Monday, September 1, 2008

Love in Bloom by Jules Bennett

TITLE: Love in Bloom
AUTHOR: Jules Bennett
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 57k)
GENRE: Contemporary romance
COST: $6.00

A car accident changes young photographer Claire Wilson’s life forever. Forced to recognize that a little boy was killed in the accident, she walks away from it a changed woman, including the fact that she can no longer see. She retreats from the world, punishing herself for what she thinks she has done wrong. Her best friend decides to help by hiring landscaper Jackson Akers to redo her yard and gardens, in hopes of luring her out of the house. What starts out as a job soon evolves into more…for both Jackson and Claire…

I have to admit that if the blurb and excerpt on the publisher’s site had mentioned either the dead child or the fact that Jackson has a five-year-old daughter, I probably would have passed on buying it. I find many contemporary romances – especially sweeter ones – that incorporate children are either too emotionally manipulative or too saccharine for my tastes. I’ve got my own small children; rarely do the children I read about resemble them or any of their friends in any way.

That being said, I didn’t hate this. In regards to the child aspect, Jackson’s daughter Emma isn’t too precocious and actually serves a vital role in the story’s development. She’s not merely inserted for a cute factor. There’s still a certain amount of emotional manipulation, but then again, I think that’s par for the course for these types of stories. It’s just a matter of knowing what you’re getting yourself into, when you start reading them.

As a hero, Jackson is straight out of the mold. He’s polite, gorgeous, a great father. It’s hard to find fault in him, actually, because even his attempts at keeping distance between him and Claire reek of I’m a good guy. The author attempts to give him an edge late in the story, but it never really sits well in light of the character arc she’s already painted. I was more than glad when that got easily remedied, though that, too, is indicative of one of the story’s other weaknesses.

For all the heavyduty issues in this – Claire’s hysterical blindness, Jackson’s custody issues with his daughter – solving them seems to get sugarcoated. After only one therapy session, Claire is already taking steps to get out of her house, when she has spent months refusing even the therapy. The course of the custody battle seems realistic, but with the exception of one scene, everything about it takes place offstage, so the reader never really gets to feel the urgency of what’s involved. We’re just told, and then boom, it’s all fixed. It’s just one more example of what we’re denied experiencing throughout the course of the story.

It’s certainly not a bad story. Technically, the prose is clean and simple, and the author’s obvious knowledge of plants and gardening makes Jackson’s career come to life. But it never rises above the average for me. Its simplistic, saccharine presentation, while not grating like so many other similar offerings, kept me at an emotional distance. It might not for lovers of this particular genre, though. If you’re looking specifically for sweet, uncomplicated romance with kids on the side, this just might do the trick.


7/10 – Simple and clean, though it was very easy to put down.


6/10 – Practically perfect, though at least the saccharine doesn’t grate


6/10 – Many of her problems seem overcome rather easily, though she’s likeable anyway.

Entertainment value

6/10 – A little too saccharine for my tastes

World building

9/10 – The best part about this was I believed 100% that Jackson knew a lot about plants and gardening.



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