Karla's Reviews > The Heart of the Rose

The Heart of the Rose by Kathryn Meyer Griffith
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(This review is for the original 1985 edition. The author has revised it, so if you want to read it, I'd go with the new version. I have since read the revision and didn't think it had been re-written that much. But, as my review for the revision indicates, there is plenty of personal bias that affected my rating and review.)
Where. To. Start? This was the biggest Mary Sue story that I've ever read, in or out of fanfiction. It wasn't even the rather good kind where stuff happens in an interesting way to offset the ramped-up goody twoshoes heroine and twee perfection of her every body function. It didn't even have some good WTFery to make it entertaining, a cardinal sin for a bad book (in my humble opinion).

The story opens with a 13-year old Bronwyn witnessing the death of her father at the hands of a dark, menacing man wearing the new king's emblem. (No motive. Just a thrill killing, apparently.) She and her sisters are now orphans and in a bad spot. Bronwyn has been born with a healing gift and innate herbal lore (of course she has), Mary is the invalid, and the youngest Samantha (accurate 1460s name?) is the bubbly one. Bronwyn lives in constant fear of being called a witch because of her gift, although as the book progresses, she tends to blab about it to anybody who'll listen, just so she can then panic all over again.

She gets a job at an inn and pages are consumed by endless talking with the keeper's wife, Martha, who reminds Bronwyn of her dead mother. Bronwyn and her sisters, in turn, are immediately fiercely adopted by Martha and given a place to stay in the inn. So Bronwyn's now a provider for her sisters by singing and waiting on tables. Her nightingale voice immediately enchants a guy sitting there and through a very, very long and dragged out evening where a few things are repeated endlessly, she discovers that it's actually King Edward IV. Bad luck for her that at the same table is Edward's cousin, Warwick, who is also attracted by Bronwyn, but hates feeling any weakness so his only recourse is to break her and treat her like a lowly peasant wench. He's also the mean nasty who killed her dad.

The book had lost me earlier on, but it was the whole treatment of Warwick that really steamed my beans. The way the author treated him reminded me a lot of the way many fangirls treated Boromir of Gondor in their Lord of the Rings Mary Sue stories. Their story needed a villain, so they took a canon character who has flaws and turned him into a raging Snidley Whiplash who rapes and abuses. Warwick had his flaws of pride, ambition, and ego, and he worked with the deposed king's wife, Marguerite d'Anjou, to wrest the crown away from Edward. But to create the source of Warwick's and Edward's conflict in the body of a trite Mary Sue heroine was just....gah. Words fail. It's the kind of device that would earn you negative feedback or flames (and rightly so) on any fanfiction site.

Because the author didn't put much effort into making it a coherent or interesting book, I'll just let the rest of this review be a list of facepalming or annoying things that happened before I bailed at page 259. List is not complete because my memory is already rejecting it.

*Bronwyn is the reason why Edward takes a sudden interest in his poorer subjects. There are many thoughts and talks about being a peasant and the value of same.

*Warwick beats Bronwyn about the face thoroughly, though her bruises have nearly fully healed within 3 days.

*Bronwyn's healing gift (the laying on of hands type) can't be used on herself or those she loves (cue the reason why Edward can die in the book!)

*Bronwyn's only thought when she awakes to find herself in Edward's care is that she's ugly from her beating and doesn't want him to see her.

*The pace is agonizing. 259 pages, and the only things that happened was that Bronwyn got attacked by a stranger (it's Warwick), she gets a job (the same night), Edward falls in love with her (also the same night), Warwick abducts her (cue...the same night!), Edward finds her and takes her to London (ok, the next day ), she recovers under Edward's TLC (3 more days or so). 5 days to a week. Hardly any historical detail. Lots of Bronwyn fearing being called a witch, Bronwyn proudly saying she's a peasant, Edward calling her "flower-face" or "sweet nightingale", and Warwick calling her "bitch" or "wench" while lamenting his tenderness for her and his need to be mean.

*OK, I looked ahead for this one. Elizabeth Woodville is treated as badder than bad and meaner than mean and bitchier than bitchy. Just how does the whole dynamic between Bronwyn, Edward and Elizabeth shake out? Someone else can tell you. I'm not picking that book up again to find out.

*And finally, Bronwyn, from the ends of her glorious hair to the tips of her dainty toes. A Mary Sue of such raging severity matched only by tertiary syphilis.

Bad book. Bad. In every sense. And worse yet, boring.

