Rhody Reads: Fresh Picks for Spring

Author Deborah Goodrich Royce shares new books with home and garden themes


I always feel like Bambi’s friend Thumper when the first crocuses and daffodils peek through the (sometimes still snowy) ground. I am twitterpated – overcome with giddy exuberance as the world turns pink and yellow and green again. And I am definitely a proponent of a good spring cleaning, inside the house and out. This month, let’s turn our attention to some terrific new books that focus on home and garden. So pop some blooms into a vase, make a cup of your favorite tea, and immerse yourself in dreams of houses and gardens, both fictional and real.

Early March brought a burst of color with the publication of Home in Bloom: Lessons for Creating Floral Beauty in Every Room by Ariella Chezar and Julie Michaels. A celebration of Chezar’s floral designs, the book is organized into chapters with whimsical titles like “Welcome,” “Pause,” and “Wilding.” Layering colors and combining improbably wild elements, her stunning arrangements weave together architecture, light, and natural landscapes. Fun fact: Chezar keeps a flower farm in Ghent, NY, and holds online floral design workshops.

One of our country’s preeminent interior designers is Bunny Williams and her gardens in northwest Connecticut are a continual source of inspiration. Last month, she released Bunny Williams: Life in the Garden. This gorgeous book with photographs by Annie Schlechter is a virtual private tour. Peek into features such as a parterre garden, year-round conservatory, vegetable garden, orchard, woodlands, an aviary of exotic fowl, and a rustic poolside folly. The book’s directory of featured plants will help you up your gardening game at home!

Nora Murphy’s Country House Living: Celebrating the Beauty of Life at Home (released March 12) is a celebration of the country house, which Murphy considers less a place and more a state of mind. The book visits several: a pastoral 1732 center-chimney colonial in Connecticut, a cozy cottage on the coast of Maine, and an 1840s Greek Revival in the Hudson Valley. Common threads run throughout: the thrill of antiquing, the role of history, and the priority of comfort.

For fictional house and garden visits, Sara Nisha Adams’ novel, The Twilight Garden, arrives on April 9. It is a tale of two feuding London neighbors who unite to restore a garden between their two houses. Once a sanctuary, the neglected garden’s gate is now closed. When a bundle of photographs of the garden in its former splendor appears, the seed of an idea is planted. The story resonates with the hope of revival.

There is nothing like a little haunted house thrill to get the blood flowing on a chilly spring evening! The House on Biscayne Bay, by New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton, comes out on April 2. In the heady days post-World
War I, Americans flock to Miami. There, a wealthy industrialist and his wife build a glamorous mansion on Biscayne Bay where they become the toast of the town. But appearances aren’t what they seem. Years later, a young woman moves into the house and the past and present collide in this atmospheric gothic tale.



Deborah Goodrich Royce is a thriller writer whose work examines puzzles of identity. Reef Road was a national bestseller and one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2023. A booster of all things literary, In addition to writing Rhody Reads, she hosts the author series at the Ocean House Hotel (which she and her husband, Chuck, lovingly restored), and curates her Friday Reads videos on Instagram. Royce serves as a trustee of New York Botanical Garden and chairs their library committee, happily combining her love of books and gardening. She began her career as an actress in film and television, most notably as Erica Kane’s evil (or just misunderstood?) sister Silver on All My Children.


Ocean House Author Series

The Ocean House Author Series brings world-class authors to readers in the stunning seaside location at Watch Hill. All tickets are inclusive of food, drink, and a signed copy of the book. Learn more at OceanHouseEvents.com.

April 24:
Susannah Marren,
Laura Zigman,
Dara Levan

May 22:
Elliot Ackerman &
Joanne Leedom Ackerman

July 1:
Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg



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