"At last! An author who writes straight to the heart of every woman...She writes with all the sweetness of Debbie Macomber, the uproarious humor of Jennifer Crusie, and a touching honesty all her own."Susan Wiggs, New York Times bestselling author
Hope Walker owns Changing Seasons Floral, Heart Lake's most popular flower shop. When it comes to love and relationships, she's able to work magic through her expert flower arranging…for everyone but herself. A painful surgery left Hope scarred and struggling with her confidence. So when a handsome contractor starts coming into her shop, she assumes he'd never be interested in someone like her. Unless maybe there's more to himand Hopethan meets the eye?
When Hope stakes a plot of ground at Heart Lake's community garden, she finds that a woman can grow all sorts of things there: flowers, herbs, vegetables, and even friendship. As she gets to know the two women who share neighboring plots, they discover that they can learn a lot from each othernot just about gardening, but about life. And Hope realizes that in order to live life to the fullest, sometimes you have to take a chance on love…in Love in Bloom by Sheila Roberts.
"Gardening, girl talk, and a gorgeous guy underpin this tale of what constitutes beauty and one's true self."Library Journal
About the Author
Sheila Roberts is married and has three children. She lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have appeared in Reader's Digest Condensed Books and have been published in several languages. Her holiday perennial, On Strike for Christmas, was made into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network and her novel The Nine Lives of Christmas is being made into a movie for The Hallmark Channel. When she's not writing songs, hanging out with her girlfriends or hitting the dance floor with her husband, she can be found writing about those things dear to women's hearts: family, friends and chocolate..
Read an Excerpt
I NEED FLOWERS, dead ones. Have you got any that are starting to wilt?"
"Excuse me?" Hope Walker stared at the scowling woman standing in front of her. She looked like she could scorch a pansy at twenty paces. This was a new one for Changing Seasons Floral. Was this some sort of April Fools' Day joke? Had she just been punked?
"I want to send flowers to my dog," the woman explained. Hope took in the woman's dark hair and angry eyes and thought, Cruella de Vil.
Hope frowned and ran a hand through her hair — all those curls, still hard to get used to. "Excuse me?"
The woman talked right over her. "My ex has custody, so I don't want anything pretty sitting on his doorstep. And I want the card to read, 'These aren't for you, they're for the dog. Condolences, Schatsi, on getting stuck with Daddy.' I'll pay for it with MasterCard."
For everything else, there's MasterCard. But not for this. Life was too short to waste it helping people be bitter.
"I'm afraid I can't help you," said Hope with a smile of faux regret. "All my flowers are fresh."
"Well, you must have something," snapped the woman, making Hope feel like she was twelve instead of thirty.
You are a businesswoman. You can deal with difficult people.
No, she couldn't. If she could, she'd be a lawyer. Or a cop. Or a baseball referee. She went into this business so she could spread love and comfort with pretty flower arrangements.
Hope's heart rate picked up a notch. At five feet five inches, she could look most women in the eye, but this one had a couple of inches on her. And her foul mood made her look seven feet tall.
What to say to someone like this? Hope arranged flowers for happy: weddings, graduations, birthdays. She arranged flowers for sad: funerals, hospital stays. And she arranged flowers for love and sex, and probably not always in that order. But what she didn't arrange flowers for was bitter, angry, or vindictive, and this woman could qualify for all three. It was all Hope could do not to say, "Get visiting rights for the dog and come back when I can help you in a positive way."
"I don't care what you do, just do something that gets the message across. Okay?"
Okay. This was a business. She had to be professional. "How much do you want to spend?"
"Whatever it takes."
Whatever it takes? That wasn't something a woman said when she wanted to prove a point and then move on. That was something a woman said when she was hurt and angry and, deep down, hoping that one desperate gesture would work magic and take her to a Hallmark happy ending.
Now Hope knew these flowers weren't for the dog. She also knew the message this woman really wanted to send and just how she could help. "All right," she said crisply. "I think I can help you. But you need to allow me creative license."
"Do Whatever you want," said the woman.
There it was. Permission to do what she did best: speak what was in someone's heart with her flowers. She took the credit card information and Schatsi and Daddy's address, then, after assuring the woman she would get just what she needed, Hope sent her on her way with a little shamrock plant to make her feel better.
Then she slipped behind the thick velvet curtains that hid her work area at the back of the shop and got busy. She combined red carnations, which symbolized an aching heart, with red roses, for love, remembrance, and passion. Ferns made the perfect green for this arrangement because they symbolized sincerity. On the card, she wrote the message behind the message: Schatsi, I wish things could be different. She added a quick note explaining the symbolism of the flowers. She'd wait a day before delivering. The flowers wouldn't be wilted, but they wouldn't be fresh, either. It felt like a good compromise.
