Review: “Darling Rose Gold” by Stephanie Wrobel

Author: Stephanie Wrobel
Publication Date: March 17th 2020
Genre: Mystery Thriller, Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads

Synopsis

Sharp Objects meets My Lovely Wife in this tightly drawn debut that peels back the layers of the most complicated of mother-daughter relationships…

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she’s forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling…

And she’s waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

From Goodreads

Review

TLDR; a sick and twisted guilty pleasure dueling revenge story.

When I saw this book pop up in my inbox a few days ago, I knew I was going to have to get it. I’m not as much a fan of the cover style as I would have been a couple years ago, but the summary sounded fascinating. Two family members wrenched into a power dynamic, each alternating between reconciliation and a yearning for revenge? Sign me up!

The story was just as sick and twisted as I expected – the perfect guilty pleasure read. I finished it in an evening and it was the perfect distraction from all the news and social media going on right now. As anticipated from a former copywriter turned author the book was well-written and entertaining with a good twist at the end. Yet despite how much I enjoyed it, I felt only somewhat fulfilled when finished. It’s not a book that leaves you glowing and happy at the end. Given the description it could hardly be. The central themes itself are topics you feel wrong enjoying – abuse, revenge, conflict. It’s hard to feel warm fuzziness in your heart when the story behind it all is driven by hurt and hatred. I want to affirm, however, I still really enjoyed the book – just don’t expect a clean, happy ending.

Jumping over to the characters now, I found them well-formed with pretty believable backstories. They elicited natural empathy in some cases, appropriate disdain in others. I can’t necessarily say I had a favorite, though Rose Gold was holding steady at the head for the first half of the book or so until falling off. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say as the book progressed it felt like watching a train wreck in slow motion. As for the mother it would have felt wrong to like her, but I did at times feel bad for her despite the situation. The book was light on other characters, though some surprise ones popped up as the story continued on.

Though this book and the character interactions didn’t seem especially deep while reading (as I sometimes find with thrillers) if you pause to go one level deeper there’s a slightly more complex series of moral questions. Obviously the backstory about Patty’s mothering decisions regarding her daughter is disturbing, but how much of it is fueled by genuine delusion and psychotic drive to feel needed? Does that impact our consideration for the mother? (Not to mention the mother has a backstory of her own we discover later on.) Through the story Rose Gold attempts to build a new, fulfilling life out on her own. Should her cringe-worthy and sometimes harmful social escapades be held against her?

Darling Rose Gold has been getting plenty of great press on various sites accompanying its recent release (e.g. Publishers Weekly, amazonbookreview.com, theuncorkedlibrarian.com…). Goodread’s 7 Great Books Hitting Shelves This Week suggests You should read this book if you like: Mysteries, thrillers, suspense, complicated mother-daughter relationships, Freudian weirdness, delayed justice, sweet revenge”. I’d like to second that suggestion and add while the suspense wasn’t as intense as other books, I found the mystery and dueling revenge plot very clever, unique, and certainly worth picking up if you’re looking for an interesting next read.

As a side note for fellow psychology nerds, this book centers around what many refer to as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP), known in the official DSM-5 as Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (300.19/F68.10).

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