(This book review has been provided by the No Book Left Behind Campaign! A Bodice Ripper Readers Anonymous group initiative to review the un-reviewed!)
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Reading Progress

May 14, 2010 – Shelved
June 7, 2010 –
page 53
11.04% "Ned's already smitten with the fair lass from across a smoky tavern. Her perfection has already been copiously described, as expected."
June 8, 2010 –
page 86
17.92% "The Speshul Snowflake makes another conquest, this time a stable groom: "Bronwyn had no idea how deeply he had fallen under her spell by the time they had reached their destination, didn't notice the adoring way he looked at her.""
June 8, 2010 –
page 90
18.75% "And her healing powers: "How could she tell Martha that her uncanny knowledge of herbs was something she had always known, that she could heal the sick with just a touch of her hand and that she always knew what to do with a sick person even though she had never had any real training or help?" Hmmm, I've read about an annoying twit like that recently."
June 8, 2010 –
page 111
23.13% "And now Warwick is choking The Speshul Snowflake in a tavern public room in front of Edward. A mixture of hatred and lust are fueling this little episode of WTFery."
June 9, 2010 –
page 120
25.0% "Pet Name Barfage Alert: "Why have you avoided me the whole night, flower-face?" Edward asked. "Have I truly offended you so much?""
June 9, 2010 –
page 131
27.29% "OK, Warwick was ambitious & no doubt a bit ruthless, but this?? [wallops heroine] "I'll tell you this only once, my sweet," he hissed. "You are my slave. My whore - bought and paid for with gold coins...do you remember now? And you will do exactly what I tell you to do or you will get more of the same, do you understand?" He slapped her across the face when she refused to answer, then knocked her to the ground."
June 11, 2010 –
0.0% "Bronwyn's disfiguring facial bruises from Warwick fade in 3 days, though she says she "can't heal myself or those I love." *barfs* *barfs again*"
January 31, 2012 – Started Reading (ebook Edition)
January 31, 2012 – Shelved (ebook Edition)
February 1, 2012 –
21.0% "If the author revised this, she didn't change much in the beginning. Pace still sluggish and I'm recalling a lot that was in the 1st version as well. Also, it's 1460-something and the names "Samantha" and "Jesse" are jarring. On a positive note, my increased consumption of romances since I first read this have re-calibrated my Mary Sue BS meter. Bronwyn isn't as annoying this go-round." (ebook Edition)
February 1, 2012 –
37.0% "Warwick is still a rapist who rides a horse called Devil. Whatever." (ebook Edition)
February 1, 2012 –
81.0% "Even gypsy girls aren't safe from the rapey Warwick. When I DNFd the original version of this, I had no idea that I had read the most interesting part of the book. Skimming bunches." (ebook Edition)
February 1, 2012 –
98.0% "And Richard of Gloucester rescues Bronwyn from being burned as a witch by marching in and whisking her off the burning pyre. Well, isn't that nice. At least something happened. Not complaining." (ebook Edition)
February 1, 2012 – Finished Reading (ebook Edition)

Comments (showing 1-36 of 36) (36 new)

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message 1: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Hehe, you mean another witch in Eddie's life besides that Melusine creature?

Karla He needed some Witch Kryptonite, the poor dearie!

message 3: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Think this might make good material for the Shelf of Shame?

message 4: by Karla (last edited May 31, 2010 09:17AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Karla Hmm, it might, although I'm more forgiving than you are. :D I'll move it up the TBR and dispatch it to you when I'm done. I'm sure your interest is piqued just a bit.

I do have a weakness for Mary Sues when I'm in the right mood. Total guilty pleasure.

Karla Although, maybe not so forgiving since Sandra Worth's stuff made me hurl. ;) Jury's still out on Anne Easter Smith since I haven't read it yet.

message 6: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Hehe, I'll look forward to it. Might have to send it on to Susan H. after that. This is her period after all.

message 7: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Which reminds me, I still have to get my hands on that other Betty Davidson book set during the reign of R3.

Karla Misfit wrote: "Which reminds me, I still have to get my hands on that other Betty Davidson book set during the reign of R3."

What ticks me off is so many romances start with R3 dying. Feh!

message 9: by Claire (new)

Claire I'm surprised Ed had time to be king with all these scheming women
wanting 'attention"

message 10: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I think the woman on the cover needed Aqua Net Kryptonite.

Anne Easter Smith's Kate is such a Mary Sue.

Karla Kelly wrote: "Anne Easter Smith's Kate is such a Mary Sue."

That's why I'm going to have to be in the right mood to read it. Otherwise, I'll be screaming.

message 12: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit I tried one of Easter Smith's books. Too much sugar and sweetness for me, it flew around page 100. I can't wait to read the review on this one.