But would her customer think so? Would the woman call and yell at her? Storm into the shop and threaten to sue her? Had this really been the right thing to do?
She emerged with her masterpiece and looked around her shop, all gussied up in anticipation of Easter with baskets brimming with tulips and daffodils, Easter egg trees and pastel egg garlands. "Well, everyone," she said as she set the bouquet on the counter, "you heard. She insisted. And this will accomplish so much more than what she originally wanted."
Of course, none of the flowers responded, but if they could have, Hope knew they would have cheered her brilliance, clapped their petals even.
The little bell over the shop door jingled and Clarice, her girl Friday, walked in, ten minutes late as usual, a vision in retro hippy clothes, maroon hair, and ear piercings. Clarice was nineteen and very creative, and she liked to make sure people picked up on that at first glance. "Who are you talking to?"
If it had been anyone else, Hope would have been embarrassed. She shrugged. "Just myself. I had the weirdest order. This woman wanted to send a wilted bouquet to her dog."
"Oooh, can I do it?"
Hope pointed to the bouquet next to her. "It's already done."
"Those don't look wilted to me."
"By tomorrow when we deliver, they'll be as close as I can get. If she's not happy, I'll refund her money."
Clarice frowned and shook her head. "It's a good thing you've got the touch with flowers 'cause you suck at business."
"Look who's talking," Hope retorted. "I swear if you ever get a real job, you'll get canned the first week."
Clarice dumped her messenger bag behind the counter with a sigh. "I know I'm late. I overslept. I met the most amazing guy last night." She hugged herself and closed her eyes. "He was like, totally incredible, with the most amazing mouth." She opened her eyes and shrugged. "I was dreaming about him this morning. I just couldn't wake up. Sorry."
A teeny weed of jealousy popped up in Hope's heart. She gave it a mental yank and threw it as far from her as possible. Just because she would probably never find a man didn't mean that she had to resent it when someone else got lucky.
Clarice got lucky a lot.
Another weed. Yank, toss. Sigh.
The bell over the door jingled again and in walked the hunk of the century.
"Wow," breathed Clarice, speaking for both of them.
Hope shot her a look, then asked, "May I help you?" May I have your children? How soon?
He looked a little embarrassed, whether from Clarice's Unbridled admiration or the fact that he was in a flower shop, who knew? He was tall, with an Arnold Schwarzenegger chest, and fit with the flower shop as well as the proverbial bull in the china closet. Dressed in jeans, a denim shirt, and work boots, he had sandy hair and brown eyes and the tanned skin of a man accustomed to working outside. He belonged on a calendar. Mr. March. No, lose the shirt and make that Mr. July.
"I need to order some flowers," he said, stating the obvious.
Hope walked over to him. He smelled like sawdust and aftershave, a fragrance more enticing than gardenias. "Did you want an arrangement?" She suddenly felt like every bit of estrogen in her body had decided to samba. She smoothed her hands down her jeans in the hope that the rest of her would get the message and stop with the attraction tremors.
He looked around, taking in the Easter frillies, the balloons, and the flowers in the refrigerated case. His gaze rested on Audrey, the shop mascot. "That's quite a plant."
The Christmas cactus that got away. Many people had offered to buy Audrey. With those red glittered heels holding up her pot and her Feed Me sign, she was something. "Audrey's not for sale," Hope said quickly. Audrey had shared her apartment and cheered her up when she went through those nightmare months. Audrey was family. A girl didn't sell her family.
He cocked an eyebrow. "Audrey?"
Hope felt her cheeks warming. "Like in Little Shop of Horrors. It was a musical. About a plant that ate people."
He grinned and nodded slowly. "Yeah, I should have got that."
A man who knew about musicals. Was he gay? "You know that musical?"
He shrugged. "I was in it in high school. I played the dentist. Rode a Harley up on stage."
"Awesome," gushed Clarice.
It wasn't hard to picture this guy all studded up in black leather making an entrance on a motorcycle. Hope cleared her throat. The tremors were still there. The hand-smoothing thing hadn't helped.
He shook his head. "The bike's probably the only reason I got the part. Anyway, don't worry about your man-eating plant. I'm looking for something smaller."
"Do you have anything in mind?" Hope asked. She did, but it had nothing to do with flowers.
"I don't know. Some kind of arrangement."
