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Katherine Kayne
Bound in Roses

Adult; Romance; (Market)

A red-hot Hawaiian romance blooms for a buttoned-up botanist who must learn to let go and embrace the ancient voice within her. After a failed engagement to a high-society suitor in San Francisco, Lokelani “Lucky” Letwin returns home to Hawaii, leaving her beloved rosebushes behind. She’s desperate to establish a life of her own—a daunting task for any unmarried female in the early twentieth century, but particularly for one passionate about plants. A stubborn, song-filled girl grown into an accomplished woman, Lokelani is haunted by a family tragedy. She is as reluctant to acknowledge her past as she is to accept the supernatural force building inside her, strong and inevitable. She is a mākāhā, a Gate, ever connected to the power of the land . . . if only she will admit it. In her quest to retrieve her roses, Lokelani is reunited with Artemus Chang, a childhood friend, who’s now a handsome and successful lawyer. As the spark between them grows, Artemus agrees to help her recover her roses, only to discover her kisses leave him literally breathless. When a mystical teacher—a kumu—enters her life, Lokelani's embrace of the voice of ancient power bubbling up within her—her leo—takes on a new urgency. Will Lokelani continue to be bound by guilt and fear? Or will she learn to bring together her worlds as a botanist and a Gate—a conduit able to channel the power of the ʻāina into the world—to sing once more and claim her love?
Kayne tells an evocative coming-of-age story rich in Hawaiian culture and underpinned by romance and gentle magic, set at the turn of the 20th century. Lokelani “Lucky” Letwin’s attempt to escape the family aftermath of an accident that left her mother unable to walk led her to a quick, botched engagement in California. Now Lokelani’s ex-fiance’s family has decided to keep and monetize the rose bushes that she developed and offered as an engagement gift rather than return them after the relationship’s dissolution. Lokelani’s excuse to go back to California and try to recover them: helping her brother’s fiancee with her own wedding arrangements. Emotions get complicated when the lawyer she is sent to for help turns out to be her childhood friend Artemus Chang, especially in the midst of a wave of public anti-Chinese sentiment in the U.S..

Meanwhile, the Hawaiian land, and some surprise mentors, are calling to her to do more with her gift, which involves ancestral voices and persuasive pink bubbles, than merely convince people to bend to her whims. Kayne’s love of Hawaiian culture shines strongly throughout the novel, from the proverbs that open each chapter, to the language scattered throughout the text, to her praise of poi and disdain for exportable pineapple. The gentle land-based magic carried by Lokelani and a few others, and the secret project by also magically-gifted activist Princess Kahōkūlani and lawyer Chang to quietly resecure land for locals, all feel supportive of maintaining the traditions of the people tied to the islands.

Kayne takes on the racism and sexism of the period with seriousness, but without weighing down the novel. The romance is less engaging, with the curse keeping the couple from connecting too easily overcome to satisfy. The female friendships are lovely, though, from the warm mentorship between Lokelani and the princess to the delightful use of the “pink bubbles” to convince wedding professionals to heed Lokelani’s friend’s wishes.

Takeaway: Historical romance fans will be swept away by Hawaiian magic and culture.

Comparable Titles: Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells; Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-