Karla I have a feeling that the dark and dangerous man who nearly rapes her in the beginning is Warwick. Heh. I could be wrong, but my Spidey Sense is strong with this one.

message 14: by Claire (new)

Claire Does it feature a saintly Richard of Gloucester as well?

Karla No sign of him yet, but there's also been no real sign that this is 1463 England beyond "Edward is king and Warwick is his ally of dubious loyalty."

Lots of detail about the heroine's hair, figure, and overall stellar good looks, though, as well as her fierce love for her poor wee orphaned sisters. She's a paragon, I tells ya!

message 16: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Oh. My. God. I'm speechless.

Thanks for the laugh, and sorry you gave up before we find out what happens with R3. Dare I try it? Can my walls take it?

The biggest question of all, who is that person on Amazon giving it five stars for the greatest HF ever? I was scared for a minute it was going to be Klausner.

message 17: by Susan (new)

Susan Eek! Sounds like a classic for my unwritten, "The Wars of the Roses Were Fought for THIS?" list.

message 18: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Hehe, I'm thinking maybe Karla should send it to Susan instead of me :p

Karla The 5 star Ammy reviewer should be sentenced severely. No mercy for excruciatingly low standards.

message 20: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit I'm cracking up at all the bad things that happen in one night, I don't know why they do that. Same thing happened in that awful Conqueror book. I swear the castles were all right next to each other like the 'burbs. I was dying at how many they stopped at in one night in merry old England(let alone time for some great sex).

The Conqueror by Kris Kennedy

Karla I'm guilty of writing a fanfic where lots of crap goes down in one night, but 1) it was my first story, and 2) I didn't publish it. It's on the internet where it belongs. :P

I don't even mind if lots of stuff happen in one night. Just, you know, make it interesting! You'd die of boredom reading this book. I nearly did.

Karla I was racking my brains to verbalize just how bad this Mary Sue was, when I think I found it:

"A Mary Sue of such raging severity matched only by tertiary syphilis."

message 23: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Karla wrote: "I was racking my brains to verbalize just how bad this Mary Sue was, when I think I found it:

"A Mary Sue of such raging severity matched only by tertiary syphilis.""


message 24: by Susan (new)

Susan Are we treated to an evil Margaret of Anjou as well, or just an evil Elizabeth Woodville?

Karla I only saw Elizabeth when I flipped through to the end. If you feel sturdy enough to stomach it, I'll gladly send it along to you to find out about Marguerite. >:)

message 26: by Susan (new)

Susan Thanks, but I'll spare you the postage, since I can get it from a library. I might need time to get up my strength for this one anyway.

Karla I'm sure tequila would have made it go down easier, but I'm a cheapskate.

message 28: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit I think since Susan's getting her hands on the Weir book soon we'll have to cut her some slack. She'll need serious fortification for that one.

message 29: by Sarah Mac (new)

Sarah Mac Ok, I know very little detail about the historical era of this book -- only general "he's the king!" type stuff -- but I will grab a pitchfork & join your ranting about The Boromir Treatment. >____< I can't stand it when flawed characters are villainized for the sake of an easy-to-reach antagonist. *gag*

Karla I'm hoping that Warwick is de-villainized a bit in the revision, but so far so little has been changed (that I've noticed anyway) that I'm not hopeful. I'm pushing through this one today to get it done and certain people off my bloody back.

message 31: by Sarah Mac (new)

Sarah Mac Certainly not the attitude you want someone to have when they read your book... *cough*

message 32: by Karla (last edited Feb 01, 2012 01:20PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Karla No kidding. Can't help being pissy about it. Not in the mood for gracious nicey-nice.

message 33: by Willow (last edited Feb 14, 2013 11:36PM) (new)

Willow LOLOL This is a hilarious review! I suspect in some BRs the heroine would end up falling deeply in love with the evil Warwick.

message 34: by Sarah Mac (last edited Feb 14, 2013 11:14PM) (new)

Sarah Mac I re-read this review & the whole Boromir Treatment still makes me froth at the mouth. I don't care so much about Mary Sue Syndrome (many romance heroines are Sues; it comes with the territory), but I hate overly villainizing characters with flaws. *scowl* I'm partial to the flawed fighting-negative-instinct guys, so it never fails to piss me off.

Dear Boromir, Daryl, Pietro, Clint, Jamie Lannister, & anyone else I've forgotten: DON'T EVER CHANGE. I love you just the way you are.

Karla Thanks for resurrecting memories of this, you guys. :\ To this day, I still remember the glacial pacing.

message 36: by Sarah Mac (new)

Sarah Mac Not to mention the terrible 80s hair on that cover.

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