2023 IAN Book of the Year Awards Finalist: First Novel
2023 IAN Book of the Year Award Finalist in Fiction: Romance
2023 PNWA Nancy Pearl Book Awards Finalist in Best Book: Literary Fiction
2023 International Book Awards Winner in Fiction (Romance)
2023 National Indie Excellence Awards Finalist in Romance
2023 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Winner in General Fiction/Novel (70,000 to 100,000 words)
2022 Foreword INDIES Gold Winner in Romance (Adult Fiction)
“A well researched love story with multiple plot twists.”
“The narrative drops enough hints to ease the audience through its twists; anticipating the young detective’s discoveries as she works toward a happy ending for her grandmother, her new friends, and herself is engaging. The Walled Garden is a gentle novel about forbidden love and the cost of keeping secrets.”
“Maass’ debut novel blends romance and poetry with the language of flowers….In addition to [Agatha] Christie, Maass’ novel evokes Dan Brown’s 2003 bestseller The Da Vinci Code, with suspense arising from poring over poetic passages as well as the study of flowers and plants.”
“Robin Farrar Maass is a terrific writer whose voice and vision will hold you captive from page one. But this mystery is more than a page-turner: it's also an exquisite portrait of a young woman who is, truly and finally, seeking to solve the mystery of herself and discover who she is. This is a wonderful book. Read it!”
—Bret Lott, New York Times best-selling author of Jewel and Dead Low Tide
“Part literary mystery, part love story, part gently ironic send-up of both, The Walled Garden captures our American tendency to romanticize all things British, particularly lush gardens, eccentric poets, Oxford, and aristocrats. Maass deftly manages to weave them all together is this witty, absorbing, warmly intelligent novel. One to savor on a long summer afternoon by the backyard roses.”
—Suzanne Berne, author of The Dogs of Littlefield
“The Walled Garden is a truly atmospheric novel; it’s a mystery with the lyrical beauty of a spring day and the yearning of a young and broken heart. . . . A joy to read both for the story that it tells and the way in which it tells it, The Walled Garden is a thoughtful, provocative piece not to be missed. Highly recommended.”
“A remarkably well crafted and fully engaging story that deftly combines an historical mystery with elements of a coming of age saga and of college romance. A perfect choice for a summer recreational novel, The Walled Garden is an original, entertaining, and unreservedly recommended addition to community library collections.”
—Midwest Book Review
Maass’ debut novel blends romance and poetry with the language of flowers.
Stanford University graduate student Lucy Silver is spending a summer near Oxford, England, researching the life and work of mysterious British poet Elizabeth Blackspear, who authored several collections, including 1951’s The Language of Flowers. Lucy’s motives are more than just academic, however: Her English grandmother exchanged fond letters with Blackspear, and three years ago, Lucy inherited letters they exchanged. Soon after Lucy’s arrival in rural England, she becomes embroiled in a series of power plays by the current custodians of the Blackspear estate and their greedy rival, while she doggedly continues her research and uncovers hidden messages in the poet’s walled garden—a task that Lucy likens to the plot of an Agatha Christie mystery. Aided by fellow archivist Rajiv Resham and landscape worker Sam,Lucy does detective work to find the links between Blackspear’s life, poetry, and garden, which could have a significant impact on the poet’s legacy. In addition to Christie, Maass’ novel evokes Dan Brown’s 2003 bestseller The Da Vinci Code, with suspense arising from poring over poetic passages as well as the study of flowers and plants; Blackspear’s textual references to the latter seem “almost like allusions to something else,” Lucy notices early on, and this “seems significant, like a piece of the puzzle, even if she doesn’t know exactly what the puzzle is.” The prose is evocative and ornate at times: “Popping a few berries in her mouth is like tasting summer—deep and sweet, with an occasional tart one for contrast.” However, the unfolding of the mystery at the novel’s center occasionally feels predictable. Indeed, some readers may deduce the novel’s big reveal before the characters do, and the ending, which resolves multiple problems facing Lucy and her comrades, feels too much like a deux ex machinato be believable.
A pleasant if somewhat unsurprising literary diversion.