Erryn reviews ‘Girl with the Rose Tattoo’ by Larry Weiss. Ebook published on April 8, 2020 and is 359 pages. The audiobook was released April 1, 2021, is narrated by Cat Protano and is 10hrs and 18min. A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book: I wanted to try someone new.
Being Rob Crawley’s old lady requires an inner strength that Tina Douglas lacks. The perfect, red Mary Magdalene rose inked on the nape of her neck becomes a touchstone in times of stress and anxiety, which are many.
Tina views her future as bleak and dire and sees herself trapped “in a web of her own making”. Rob, a full-patch member of the Cascade Warriors MC, dominates almost every aspect of her life, but he allows Tina one freedom: the opportunity to attend Valley Secondary School and complete her high school education, which she believes will lead to a brighter future.
By commencement day, Rob regrets his decision and takes Tina’s graduation as an affront. He perceives his image with fellow gang members tarnished and plots his revenge.
On the evening of the graduation dinner dance, Rob insists they leave the party early. He spirits Tina off to an isolated cabin in the hills at the south end of Stoney Lake. What transpires there sends her life into a tailspin until fate intervenes, and she crosses paths with Jenny Travis. Jenny becomes Tina’s protector, ally, mentor, and best friend, helping her face the unrelenting vengeance of Rob and his henchmen.
I’ve struggled a bit with this review, searching for the right words. I’ll start with what I loved about this book – the thriller aspect. I was on my seat for a good part of the book – especially the last quarter. And this book hasn’t been marketed as a romance, so I didn’t have a guaranteed happy ending. There were a few times I wondered which way it’d go.
This book takes place around 1984 to 1985. I was just about to become a teenager so all the pop culture references made sense to me. The book is also set in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley – where I live now. So, again, references that grounded me. Even if you’re not familiar with the area, Valley High School is like every other high school. The town is pretty average.
What wasn’t average was the characters. Christina Douglas – Tina to her friends – is one strong young woman. When she finds herself pregnant at just eighteen, she has to make some really tough decisions. The first is whether to stay with her jerk of a boyfriend. Well, he actually decides he doesn’t want her so she’s back on the streets. But she finds a way to deal.
Then, the night she’s giving birth, she meets Jenny. Their destinies are entwined because of a celestial event, and a strong friendship forms. Then there’s Tina’s case worker Nella. Nella is thirty-five to Tina’s eighteen. There’s a tremendous power imbalance and whatever relationship that forms is completely inappropriate. But each is using the other so I guess that makes it okay…? I was approached to review the book because I read and review LGBTQ books. There’s plenty of homophobia in this book – but there’s also Tina’s sexual awakening. I’m just not sure she’s with the right people to help her through this journey and I’m also never quite sure if she becomes a lesbian because she wants to or because she has to – for self-preservation.
Like I said, I wasn’t sure how the book was going to end. But I found the ending satisfying, so that was something.
There were a few minor technical issues with the recording but they were minor. There were also some weird point of view shifts that didn’t work for me, but that’s an artistic choice.
I liked that Tina grew into her own despite her rough circumstances. This is a gritty coming of age story that I’m glad I took the time to listen to. I will say I thought Cat Protano was the perfect narrator for this story and I enjoyed her performance.
This is a good debut novel and I’ll be interested to see where the author goes next.
8.5/10 Pots of Gold (85% Recommended) – Compares to 4.25/5 Stars