"For your girlfriend?" chirped Clarice from behind the counter. Clarice of the short-term memory loss. So much for the amazing guy she had met the night before.
The customer shook his head. "My mom. It's her birthday."
A hunk who loved his mother. The man had to have a flaw somewhere. Hope walked over to the wrought-iron café table where she kept the book with pictures of all her arrangements and flipped it open. "Would you like to look at some samples?" He eyed the delicate white chair as if he was wondering whether or not it would hold him. "Uh, I actually have to get back to work. My company's doing the renovations on this building."
The renovations on the long building that housed her flower shop, Something You Need Gifts, and Emma's Quilt Corner had made the sound of hammers and saws familiar background noise as builders shored up some of the sagging structure at the back of the building. So she'd heard him before she'd seen him. Emma was fretting about sawdust filtering into her new shop and coating her fabric, but the idea of sawdust didn't bother Hope. Good topsoil always had some sawdust in it.
"Maybe you can just pick something out," he suggested.
Hope hated it when people said that. Flowers had a language all their own, and every arrangement should say something special that reflected the heart of the giver. Even the angry woman who wanted to send flowers to her dog had had something in mind when she came in.
"Flowers are so personal," Hope told him. "Does your mother have a favorite?"
"She likes roses." His brows knit. "She doesn't live in Heart Lake. She's closer to Lyndale. Do you deliver that far?"
For you? To the ends of the earth. Hope nodded. "No problem. How much did you want to spend?"
"Cost doesn't matter."
"Dark pink roses symbolize appreciation. You could also add some daffodils, and the color contrast would be striking."
"Do those symbolize something?"
"Every flower does. Daffodils symbolize respect."
He snapped his fingers and pointed at her like she'd just come up with something brilliant. "Perfect. Add those."
"All right then," she said. She moved to the counter and he followed her, pulling out his wallet. She brought up an order form on her computer and took the name and address of the lucky flower recipient. "And how would you like the card to read?"
"You don't want to say anything else?" Hope prompted.
"Happy birthday, Mom?" he guessed.
Clarice snickered and Hope frowned at her.
"Am I missing something here?" he asked.
"Well, women, even moms, sometimes like to receive a special message. We're sentimental that way."
"Words aren't exactly my specialty. I was more of a math-science guy in college. I appreciate words though," he added. "I'm open to suggestions."
Hope loved this part of her job. She enjoyed helping people with the little cards that accompanied their gifts almost as much as she enjoyed creating the floral arrangements. "Since you're picking such symbolic flowers, it would be nice to tell her what they mean."
He beamed. "Great idea."
"So, how about something like, 'Roses for gratitude, daffodils for respect.' "
"Maybe they'll make up for my neglect," added Clarice, and Hope shot her a silencing look.
"I like it," he said with a nod. "Not the part about neglect though."
"Of course not," Hope said. "And sign it?"
"Love, Jason. Wait. Make that love and gratitude. How's that?"
"Aw, that's sweet," said Clarice, who was now busy watering plants.
He was looking at Hope as if waiting for her approval. "That says it all," she told him. You're perfect. For some other woman, not for her. "Now," she said briskly, yanking herself out of her lust trance. "Do you want to put that on your charge card?"
He handed over the card, nodding. She looked at the name on it. Jason Wells. It was a nice, solid-sounding name to go with those nice, solid muscles. Oh, stop already.
Their business done, he gave her a nod and a smile and an easy "Thanks," then left the shop.
Hope watched him go.
"Great butt," Clarice said, echoing her thoughts. "No wedding ring. I wonder if he's got a girlfriend."
"Didn't you just meet Mr. Amazing last night?" Hope teased.
Clarice made a face. "Not for me, for you. He's probably at least thirty. That's your age."
"Me?" Hope shook her head. "He's not my type."
"A man like that is anybody's type."
Not anybody's, thought Hope. A man like that needed a perfect woman, not one who was scarred and had an alien implant where her left boob used to be.
Never mind. You may look like the Bride of Frankenstein and have an alien implant, but you have your flower shop, you have your life. And you have a floral arrangement to make.
Seventy-six-year-old Millie Baldwin felt like the Invisible Woman. What did it take to snag a boy's attention these days? "Guess what I did while you were in school?" she asked her twelve-year-old grandson.
"I stole the Liberty Bell."
Eric gave a grunt and frantically pressed the controls on his video game.
"I buried it in the neighbor's backyard," Millie continued, trying to make herself heard over the sound of gunfire coming from the TV. "Of course, it won't stay over there. That's just temporary, till I can find a buyer. I would have buried it in your backyard, but it would have been too hard to hide all that freshly dug sod under gravel and a bonsai bush."
