I should state right off the bat that I’m no Romantic fiction snob. I’ll lap up a Mills and Boons sap fest as readily as I would savor a Jane Austen (Although I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the Twilight books yet. What can I say; vampires just don’t do it for me.) Perhaps you will feel differently about the Rose and the Yew tree if your standards are higher than mine. It will still be fairly easy on the sensibilities.
Mary Westmacott is Agatha Christie’s literary alter ego. She adopted this pseudonym to write non crime novels that wouldn’t be burdened by her formidable reputation. While I grant that The Rose… is a completely different genre, it has many elements that are what may be termed the essence of Agatha Christie. The impeccable character sketches for one. You feel quite sure that you’d know these people anywhere. There is also that strange edginess that springs up when u least expect it. Even when everyone is acting true to form, there is an undercurrent of something that is faintly unsettling.
All the above mentioned qualities make her mystery novels such a phenomenon. However I find that in a Romantic novel, or rather a “crimes of the heart” novel, the constant atmosphere of menace and foreboding works against it. I don’t mean that there is anything wrong with a thread of suspense running through the entire book, but I felt the Ending did not justify it. This is really the only thing I have to say against the novel and even this is really just nit picking.
Overall the book has some memorable characters, some interesting insights and a peep into the political attitudes of that era (how accurate it is, I couldn't say). It is nowhere as great as any of her mystery novels, but in saying that I only negate the very reason Agatha Christie used a pseudonym in the first place. Judged on its own merit, without the mystery queen’s enormous shadow hovering over it, The Rose and the Yew Tree is an engaging and interesting, if not memorable book.