that much experience on books of that era to properly condemn that. Bringing that bit of information to focus I do have to mention that this book reminded me a lot of The Shallow Graves which I read few weeks back although compared to that I feel this book was much more enjoyable despite me giving the same rating for both. In terms of early feminism, this take precedence over that. Ms Biller clearly did that trope much better than Ms Donnelly.

All in all this was a good solid debut novel from Ms Biller. Would I have wanted some more from it? Yes definitely. It has room for some solid improvement but I would clearly keep an eye out for more of this author.
Profile Image for Mei.
1,881 reviews414 followers
October 18, 2019
Another excellent debut! :)

I loved the way the author incorporated a ghost story with HR!!! She did it in a way that avoided the gothic feel of the usual ghost stories! What was really good here is the way the MCs act, think and think!

I loved the unusual hero, Sam - a scientist to the core who gets distracted by scientific pursuits in the most unexcpected moments! LOL

He was such a breath of fresh air! In a romancelandia populated by arrogant alpha dukes, earls etc. he is a bright star! He realized that he's fallen in love with Alva rather early in the story and he didn't question the feeling; he accepted it and rejoiced! Ahhh, I want more heroes like Sam!!!

Alva was another thing entirely! She's terrified and rightly so! After the disastrous marriage, the cruel husband and his deplorable family, the filth she was heaped upon without being guilty of anything, she has every reason to be cautious and even terrified!

I loved Sam even more because he as intelligent enough to understand Alva and support her in a very subtle way! He kept her unbalanced with his outrageous statements, the way he jumped from one argument to another completly different! It way wonderful!!!

The ghost story only adds to the enjoyment! It was heartbreaking how the poor Rose was treated! If I was treated like that my ghost would have been much more cruel and vindictive!!!

But even without the ghost the story is wonderful!

The secondary characters are fantastic as well! Sam's family and his friend/adopted brother Henry were wonderful too! Sam's family is hilarious: like a mad-scientist dream! They act and speak in such a wonderfully innocently intelligent way that I wanted to hug them all!

I loved it very, very much and I'll be looking forward to more books by this author!
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,258 reviews273 followers
April 21, 2020
Ultimately choppy for me. Probably because the plot underpinning the romance was terribly lackluster for me. The romance overlaying the plot then had no grit or tension, really. It left me feeling this was unbalanced and didn't have a strong pull for me. It was like stop & go traffic, and I never found my groove despite two lovely characters and sparkling light writing.
Profile Image for Blackjack.
422 reviews143 followers
November 3, 2019
4.5 (A-)

I stopped just short of giving this a full five stars, but mainly for some minor issues that niggled at me. Otherwise, this is a pretty fabulous debut in a year when debut novels are getting tons of high marks.

The plot is straightforward: Alva Webster is a widow returned to her hometown after lurid, scandalous reports surfaced that she enjoyed a wild party life in Paris when she abandoned her abusive marriage. After her husband dies in an unseemly robbery late one night at a casino, Alva avoids being fingered for his murder but does not escape the taint of her husband's false accusations. Professor Samuel Moore and his eccentric and famous family just happen to be living temporarily in the same town as Alva, and despite warnings of caution from well-meaning friends, nothing is going to stop Sam from trying to cozy up to the beautiful widow who captures his attention the moment he lays eyes on her. In the middle of their relationship is a ghost story and a haunted house, and while the hauntings were entertaining, I found that the yin and yang romance between a reserved and grumpy woman and a gregarious and relentlessly cheerful man the big draw of this book.

