the red book of primrose house

3.5 stars
Texan transplant Pru (Prunella) Parke was offered and accepted the position of head gardener at Primrose House in Sussex. Using the famous Red Book of Humphry Repton, Pru’s mission is to restore the gardens to their former glory. Hiring Pru, versus the local applicant, has created tension and bad feelings locally. Are those feelings strong enough to justify the murder of one of Pru’s crew?

THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE (Potting Shed Mystery #2) was my introduction to Pru and Christopher.

Pru is half English (mother) and Texan (father). Her mother’s stories about England created a yearning in Pru, from a young age, to live in England. She finally makes the leap and at the end of #1 is offered the head gardener post at Primrose House ensuring her stay in England.
There’s a lot I like and enjoy about Pru.
Her maturity, she’s fifty-four.
Her work ethic, gardening isn’t easy work but it does have numerous benefits physical and mental.
She’s intelligent, has a sense of humor and is courageous. Not many people would pull up stakes leaving everything behind and move to another country.
Now here is what bewildered me about Pru. Feeling an affinity for another country or place when you’ve grown up hearing stories about it and experiencing many of its traditions is understandable. There’d naturally be a desire to see and experience it yourself. What’s hard to fathom is why Pru would want to suppress her Texan. She pretty much has the British reserve down with the exception of a cry or two. These lapses are completely understandable given the circumstances. What I didn’t see was any real evidence of the justifiably famous Southern warmth and charm. On the contrary, she tries to keep Texas from her speech and hides to drink ice tea? Why? Is there an attempt to explain this in the first book?

Christopher Pearce, Pru’s fella. Christopher is a DCI at the Met in London. He’s handsome, intelligent, and not the least reserved when with Pru. They have the weekends but soon discover that isn’t enough. Nor is he close enough to suit him when the garden vandalism incidents begin. He’s aware of Pru’s penchant for getting involved and the danger that can entail. His protective streak is endearing, even more so as he can’t always be there or fix everything. His feelings obviously run deeply. There’s no shortage of passion and intensity between these two.

THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE is the only mystery I can recall where the prologue is the murder from the victims point of view. The first chapter then pre-dates the murder giving the reader a unique perspective. This literary device actually made it easier for me to suss out the who in whodunit. The secondary characters are well developed. However, taking into account the ending of THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE and the nature of Pru’s work these appear likely to change each book, with a few exceptions of course.
THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE is an entertaining niche cozy liberally laced with clever red herrings and a mature protagonist who is taking life by the horns and giving it her all. The gardening details combined with the historical aspect of the Red Books and their author is especially interesting. Personally speaking, historical additions always make a good read better.
Reviewed for Miss Ivy’s Book Nook Take II & Manic Readers

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