"Oh, man, he killed me!" cried Eric in disgust.
Millie sighed and let him go on with his game; something called "Halo" that he played on-line with his new best friends who happened to be total strangers. Maybe if she had expressed an interest in killing virtual people when she first came to stay with Debra, she and her grandson would be spending more time together now. Maybe they would talk. Maybe when she talked he would listen. Probably not though. Who wanted to listen to an old woman?
She had tried to figure out the game one afternoon, thinking it would be fun to surprise Eric and challenge him to a duel when he got home from school, but she'd been unable to even make the game start, let alone decipher the purpose of all the buttons on the controller.
"I think I'll just scoot out to the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea, plan my next heist."
"Whoa!" he hooted.
"Would you like something to eat, Eric?" she offered.
"Fritos," he said, and jerked in sympathy as his on-screen action hero dodged a barrage of bullets.
The child had been programmed with selective hearing. Millie fetched the bag of chips, then returned to the living room and stood in front of the couch where her grandson was planted dead center.
"Hey, Gram," he protested, leaning to the right. "I can't see."
"Maybe you've been playing that game so much that you're going blind."
"I don't play that much," he argued, frantically pressing the game controls.
"Your mother wanted me to make sure you did your homework."
"I didn't have any," he said, not missing a beat. His face suddenly crumpled in pain and he dropped the controls and fell over on the couch with a moan. "I'm dead again."
She dropped the chips on the coffee table in front of him. "These should resurrect you."
He sat back up, reaching for the chips while simultaneously punching the game controls.
"You're welcome, dear," she prompted.
"Oh, yeah. Thanks, Gram." He shot her a quick grin and she tousled his hair. He was a cute boy. They used to have fun together when he and his sister came out to visit, playing games like Sorry and Steal the Pack. But here, on his home turf, those quiet games couldn't compete with the action on the TV screen. Neither could she.
Back in the kitchen, Millie fed Socks the cat, who was winding around her legs, begging for food. Then she put the kettle on to boil and stood looking out the window. She saw a drizzly Pacific Northwest day and a stark landscape of raked rocks, dotted with a few ornamental bushes. Her daughter claimed it was restful. How could a yard with barely any vegetation be restful? And if it was so restful, why was Debra always so tense?
Excerpted from "Love in Bloom"
Copyright © 2009 Sheila Rabe.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
1. The women in LOVE IN BLOOM meet at a community garden. Where have you met your best friends?
2. With which of the women's journeys did you most identify? Why?
3. Do you think Hope's body image issues made her shallow?
4. Have you gone through breast cancer yourself or with a friend or relative? What were some of your fears and frustrations?
5. When it comes to your gardening skills, do you think of yourself as a Millie or an Amber?
6. Gardening is the number one hobby in America. Are you surprised to hear that?
7. In your opinion, should Millie have lived or died? Why do you think the author made the choice she made regarding Millie's fate?
8. Jason Wells fell hard for Hope's pretty sister Bobbi before realizing the woman he really wanted was Hope. Do you think his behavior was typical of most men?
9. What do you think is the underlying message of this book?
Visit Sheila Roberts at www.sheilasplace.com for recipes, contests, fun and inspiration.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sheila Roberts has written a book that gives inspiration to all who have suffered from a devastating illness that there can be a fulfilling life after recovery and one can develop meaningful friendships at any age.
Love in Bloom is a sweet, chic-lit story with a deeper message. All the romance you could wish for is here. I especially liked that Sheila Roberts writes about love in many different stages and situations. There's Hope, who has just recovered from breast cancer, and doesn't trust life yet. Her blonde bombshell sister Bobbie is trying to find Mr. Right instead of Mr. Right Now. Amber is trying to learn to trust her husband again after he took a big risk that didn't pay off, and Millie, at 77, is trying to decide if it's time to give up on love completely. All the women are sympathetically written and the theme of flowers and gardens nicely ties all the stories together. This is definitely a feel-good, restore-your-faith-in-people kind of a book, never a bad thing! I did wish that some of the characters had been given more depth, particularly the men and that the plot wasn't quite so predictable. But, in the end, I enjoyed the book and will read more by Sheila Roberts.
