Random Reviews: “Roses” by Deborah Burros
Deborah Burros had a relatively short writing career, publishing a total of five stories between her debut in 1991 with “Masks” and her most recent story, “Artistic License,” which appeared in 2002. Three of her stories appeared in the Sword and Sorceress anthology series, while the other two appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. Her middle tale, “Roses,” appeared in the Summer 1993 issue of the magazine.
Burros tells the story of the marriage between Lady Rose and Lord Sleet. It is not a happy marriage, for neither of them loved the other and it was understood by both that Lord Sleet had married Lady Rose for her family’s money and Lady Rose had married Lord Sleet in order to gain a veneer of respectability for a family whose money was apparently made under unsavory conditions. The couple seemed to have come to an arrangements, however, wherein Lady Rose would spend her time cultivating a rose garden and Lord Sleet would spend his time in dalliance with his mistress, Jade.
Despite the two being fully aware of the nature of their relationship with each other and accepting of their situation, Lady Rose eventually realized that Lord Sleet was a little too public in his disdain for her. The story takes a dark turn as Lord Sleet and Jade decide to kill Lady Rose, convinced that there will be no repercussions from her family since they could simply claim that she ran off with a troubadour.
What they couldn’t count on is the fact that Lady Rose would eventually take her own revenge from beyond the grave. In many ways, “Roses” is a pretty typical revenge story, although Burros adds some nice touches, using the affinity between the character and the flowers whose name she bears to affect her vengeance and the gardener who realizes what is happening.
At the same time, the story is short, barely over a page, and Burros hints at a broader tale that she could easily have told, providing Lady Rose’s family with a voice following her death rather than just dismissing their ability to respond with a few words, especially since Burros had already established that they had an unsavory reputation and could, theoretically be quite good at taking their own vengeance against Lord Sleet, especially with the disappearance of his spouse so soon after their marriage.
“Roses” offers hints of a greater story, but the decision not to expand upon it or follow up the threads that Burros planted means the story doesn’t live up to its potential, remaining a slight filler in the magazine rather than a story that stands out and cries out to be remembered.
Steven H Silver is a nineteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW, NESFA Press, and ZNB. His most recent anthology is Alternate Peace and his novel After Hastings was published in 2020. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7.