OH, THAT POOR ROSE BUSH!
As this third entry in the Vicarage Bench series opens, we find Ashley Parks being assaulted by three thugs in an alleyway. Ashley is the brother of Rhett Parks, the Las Vegas casino owner who was the male protagonist in the previous novella, “He’s Her.” Now, Ashley, the manager of his brother’s casino and a secondary character previously, gets his own story and it does not start out nicely for Ashley.
The three thugs have been sent by a rival casino owner to “persuade” Ashley not to hire any of their employees, especially the females, who come looking for a new job. These guys are apparently unaware of Ashley’s personal training program and he is not nearly as hurt as he pretends to be. He is just about to take out his main attacker when a whirling dervish wielding a baseball bat comes out of the darkness and decimates the cretin.
As the brute goes down, Ashley seizes his chance, the bat and the slender lad, making a run for it. When he feels that they have gotten far enough away, he sets the lad down, only to find that it’s not a lad at all. Ashley’s rescuer is a lithe, beautiful woman with her long golden hair tucked firmly up in a ball cap.
Ashley is immediately smitten and then is devastated when she sends him packing after patching up his cuts. All he knows is her name and that she works in another casino. But those emotions are nothing compared to what he feels when he learns that Crystal Davis is the Ice Princess, the headliner for the casino owned by the man who ordered his beating.
Ashley has learned that Arnie, the thug Crystal bashed, has vowed to use any means possible to identify his attacker. Arnie has also vowed to kill said attacker. So Ashley snatches Crystal up and flees with her straight to Dr. Andrews, the vicarage bench and the rose bush. But it is only after Crystal’s spirit is ensconced in Ashley’s body and her comatose body safely hidden away from Arnie, that Ashley learns that the rival casino’s manager has forbidden Arnie to kill his headliner. He will just have to settle for killing Ashley instead!
Mimi Barbour expands the magical properties of the rose bush significantly in this entry. We learn the answer to the question that was subliminally presented in the previous work – what happens to the spirit if the comatose body dies while the body and spirit are separated? And while we have, on several occasions, seen the results of the rose bush interacting with the unwitting, in this story we get a glimpse of what happens when it interacts with the unwilling and with the inhuman.
This series may be focused on time and space differentials with a touch of magic worked in, however, there is no alternate reality or science fiction involved. Therefore, magic just cannot cover a mistake Barbour makes in this story with regards to technology. Watch for the rival casino’s manager to use a cell phone – in 1969!
However, as in the previous story of the series, the final page is the best. It is both horrific and hilarious at the same time. And what a promise it bears of things to come.
Cover Art From Goodreads