Thirty years old Hope Walker physically survived breast cancer, but mentally the mastectomy has left her doubting she is a complete woman; consequently Hope no longer dates. Instead, she hides in the Changing Seasons Floral shop she owns; enhancing her lovely flower arrangements with beautiful written poetry. When contractor Jason Wells enters the florist, Hope realizes he is the first man she has found interesting since the operation. However, she knows she has no chance after he meets her whole sister Bobbi. Septuagenarian widow Millie Baldwin moved to Heart Lake to move on with her life and assist her acrimonious recently divorced daughter Debra and two grandchildren. Also newly arrived in town is Amber Howell seeking to start over at a time when she feels she has nothing. These newcomers and Hope meet at a community garden plot project and becomes friends nurturing one another as they struggle to start over. Bobbi is attracted to Jason's friend Duke whom she meets after she starts dating Jason. Millie meets the younger Altheus and encouraged by her two garden buds over the objections of her offspring, decides to see him. Amber struggles with her depressed husband Ty, whose feelings of failure after their restaurant went bankrupt leaves her alone to raise their son and bring in income while he wallows his life way. This is a profound character study of three females at different points in their respective lives summed up nicely by Millie who poignantly realizes that strangers make her feel needed and wanted more than her family does. The ensemble cast is fully developed so everyone matters. With plenty of metaphors between gardening and living, fans will relish the adventures of the three amigas as all kinds of relationships blossom when LOVE IN BLOOM is flourishing. Harriet Klausner
I just loved this book. The characters are so sweet - you really come to know and love them by the end of the book. Anyone who loves flowers is going to love the little flower messages tucked throughout the pages.
This is the first book I have read by this author. I picked it up because the cover was so pretty, and I needed a book with flowers on the cover to fit into a challenge. I really liked most of the characters. I really loved Millie. She was such a kind, caring, helpful woman. I enjoyed the development of the friendships between Hope, Amber and Millie. Hope's sister,was a bit of a flake in my opinion, and I was not a big fan of Debra either.I will definitely be reading some more of this author!
Love in Bloom is a sweet, chic-lit story with a deeper message. All the romance you could wish for is here. I especially liked that Sheila Roberts writes about love in many different stages and situations. There's Hope, who has just recovered from breast cancer, and doesn't trust life yet. Her blonde bombshell sister Bobbie is trying to find Mr. Right instead of Mr. Right Now. Amber is trying to learn to trust her husband again after he took a big risk that didn't pay off, and Millie, at 77, is trying to decide if it's time to give up on love completely.All the women are sympathetically written and the theme of flowers and gardens nicely ties all the stories together. This is definitely a feel-good, restore-your-faith-in-people kind of a book, never a bad thing! I did wish that some of the characters had been given more depth, particularly the men and that the plot wasn't quite so predictable. But, in the end, I enjoyed the book and will read more by Sheila Roberts.
This is a beautiful book. Miss Roberts brings so many emotions to her characters. As you read this book the characters become real friends to the reader. This book made me cry which is hard to do! Definately read this book as well as its predessor, Bikini Season. You will love them both!
We've all heard the phrase "Bloom where you live.", but Sheila Roberts enriches this with her lovely book, LOVE IN BLOOM. Her characters have to learn to "Live where they bloom." Seemingly a subtle difference, but a very important lesson to learn about life. She beautifully builds this story with Hope's flower shop and the different meanings each flower conveys, as each character learns to experience life and love at it's best and fullest! In this book, a number of woman find themselves learning this lesson while tending their plants in Heart Lake's Community Gardens. Hope owns Changing Seasons, the local flower shop, where she expertly helps people choose just the right bloom for everyone and every occasion. She is also a breast cancer survivor who struggles with her self image after reconstructive surgery. Amber is a young mother who's husband is having difficulty finding a job after loosing their restaurant. Millie is a 77 year old widow who's just moved into town to live with her divorced daughter and her two kids. As they grow plants together, they help each other through problems, and learning to bloom beautifully in their own lives. There is romantic love explored in this book, but what I truly appreciated was the exploration of love in all it's other forms with family and friends. Each character was very real and reminded me of people I actually know. The use of flower meanings was fun and added to the beauty of this story. I so appreciate that Sheila Roberts can write a true love story without filling it with sex scenes. Roberts is becoming one of my favorite authors.
Hopeless romantic at heart! I found this at BAM during vacation and thought a sweet romantic story was in order. First time reader of Ms. Roberts. I will be looking up more of her books and adding them to my TBR list. What does Love in Bloom have? Romance-CHECK Friendship-CHECK Heartwarming-CHECK Tragedy-CHECK 315 pages of delightfulness!
Shelia is one of my new favorites
Great book, really enjoyed it.
Normally love her books! Couldn't get into this one!