Roses, a sleepy, weepy saga of love, war, and tragedy set in the fictional East Texas town of Howbutker, has all the ingredients to make San Antonio’s Leila Meacham a big seller indeed: feuding families, breathless liaisons, tainted inheritances, and a bit of dirty dealing. In her first novel since the eighties, the erstwhile schoolteacher has her way with readers’ emotions—she elicits tears here, scowls there—in this multigenerational tale of the Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts, who build fortunes between 1836 and 1985 as cotton planters, lumbermen, and department store magnates, respectively. In the 1930’s, the families’ intertwined fates are permanently changed by an affair between Mary Toliver and Percy Warwick, who won’t marry each other because her obsession with her family’s plantation conflicts with his insistence that lumbermen’s wives do not plant cotton. Ollie DuMont, perhaps the most unflappable Frenchman in all of fictiondom, is the intercessor who calms the roiling waters—until decades later, when secrets bubble to the surface. There are few surprises in Roses, and Meacham’s work will not be confused with great art. But it delivers epic feeling and unadulterated entertainment, and if it flies out of bookstores, well, more power to her. Grand Central, $24.99
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