Being a true bibliophile, I own a few books by Siri Mitchell, but truth be told I haven't read all of them yet. After reading Like A Flower in Bloom, my interest in this author has been re-kindled. I found this historical romance set in 1850's England delightful, charming, and funny to the end.
Twenty-two year old Charlotte Whithersby has been allowed to assist her widowed father in her passion for botany. Her interfering uncle convinces her father that she needs to join society for the purpose of finding a husband because at twenty-two she's practically an old maid! Her father agrees with her uncle and before she can protest; her job assisting her father has been taken over by Mr. Edward Trimble, a sheep farmer from New Zealand who has a keen interest in botany.
Begrudgingly, she agrees with her father and uncle all the while hoping that her father would soon see how valuable she is to him and eventually she would get her job back.
Charlotte is a unique heroine who marches to the beat of her own drum. In today's society this individuality is celebrated, but in 1850's England she was thought as a bit of an oddity. Personally, I found her to be a refreshing heroine.
Ms. Mitchell hits the perfect balance with the reader's reaction to Charlotte...a mix of sympathetic to her plight of being pushed into unfamiliar and awkward social situations, but at the same time amused and chuckling at her social faux pas. One funny example in particular is when Charlotte meets a young woman at a dinner party, she informs, Miss Templeton, her new acquaintance that the embroidered flowers on her dress do not have the correct number of petals.
"Do you know that the flowers on your dress haven't got the right number of petals?"
She glanced down at it. "I had no idea."
"Some of them have five petals and some have six, and although that's possible considering the different varieties of the strawberry have different number of petals, I would assume that your dress is meant to depict just one variety, wouldn't you?" (Mitchell, 73)
Edward Trimble is distinctive hero. He has a variety of interests, botany, sheep farmer, and he's also knowledgeable of ladies fashion and the social rules of the day. He reminded me somewhat of Mr. Knightley, Jane Austen's hero from Emma.
The banter between Edward and Charlotte is charged. The quote below is one of my favorite moments in the book between the two leads and I think it shows how much he admires her.
"He studied my face for a moment and then glanced down at his empty sketchbook. "You don't approve of my choice?"
"May I remind you of a bluebell, Mr. Trimble? It's a very common flower. One might say it's the commonest."
"I have never thought so. Indeed, most consider it the kingdom's favorite flower. And what would our lives be- how would we even make it though a barren winter- without the hope of our bluebell woods come spring?"
"But bluebells droop under the weight of their own blossoms, of their expectations. They're much too fragile for the realities of life."
"Bend, Miss Withersby. Bluebells don't droop, they bend.They offer their strength to the needs of the moment." (Mitchell, 256).
Ms. Mitchell slowly builds Charlotte and Edward's relationship. I felt that Like A Flower in Bloom had undertones of Jane Austen's works. Like many of Austen's characters the road to love is full of ups and downs; the same could be said of Edward and Charlotte. Also, Charlotte plays the role of matchmaker between her new acquaintance, Miss Templeton and another young gentleman in the story. Jane Austen's Emma sprang to mind.
Like A Flower in Bloom is one of those stories that stays with you long after you read it. Ms. Mitchell's books will most certainly be added to my ever growing "to be read" pile.