As Love Blooms
About This Book
Young romance opens like a rose . . . but even a rose has its thorns.
Tessa Gregory is nothing if not tenacious. Denied a position as a horticulturist at prestigious Como Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota, she is not above a little benevolent deception in order to get the park superintendent to change his mind and hire her. She plans to infiltrate the world of wealthy and influential people in hopes of drumming up financial support for a world-class conservatory. But before she can put those plans into action, she meets Reese King, a handsome gardener at Como Park–and a major distraction. Still, Reese might be the key to achieving her dream. But is his goal to help her . . . or to capture her heart?
Against the lush backdrop of manicured gardens and greenhouses full of the exotic, Lorna Seilstad weaves a sweet and sassy story that is sure to delight.
After devouring the first two books in The Gregory Sisters series, When Love Calls and While Love Stirs, I couldn’t wait to read As Love Blooms. One of the things I love most about Lorna Seilstad’s writing is her unusual historical settings: her first series was set in an Iowa amusement park, and this new series revolves around early 20th Century Minnesota. The refreshing, non-1800s, non-Texas/cowboy setting alone makes these books an absolute delight to read! But more than that, Seilstad writes spunky heroines that 21st Century women of all ages can relate to and root for, and Tess Gregory, the star of As Love Blooms, is no exception.
Seilstad’s writing is lively and engaging from the very first page, dropping me right into the action and building steadily from there. The characters had some quirky dialogue moments that drew attention to themselves and thus drew me out of the story (Tess’ “swearing” phrase of “cheese and crackers” being the chief offender), but for the most part the characters spoke naturally and with distinct voices, and the dialogue was well balanced with the prose. I did feel at times that the points-of-view shifted too quickly/frequently, and sometimes that kept me from really diving into a particular scene to experience it right along with the characters, but it didn’t really affect my overall enjoyment of the book.
The youngest of the Gregory sisters, Tess has been a fun character to watch grow up and mature. Always eager for adventure, she’s evolved over the series from a flighty teenager to a confident—yet still carefree—woman. Her rambunctious nature definitely drove the story, getting her into enough scrapes to really keep me turning the pages. Yet I found myself connecting most with her older sisters, Hannah and Charlotte (the heroine of the first two books, respectively), and their assessment of their vivacious little sister: would she ever settle down? With her myriad interests and pursuits and dreams, the older sisters had a hard time understanding Tess, but Seilstad brought them around to a point of understanding that I found very touching. As for the hero, Reese definitely had to come to Tess’ rescue more than once, but I appreciated how he never tried to squash Tess’ adventurous spirit, and actually did a great deal to encourage it. As an adventurous woman myself, that definitely made Reese swoon-worthy in my book!
Seilstad really packed a spiritual punch with her roots-and-wings theme. Despite Tess’ multiple dreams and ambitions, she comes to realize (as do her family members) that her love of gardening has literally and figuratively grounded her, giving her the deep roots she needs in order to really reach for the stars. While I have a blackety-black-black thumb (seriously, I can kill artificial plants) and thus didn’t get a whole lot of the gardening jargon in this book, I could absolutely relate to this spiritual message.
And it’s one of the main reasons I would heartily recommend this book to young adult and teenage readers who, like Tess, may be struggling to find their identity. But I recommend this book to all historical romance fans, especially those who may be looking for something a little different from the cowboy westerns that dominate the Christian romance market. As a movie, this would be rated PG for a few harrowing scenes in which Tess’ adventures put her in physical danger.
The only real drawback of this story was its structure, which didn’t feel quite coherent. The story almost read like a series of one-act plays as Tess hopped from one pursuit to another, and with so many tangents and even a third point-of-view providing a major subplot, the overall effect was that of being spread too thin. Like the main garden-designing plot wasn’t enough to meet the publisher’s word count requirement, so a garden-club work-day chapter was added, and the aunt’s romantic subplot was added, and Reese’s boardinghouse relationships were added, and a potential love triangle was added, and a shooting scene, and a motorcycle race, and . . . you get the picture. I never got the sense that Tess had one overarching story goal she was working toward, and while perhaps that was a deliberate reflection of her multifaceted character, it did make for an awkward, hopscotch-like flow.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a refreshing, breezy summer read that will carry you away to yesteryear, you can’t get much better than As Love Blooms. With delightful characters and a powerful spiritual analogy, the final book in The Gregory Sisters series will waltz right into your heart and onto your keeper shelf. It certainly did mine! I can’t wait to see what Lorna Seilstad will come up with next!
Available May 19, 2015 from Revell