Grumpy heroes are a thing in romances, but so few authors are able to pull off the grumpy heroine for all sorts of culturally sexist views that women must be nurturing and "likeable." Alva is neither of those things, but I found her profoundly appealing and a heart-wrenching mixture of vulnerable and determined. Sam is a bit more complicated; on the surface he is absurdly optimistic and absent-minded to a fault. However, he sees through Alva's defenses and surmises the abuse she has suffered long before she's willing to share her experiences with him. For some reason I also had difficulty picturing him as a sexual man early in the novel, but when things heat up between them, he's as sexy as any hero I've encountered. He is the epitome of kindness and gentleness - until he's not and is willing to fight enemies for Alva's protection. He's an erudite engineering professor completely absorbed in his world of experimentation, but his ability to banter and joke around is parallel to none. In fact, Alva's and Sam's banter is maybe the best feature of the book. I might pick Sam as my favorite hero of the year.

The haunting of Rose House is intriguing, but for readers of horror or even paranormal stories, it's light on the chills. The ghost story has a satisfying and deeply feminist center to it though that intersects nicely with Alva's own life story.

Minor deductions for some slow pacing in the second half and a feeling that at times the romance and the haunting are not integrated in the second half as well as they could be. I was a little surprised too by how tidily Alva and Sam resolve some thorny issues between them in the conclusion. Truly wonderful epilogue though!

This is a book filled with terrific secondary characters, including the charismatic Henry (fingers crossed Biller decides to create a romance for him). I found this book a deeply romantic page turner and highly recommend it!
Profile Image for June Hur.
Author 5 books1,446 followers
October 11, 2019
It's almost Halloween and as I've been telling everyone, this spooky historical romance will go well with pumpkin spice latte and maybe some autumn scented candles. It's a book that will make you laugh so hard, cry as hard, and also make you hold your breath in suspense.

THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE is among one of the best book I've read in YEARS, and this is saying a lot coming from me - an incredibly picky reader. I can't tell you how many books I've stopped reading after the first chapter because the prose wasn't my style, or because the tone and atmosphere of the book wasn't my cup of tea. But THIS book - it has everything I love.

It's a book I'd even pick up to reread every autumn. Maybe I'll make it a tradition...
Profile Image for Leigh Kramer.
Author 1 book1,173 followers
October 21, 2020
10/14/20: Re-read this delight of a story because I needed another dose of Sam. Loved it just as much the second time around!

This was one of those books where I knew I loved it within a few pages. Where I had to text my friends who had already read it so I could tell them how much I loved it and then I texted other friends to tell them they needed to read it. Where my love for the story only continued to grow as I read and I marveled at the story I was experiencing. Where I immediately knew I was going to have to buy my own copy since I was borrowing it from the library.

So, yes. I absolutely loved this one. My heart grew three sizes whenever I picked it back up to read. When I first heard about this story, I didn’t think it was for me. The cover is rather misleading and I’m not much of a ghost story person. But friend after friend raved about it and Aarya’s wonderful review for Smart Bitches sealed the deal. I’m so glad I gave it a chance!

First, let’s talk about our heroine Alva. I admired her so much. She was failed by everyone in her life, first her parents in marrying her off to an abusive jackhole, and then the man she married, who was only using her for her wealth. She endured the relationship for 10 years before leaving him and he still made her life hell, spreading all kinds of lascivious rumors. Then luckily he died. There are references to the abuse throughout the story so bear that in mind if that is a trigger for you. I was very relieved Alain was dead, although she still has to deal with his vile brother so she’s not fully free of that family.

Liefdehuis is her chance to start over. She has a contract to write an interior design book, in spite of her notoriety. Her interior design philosophy and even learning about the history of interior design, especially upper vs middle class, was so fascinating. Things seem like they’re finally moving in the right direction…only there’s a ghost and now the workers refuse to come near the house. She doesn’t want to ask Sam for help but she has no other option and spending time around him makes her want to hope for more. But it’s such a big risk and Alva doesn’t think she can do it, no matter how much light he brings into her life. The angst of this!

Alva then decides it’s okay to do a little something for herself and suggests they have an affair. But he already knows he’s in love with her and tells her so and that she can have more than what she’s settling for if only she’ll try. But she’s too scared and I totally understood why! He said he was going to believe in a happily ever after for her until she could believe it for herself. Hello, swoon!

