Book Review: A Carpet of Purple Flowers


A Carpet of Purple Flowers, by Tracey-anne McCartney, just didn’t do it for me. It has to happen sometimes. No book is going to appeal to every reader, and no reader is going to enjoy every book. This is going to be a negative review. If I am not honest then I see little point in writing my thoughts down.

The protagonist is a young woman named Bea who owns and runs a second hand bookshop in South London. She lives in the small flat above the premises and is single, having split up with her boyfriend six months previously. She still harbours feelings for her ex but does not regret that they are no longer together. He is a petty criminal, into drink and drugs having suffered an abusive childhood. We are given this back story, and he makes occasional appearances throughout the book, but his part is of little significance so I am unsure why such details are offered.

Bea meets the handsome and enigmatic Karian. We learn that she should not have been able to see him, that he is not of this world. She is drawn to him but, before they can get to know each other, he disappears.

Bea then encounters a young man named Chance who, again, she should not have been able to see. Bea learns that Karian and Chance are from the same realm but that they are on opposing sides in a simmering war. They seem surprised to discover Bea’s connection to their world, yet later in the story this is offered as explanation as to why many of their associates have been assigned to live alongside humans.

Bea ends up getting romantically involved with both Karian and Chance, who is actually called Anathon. He is the only alien who feels the need to hide his true name. Bea also gets to know a few of their associates who, for no reason that is explained, she could not initially see as she could the men.

There is much talk of love before the characters have had a chance to get to know each other. Their romances are largely physical. Attempts at dates often end in hurt and confusion; questions go unanswered and are not asked again. Bea’s friendship with one of the female aliens inexplicably survives despite their repeated manipulations.

The various sexual encounters are described in graphic detail. There is one scene which is presented as a cosmic journey yet is little more than drawn out foreplay with a talented lover. I do not enjoy reading explicit sex scenes so will comment no further on this aspect of the book. I am aware that plenty of readers enjoy such writing.

The men are vociferous in their desire to protect Bea. What they really want is to possess her. Bea is naive in her musings on love, expecting it to be free of pain. There are a great many emotionally intense scenes which became repetitive and thus left me feeling ambivalent. Suggestions are made which are not progressed.

Although many of the ideas were of interest I found the structure clunky. Characters were introduced, lengthy dialogue offered explanations of the other world’s history, but important back stories remained incomplete. When one of the characters mentioned knowing Bea’s mother, who had left her in the care of an uncle as a child, Bea showed little interest in finding out more about her own heritage. A man is brought in to talk to her near the end of the book, the suggestion being that he is significant to Bea; he then leaves without explaining how.

There were also several incidents that felt wrong to me. Early on Karian invites Bea to the theatre. They buy popcorn, something that I have never seen available in any theatre I have visited. They watch a play, which is actually a ballet, except the actors/ dancers laugh and talk. I have never encountered a ballet with dialogue.

The denouement requires that Bea make a difficult choice. Given all that had gone before I wondered at its implied permanence. Perhaps the author plans a sequel.

My overall opinion is that the author had a fine idea for a story but, perhaps, needed a tighter edit. There were several members of the cast whose role did not warrant the space they occupied. Even Bea’s best friend had become irrelevant by the end.

When I consider the work that any author puts into creating a novel I feel guilty for pulling it apart. As I have said, this book did not work for me. Other reviewers have reacted much more positively.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane Publications.