Thirty Six and a Half Motives, Denise Grover Swank

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Ah, it’s been a long and fascinating journey travelling with Rose Gardner from the downtrodden 24 year old girl to the brave, mystery solving 25 year old woman who has a tendency to find, and solve, trouble. And Denise Grover Swank certainly didn’t disappoint with this novel – I was on tenterhooks most of the way through, and despite the many surprises in the previous 8 books, there were plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing!

Caution! Spoilers!

Rose is finally single! As much as I appreciate Grover Swank’s development of Rose as an independent young woman, she has always been too dependent on being loved and manipulated by the men in her life. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Mason. He is wonderful and kind and absolutely wrong for Rose. Joe was always a source of contention for me. And James (Skeeter) Malcolm, well, let’s just say that’d never work out. No, Rose and Neely-Kate are perfectly capable of striking out on their own, and I think this was an appropriate end to the series.

The Simmons family is all wrapped up. About time too, let’s be honest, since JR was the cause of Rose’s and Joe’s break up many, many books ago. Every mystery was solved – Rose’s father, the father of Hilary’s baby, Kate’s reason for seeking revenge… I question the pure evil that Grover Swank creates in the character of JR, who shows no remorse, or fear or restraint and who can only be defeated by being killed. I’m not sure I appreciate the one dimensional nature of his character – grasping constantly for money and control. However, Kate’s descent into madness is well represented, and the reasons for it were well hidden up until the end. Hilary’s changes seemed temperamental and entirely dependent on who she was talking to, but you were able to develop some sympathy for her. Only Joe really came out on top. He finally let Rose go, he was making an effort to be a better person to Hilary, and he saved Rose in the final showdown. That said, I wouldn’t want to be associated with any of them!

Overall I just feel a little deflated. I adored the original few Rose Gardner novels, but I think I’m done with her now. I have found with Grover Swank’s other novels that they are often very similar, following on mildly different story lines, and I loved Rose because she stood out. But now Rose is following the same pattern within her own novels, and the idea of a mystery series is very… Nancy Drew. One of the things I really loved was Rose’s visionary abilities, but these never really came up in this novel, except to save Jed’s life, and I don’t think they’re really going to shine in a mystery solving series. So, as much as I’ve enjoyed the novels, I am done for now, though I think that as a mystery series, if Grover Swank can focus on the crime solving, then Rose will do well with a teenage audience.

The one person in the novel who really deserves a shout out is Skeeter Malcolm! He is an in depth, likable antagonist, a man with many layers and loyalty. Aside from Rose, I really feel like he was the only character fully explored by Grover Swank to the greatest depth. His development from when we first met him to his final interaction with Rose was well crafted and thought through.

The series, and the author, have lost their shine for me a bit. It doesn’t help that as kindle publishing authors, she releases several ‘novellas’ which you should be able to cope without but which always hold important information before the next novel comes out. It’s all a bit too commercial for me.

Grover Swank’s writing style is clear and simple, and she builds suspense well. Her protagonists are always well developed and her stories always have an interesting and unexpected twist.

Thanks for 9 books of Rose Gardner. I’m glad that she’s finally able to stand on her own two feet.

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