He was the purest heart. Alva deserved to be loved by him, even if she didn’t believe love was real. What a gift to watch the evolution of their relationship. And that doesn’t even include the steamy scenes. There are only a couple but they are worth their weight in gold. The anticipation! Sam describing what he wants to do to her! Alva finally experiencing a good lover! Use of contraception in a historical romance! I was here for all of it.

It’s no surprise Sam stole my heart. He’s a sunshiny dream and my absolute catnip. I had forgotten how much I love absent-minded professors/oblivious-to-their-handsomeness-heroes. At 7% in, a maid sighed as he walked in the house and he was like, "aw, she's glad she's back inside where it's warm.” It cracked me up! I was one smitten kitten and he proceeded to win me—and Alva—over time again as the story proceeded. Sam has had a very easy life and it’s hard for him to fully understand what she’s overcome and what is on the line. But he’s so good and patient with her, upfront about his feelings but not pushy. And that patience pays off in the end and I was so happy for them both.

Concerning the ghost, there are a couple of scenes where characters are haunted, one of which did freak me out. I am a wimpy reader and this stayed on the acceptable side of freaked out for me. It helped that Sam was so curious about the ghost and wanted to know more about it and that he had no fears for the ghost to use against him. I really appreciated how the ghost story was resolved and found it to be rather moving. It tied together really well with the story as a whole.

I saw this described as a romcom in the marketing copy (blerg) and I wouldn’t go that far. But there is some great humor throughout, especially when Sam’s marvelous family is on the page. I am very interested in stories for his siblings and for his best friend Henry. It made me laugh out loud a couple of times. But mostly, this was just a super enjoyable reading experience and I will be highly recommending it everywhere.

CW: past domestic violence, ghost, institutionalization (secondary character), mental health, threats of violence, past gaslighting, ableist language
Profile Image for Lacey.
224 reviews33 followers
August 28, 2019
I won this book through goodreads' first reads.

First off, this is not historical fiction. I only know of its existence because of its placement on a "Historical Fiction 2019" goodreads list, but while it is set in the past all the characters are completely fictional and there's not much historical accuracy to their behavior. You can reference suffragettes in passing but when your characters all act like they'd fit right in at the local coffee shop . . . it doesn't work for me.

So, after moving past the minor bait and switch, the story itself is relatively charming. The characters are fun and while I don't know that I'd call the dialogue "as crisp as a new apple" like the quote on the front cover does, I was entertained. I have to admit, I was more interested in the haunted house than I was in the romance and sadly the plot is more about the romance, but it's well written if you're in to that. Two sex scenes, and the first one kind of comes out of nowhere (there's no indication that this is "that kind of book" before it suddenly is) and is rather . . . detailed. Graphic doesn't seem like quite the right word in this case, although I can't quite put my finger on why. It does ultimately serve to move the plot along, so I can't call it gratuitous (less so the much shorter second scene) but I do have to question whether it really needed to fill (*grabbing book to check* . . . ) roughly thirty pages spread out in to three chapters. It's like the book doesn't know whether it wants to be a harlequin bodice ripper or a more serious historical romance and the reader gets to watch its identity crisis.

Plot-wise, the climax (pun sort of intended) and denouement happen too late and too fast . . . wow, second half of that pun not intended lol. It's sort of a lot of build up for not much payoff and then it just . . . stops. Plot A fixed. Plot B Fixed. Plot C fixed. Unsatisfying epilogue set a year later that's just annoying. Fifteen pages out of 330. Hope you didn't want more.

Like I said, for what it is, it's charming. I was just expecting more, so I was left disappointed.
Profile Image for Teenie.
68 reviews42 followers
January 8, 2021
I was not expecting to love this as much as I did! I was completely immersed in this story. The gothic romance set in the 1800s gave me chills. I loved the dark ghostly gothic atmosphere. The characters were complicated and I was thoroughly engaged wanting to hear more. I didn’t want it to end. I devoured it and I was still hungry for more. I hope the author writes more intoxicating stories like this!❤️💜❤️
Profile Image for Karen.
805 reviews1,011 followers
November 29, 2019

“You can have more,” he said softly. “It’s all out there. But you have to reach out and take it.”

