By Jessica Shaw
Updated March 17, 2020 at 03:00 AM EDT

Marian is a 48-year-old history professor who’s having a tender, torrid affair with her friend’s 26-year-old son, Oliver, who, as a lark, cross-dresses (as Olivia) and incurs sleazy come-ons from Marian’s lecherous cousin Barton, who is engaged to Sophie, a wealthy grad student in Marian’s department at Columbia who has ordered roses for her wedding from Oliver’s flower shop. And believe it or not, I could go on. When it stays with the love quadrilateral, The White Rose remains juicy fun without straying toward Harlequin land. But occasional out-of-the-blue plots (an 11-year-old brainiac with an incarcerated mother?) and a madcap finale stick out of this otherwise enjoyable novel like nasty thorns.