Rating: 4 Stars
Review: Siri Mitchell has long been on my list of favorite authors, for both her historical and modern novels. Some of them are serious in tone, and some are more humorous. "Like a Flower in Bloom" combines Mitchell's rich historical depictions with a significant dose of humor. Charlotte Withersby and her father are endearingly oblivious to social norms, lost in their world of papers and botany. When Charlotte's world is flipped on its axis by her well-meaning uncle and the arrival of Edward, a handsome new assistant, she is pushed into society to hunt for a husband instead of flowers. Charlotte's forays into Overwich's polite society, field clubs, and ballrooms soon lead to comical situations. It's hard not to laugh aloud at some of her antics and mistakes. Her friendship with Miss Templeton is another source of humor, as their decisions are not always the wisest. Miss Templeton reminds me of Jane Austen's Emma, taking Charlotte under her wing as her pet-project.
The description of the plot establishes Edward as Charlotte's love interest. To my disappointment, their relationship felt disconnected. Charlotte's plan to feign interest in two other potential suitors leads her to spend just as much time in their presence. Both characters are colorful and zany in their own ways. I enjoyed their presence in the novel, but felt that they overshadowed Edward at times. Reading the story from Charlotte's perspective limited the scope of the novel for me. After finishing the novel, I don't feel as though I know Edward nor the depth of Charlotte's feelings for him. My emotional connection to Charlotte is not as strong as it could be, but I do empathize with her desire to be recognized for being herself and doing the work she loves.
Mitchell always excels in her historical details. She brings unique aspects of the past to life, teaching readers, but most importantly entertaining us as well. "Like a Flower in Bloom" is a prime example. Charlotte's position as a botanist, shines the spotlight on the history of botany and the struggle of female scientists to be taken seriously. Mitchell incorporates details with purpose to seamlessly blend historical realism into an engaging plot. Even specifics that seem like character quirks, like Miss Templeton's fear of dying during childbirth or Mr. Stansbury's practice of stumpery, have roots in historical fact.
"Like a Flower in Bloom" is a blossom as refreshing as it's cover art. I found reason to smile and laugh within its pages. It also prompts introspection for finding our own personal happiness and being satisfied with our own unique bloom. The world, like a garden would be a dull place indeed, if we all fit into predefined standards of conformity.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Summary from Bethany House:
It's all her uncle's fault. For years Charlotte Withersby has been free to pursue her love of plants and flowers by assisting her botanist father. But now that she's reached the old age of twenty-two, an intrusive uncle has convinced her father that Charlotte's future--the only proper future for a woman--is to be a wife and mother, not a scholar.
Her father is so dependent on her assistance that Charlotte believes he'll soon change his mind...and then Edward Trimble shows up. A long-time botany correspondent in the South Pacific, Trimble arrives ready to step in as assistant so that Charlotte can step out into proper society--a world that baffles her with its unwritten rules, inexplicable expectations, and confounding fashion.
Things aren't perfectly smooth between Trimble and her father, so Charlotte hatches a last gasp plan. She'll pretend such an interest in marriage that the thought of losing her will make her father welcome her back. Only things go quickly awry, and she realizes that the one man who recognizes her intelligence is also the person she's most angry with: Edward Trimble, her supposed rival. Suddenly juggling more suitors than she knows what to do with, Charlotte is caught in a trap of her own making. Will she have no choice but to leave her beloved flowers behind?