Excellent debut. I absolutely loved these characters. A delightful mystery/romance. Fantastic love scenes, even though they were few and far between. Sam, Sam, Sam... loved this guy. Sweet but fierce. I even loved Alva, through her moments of self sacrifice. I will look forward to reading more from this author .
Profile Image for Mari.
705 reviews5,026 followers
July 21, 2022

4.5 stars.

I'm not sure if I'm in a really generous mood or if I'm having great luck picking books, but I loved this?

Why you may not love this: I think the biggest complaints I saw boiled down to two things. 1- People wanted or expected more of a ghost story. This is spooky-light and truly the ghosts are the background and the reason that our two main characters, Sam and Alva, are brought together. They aren't the star of the show. 2- Some of the details or speech felt modern and took people out of the story.

< b>Why I loved this: 1- I'm a scaredy cat and love supernatural elements in the background and romance at the foreground and 2- I don't care about/didn't notice the modernity.

Typically, when I'm reading historical romance, it's Regency romance. It was great to be set a bit away from that and in the States. I also loved the premise of this book and the weird twist it gave to a widow trying to make it on her own story. It gave her an interior decorating job and a ghost! Honestly, we love to see it.

Sam and Alva's dynamic was fantastic. Sam is right up my alley as a love interest: a big mountain man who is squishy inside, kind, considerate, respectful of Alva and her boundaries, but with a will of his own. His happiness and warmth and the extra background of his high energy family are the perfect opposite for Alva. I appreciated that this was a story of learning how to trust post a failed (and abusive) relationship. My heart went out to Alva and her unnamed but very present PTSD. She's the character who holds herself a little more aloof, but you still invest feelings in her because you understand from her story why she behaves the way she does. These two were great and their story left me with a little fiction hangover.

This was a strong, entertaining debut and a new author to follow!

Profile Image for Chloe Liese.
Author 18 books6,529 followers
January 2, 2021
What a beautiful, poignant romance—I highly recommend!

With elements of the gothic (a decrepit house that embodies the struggles of our heroine, a ghost haunting it whose painful childhood shares parallels with the heroine, and a local lore of fear and gruesome cruelty that isolates this property from the town), delightful details of Gilded Age New York, a truly villainous brother in law, and a romance between two people whose upbringings couldn’t have been more different The Widow of Rose House was a gentle, engaging love story with just enough unsettling ghostly elements generating conflict and suspense to keep me invested but not so much so that the joy of Sam and Alva’s romantic journey was overshadowed.

The love scenes, the discussions of trust, the work of healing, the perspective of people whose lives have been hard in the way Alva’s has, the rare beauty of a loving, supportive family like Sam’s, all made this an engaging, feel-good, engrossing romantic story. I’m excited to see if other characters from this world (Benedict? Henry and Maggie?) get their own stories—if so I will absolutely be reading!!
Profile Image for Christina ~ Brunette Reader.
187 reviews309 followers
June 20, 2021

I’m not an uncompromising stickler for historical accuracy (though the more evocatively a historical romance author can write the better), but this one felt way too contemporary even by the most forgiving frame of mind: in the attitudes, the interactions, the dialogues, the romance...
The hero was a nice, easygoing type and there were some touches of humour but, as I said, with the total lack of atmosphere and the not so grabbing Gothic sub-plot it was not enough for making it an enjoyable read for me.
Profile Image for nick (the infinite limits of love).
2,120 reviews1,348 followers
January 5, 2021
I loved this book so much. Sam is easily one of my favorite male characters to ever be written. I anticipate re-reading this one a million times in the future.
Now, who do I bribe for Benedict and Maggie/Henry's books???
Thank you to Aarya for the recommendation!
Profile Image for Lisa Leone-campbell.
448 reviews44 followers
October 2, 2019
Infamous widow Alva Webster decides to buy a run-down house in 1800’s New York. Having had to endure horrible rumors during her marriage and with her husband now dead, she decides it’s time to start over with a brand new life so hopefully her notoriety will wane. She has already gotten herself a book deal, unheard of during the time for a woman, in which she will chronicle the restoration and decoration of the house. But when her contractor and his laborers refuse to continue their work on the house because of ghosts she sees her new life begin to crumble.

