It’s one thing to be hated by strangers or coworkers, but when one of your own daughters describes you as a narcissistic bitch who was born without a soul, well, that makes a statement.
Truth is, it’s a fair statement about Sylvia, née Scarlet Rose; she’s a first class bitch who makes Joan “Mommie Dearest” Crawford look like June Cleaver.
During her heyday in the 60s Sylvia was a stunningly beautiful young woman who enchanted men as the stripper known as Scarlet Rose.
Time was not kind, however, and The Truth About Scarlet Rose finds Sylvia a washed-up, bitter woman living on alcohol, welfare, and “donations” from her daughter, Fiona… the same daughter Slyvia forced into stripping at age sixteen to help support the family.
When Sylvia’s ex-husband, Charlie, is found brutally murdered Fiona vows to do everything in her power to help catch whomever was responsible for killing the closest thing she ever had to a father. The more she digs into the family’s past, however, the more strange and sordid things get. And for every answer Fiona uncovers she unearths two more questions, the biggest of which is whether she will be able to discover the truth without being destroyed by it.
As those who’ve read No One to Hear You Scream can attest, author Julia Madeleine has a talent for creating characters so vividly real you find yourself almost unnaturally invested in their fate, be that hoping for their triumph or rooting for their downfall. The Truth About Scarlet Rose continues that tradition, in spades. Though Sylvia’s past is touched upon (and more fully explored in a prequel, Scarlet Sins) with hints at what turned her into such a bitter person, for the most part Madeleine makes no excuses for Sylvia’s behavior and does nothing to take the edge off the old battle-axe. No, Madeleine gleefully turns Sylvia loose, allowing her to hack her way through the lives of everyone she encounters, and raising readers’ hackles in the process. A more loathsome character I have not encountered in quite some time, and that’s saying something considering the nature of my typical reading.
Playing yin to Sylvia’s yang, however, is Fiona. And as deeply as you will loathe the mother you will root for the daughter, a young woman whose life was derailed before it could ever get started but who nevertheless continues to strive for something positive and happy in life. As soulful as Sylvia is soulless, Fiona is a heartbreakingly earnest character who provides The Truth About Scarlet Rose with its moral core. Which, murder mystery and intrigue aside, is what The Truth About Scarlet Rose is really about: morality. Why do people behave the way they do? What drives and motivates them? Can they be excused for certain behavior if one knows the roots of it, or should people be held to a higher standard no matter the outside pressures and influences?
The Truth About Scarlet Rose is a double dose of twisted, as the reader waits to see which will completely unravel first, the mystery or the family.
The Truth About Scarlet Rose is available at Amazon.
And be sure to read Julia’s guest post, “When The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction.”