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Roses have thorns - Book I borrowed from a little free library

While travelling through the city I live, I often came across tiny boxes (similar to bird houses) holding books near a park, residential communities and other public places. Initially, I wasn't aware that they are libraries open to public, until I saw a passerby walk away from it, with a book. They are called little free libraries. 

Little free libraries are small placeholders where anyone can take a book or share a book. It isn't mandatory to leave a book for every book we take. But certain free libraries insist so. In any case, these libraries serve a great purpose, where we can give away the books we no longer need. This helps in improving book access, minimizing book hoarding and lessen wastage wherein we end up throwing books in garbage.  

There are close to 15 little free libraries in our city and it is a well known phenomenon in most of the cities in Canada. Similar public accessible book shelves prevail in other countries under different names like roadside libraries, mini-town squares, free libraries etc. These libraries are gaining momentum in India too, which is a welcome move. 

When I checked the books in one such little free library set up near a park, I found some 20+ titles which are completely new to me (adults + children). Finally after mulling over for the duration I spent in the park, I brought "Roses have thorns" home. Since I wasn't aware of the library at the park, I didn't go prepared (carry a book to drop there). After this episode, I always keep a book I finished in my car to exchange at those tiny knowledge houses.

Coming to Roses have thorns, it is a romantic novel, written by Betty Neels. She was born as Evelyn Jessy Neels in United Kingdom. Under the pen name Betty Neels, she has written more than 134 novels all in the romance genre which were entirely published by Mills & Boon. She was a nurse by profession and started writing in her early 60s and went on to write until she was 90. Apparently most of her novels seem to have medical background, given her field of work. 

Sarah Fletcher is one of the three office clerks working at Professor Radolf Nauta's clinic. Being single and living alone, Sarah's colleagues take her for granted to clock in early everyday and take care of the appointments before Prof Nauta reaches the clinic. Sarah has no qualms and is quite comfortable with this routine. She is orphaned and leads a very simple life with her pet cat Charlie, earning just enough to make the ends meet for both of them. The Professor who is well built and good looking, projects himself as a rude, arrogant and impatient person. But his patients consider him sympathetic and invariably kind, which Sarah cannot confirm given his rude behaviour in all her encounters with him. 

One day, Prof Nauta's mother visits the clinic and finds Sarah suitable to take care of Nauta's dying grand mother (Mevrouw Nauta) at Holland for 2 weeks. Nauta convinces Sarah to assist his grandmother and arranges for leave at her workplace and travel. Sarah reaches Holland and copes up well with Nauta's fiery old grandmother. Sarah spends a great deal of time keeping company with the old lady, reading to her and playing piano whenever she asks for (often at odd hours). During Sarah's stay with the Nauta, Professor visits his family and Sarah finds him to be a totally different person - soft spoken, calm and a loving grandson, a doting son and a down to earth personality. Each time Sarah saw him, she caught herself almost liking him, unsure how the Professor felt about her. Nauta's grandmother dies just days before Sarah has to return to work and Nauta family requests her to stay until the funeral. Sarah writes to her supervisor for leave extension, but unfortunately the letter doesn't get delivered due to postal strike in England (which Sarah is unaware of). 

Upon Sarah's return to work, she was sacked on the grounds of extending her vacation without a prior notice or explanation. Sarah unaware of the letter not getting delivered, expected at least the Professor would have informed the head of the department about Sarah's delay in reporting to work. Sarah was furious that the Professor hasn't kept up his word and has made her lose her only source of income. After losing her job, Sarah applies for many jobs and and finally settles down as a house maid. 

Does Sarah cross her path with Prof Nauta again? Does Prof Nauta have the same feelings for Sarah? Are Sarah and Nauta ever destined to be together? is the rest of the story. Generally, I pick my books by known authors or titles. But, my encounter with this little free library and Betty Neels work is definitely an eye opener. 

Roses have thorns is a very simple, yet a complex love story. Simple by the way the story is told; and complex the way the protagonists handle their emotions and hide their feelings for each other. The characterization of Sarah as an independent and self-respecting woman; Prof Nauta as a very kind, genuine and lovable person, with a rude outward projection (given his past love life, where the girl leaves him); the detailing of every day activities and events; the conversations between the lead characters were so profound and engaging. 

It is a light-hearted and comforting read, often leaving the readers wish Sarah and Nauta break their barriers, pronounce their love for each other and live happily ever after!!!

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