Enter Dr. Samuel Moore, a well-known scientist who takes a liking to not only finding the ghosts but to our lovely widow Alva. Moore, who is a bit eccentric, comes from a family of scientists and doctors and must convince Alva that he can scientifically figure out how to talk to the ghosts, hence send them on their merry way. Alva, for her part is done with love, and doesn’t particularly believe in ghosts. Having just come out of a horrible marriage she does not want anything to do with the doctor romantically, although she must admit he is adorable.

Sam has other ideas. Although unconventional himself, he realizes Alva is his soul-mate. Now he just has to persuade her of this realization! But, while falling in love, they must also try and solve the mystery as to who is haunting the house and why.

The Widow of Rose House is an adorably romantic funny ghost story which although takes place during the 1800’s has themes that ring true even in today’s world. I would love to see more adventures of Alva and Sam!

Thank you so much to #NetGalley #St.Martin’sGriffin #DianaBiller #TheWidowofRoseHouse for the advanced copy. The book will be out October 8.
Profile Image for Natasha is a Book Junkie.
682 reviews7,438 followers
September 6, 2019
“Love isn’t naïve, Alva. It’s hope, and it’s faith, and it can outlast buildings and wars and empires.”

I’m forever on the lookout for stories that are not only well-written and deeply romantic, but that are also fresh, textured, unique and wonderfully quirky in their own way, so when I stumble upon a book that ‘ticks’ ALL the boxes—a book that is as quietly unsettling as it is tender, as emotionally gripping as it is witty—I get all giddy inside. A ghost-hunting adventure and sweeping romance in equal parts, and peppered with moments of breath-holding tension, it amazes me that this Gilded Age gem of a story is a debut effort. It’s a moving, evocative, beautifully told and, at times, chilling read, and even when I desperately wanted to speed ahead to find out what happens in the end, I made myself savour every exquisite last word of it.

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Profile Image for Deanne Patterson.
1,826 reviews88 followers
January 10, 2020
This book!!!!!!!!!! Swoonworthy doesn't even begin to describe the emotions I had as I read this book!
Let's start with the cover shall we, gorgeous I say? It says gothic to me.
"Only Love can light up the dark"

From the back cover,

Gilded Age New York
A Gothic mansion
A woman shadowed by a tragic past
The man who loves her

This book is absolutely not to be missed! Though written by a debut author it is one of the best I've ever read, I was memorized by it. Swept away in it's current of madness this gothic historical romance .A scandalous widow in New York,the rebuilding of a crumbling mansion ,rumbles of haunting,an eccentric genius, with his scientific background he's enchanted with the mysterious mansion and it's beautiful owner.Slow burn sensual romance,dark truths revealed as the house's history is explored.I could not stop reading this absolutely fabulous. I really can't wait to see what this author puts out next.

Published October 8th 2019 by St. Martin's Griffin I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you.
All opinions expressed are my own.-
Profile Image for Carol.
1,310 reviews219 followers
October 26, 2019
5++++ stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
What a fabulous read!!!!
Such a fascinating Historical Romance with a built in ghost story. I totally loved and adored this book.
It was captivating, well written with a wonderfully thought out and unique storyline .
Sam, what a hero!!! Smart, humble, funny and charming.
Alva, so fierce - a survivor, bent but not broken.
I really admired her "character".

This is a new favorite for me, it was also a very memorable read. One of the best books that I have read this year!!! I will definitely be adding it to my future rereads pile.

ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
And hugs and kisses to "Natasha is a Book Junkie" for turning me onto this sublime read.
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Profile Image for Mara.
1,556 reviews3,761 followers
March 20, 2021
~3.5 stars -- This hit most of the beats I like in a historical (cinnamon bun scientist hero is enough for me, tbh) and a couple of extra elements that I don't see all the time (a gothy/haunted house in the US and not in the Regency), so while this wasn't the most memorable book I've read in the genre, it was a perfectly fun time
Profile Image for b.andherbooks.
2,089 reviews924 followers
October 20, 2020
A widow trying make a new life and write an interior design book escaping an abusive husband finds out the house she has purchased to fulfill her dreams is haunted. The only way forward is to allow the pesky, nerdy, and sexy inventor who's been begging her to investigate the phenomenon into her life, and perhaps into her heart.

Delightfully swoon worthy and full of tender moments, this is a gothic-lite romance perfect for the Fall spooky season. I was absolutely thrilled when I discovered this is also quite steamy. I've never read such an absolutely sexy scene where a lover knows to stop and re-check in for consent (CW panic attacks). My heart grew five times.

Also, I adored Sam, his family, and their messiness and their heart, and how much love they immediately gave to Alva. She's so lonely and so deserving of love and it was truly beautiful to see.

The overall mystery with the ghosts was so inconsequential to me personally because the romance was just that good.

CW: domestic violence, threats of violence, gas-lighting (none of these by the hero), atmospheric scariness, panic attacks, sex (consensual)

Re-read in 2020 and I bumped up my 4-Star review to a full 5 because I just love this darn book so much. Sam is such an amazing romance hero, he just sparkles on the page, and oh, I'm so glad my dear Alva is wrapped up in her perfect HEA with him.

This also remains the best example of a love interest stopping sex as soon as they notice their partner dissociating. What fantastic example of consent and care, and I urge everyone to read this for it.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 69 books971 followers
October 11, 2019
Ohhhhh did I love this book! It's so utterly delicious. I preordered just because of the basic concept (Gothic Victorian American ghost story slash rom com) combined with stellar early reviews - but then the moment I started reading, I fell head over heels in love.

The characters are just SO wonderful. I adored Alva, the scandalous widow (who left her abusive husband before his death and has been shunned by society and her own family ever since). She is grouchy and stubborn and smart and secretly kind and an utterly fabulous heroine in every way. I loved Professor Samuel Moore, the wonderfully absent-minded scientist who's also incredibly sweet and gentle and knows exactly how amazing Alva really is. And I laughed out loud with pure delight in every scene with his full family, because they're AMAZING. I am such a sucker for great families in fiction! And the Moores are my favorite fictional family in ages. I loved every single member of that family and I'd love to read sequels starring any of them.

The ghost story itself started out interesting, became genuinely spooky, and then had a fabulous twist that I won't reveal - but which moved me really deeply. The themes in this whole book are just beautiful - and the ending made me tear up in the best possible way.

I can't wait for whatever Diana Biller writes next!
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,041 reviews3,439 followers
March 27, 2021
The Widow of Rose House is a slightly gothic romance following a notorious widow who buys a haunted house and an engineer who also researches paranormal activity. I say slightly gothic because while there is a haunted house, this didn't quite give me as much atmosphere as I was hoping for and then ending felt...a little too straightforward and tied up very neatly.

Our heroine is dealing with trauma from a past abusive relationship and I appreciated what the author was trying to do with this arc of healing and finding love with someone gentle and kind. I liked what the book wanted to do, but honestly I never fully bought into the romance. It came together so quickly I had trouble believing it was really "love" especially given the history of the heroine. I did like the hero, he's nerdy and funny and sweet. I had a reasonably good time with the book, but it didn't quite come together for me in the way I hoped it might. I love gothic romances, but for a book with an old haunted house, it was remarkably un-creepy. Also the sex scenes were....too long and kind of cringey at times. I can't put my finger on why but this just didn't work for me.

Content warnings include flashbacks to domestic violence, mention of sexual assault, and discussions of children being put in asylums and abuse in asylums.
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