This review follows on from Random Romance Part 1 of 2: Breaking the Rules.
In Bloom, 36-year-old married mother of three Emma Eddington feels fat, forgotten, and all-round frumpy. Her husband works all the time and her children see her as their housekeeper meets taxi driver. She’s also frustrated because the misbehaving family dog has become her sole responsibility and regularly humiliates her in public:
The dog yanked her inelegantly from one side of the track to the other, tangling the lead around her legs. She rued the day the kids talked her into getting a dog. Getting fit would be so much easier without this powerhouse rodent-sized pet dragging her all over the bushy parkland.
The one upside is the handsome runner she sees in the park each night, a man she fantasises about as an escape from her daily mundanities. Murphy’s Law would have it that the personal trainer running bootcamps Emma’s yummy mummy friend encourages her to sign up for also happens to be the runner from the park.
Ramon, as the runner’s name turns out to be, asks if anyone has any injuries that might prevent them from participating fully in the class. Emma considers if she should say that she is ‘almost disabled from lack of exercise’, but doesn’t want to embarrass herself further. Of course her lack of fitness warrants Ramon paying Emma more attention, something her friend Lisa comments on: ‘Emma smirked. “You’re joking. The man feels sorry for me. I’m thirty-six and have the muscle tone of cooked spaghetti.”’
Things go the way romance novels do, despite Emma considering herself ‘suburban sludge’ and unworthy of Ramon’s affections. There are some reasonably clever, entirely-recognisable-to-mums exchanges in Bloom, including the following recognisably long-suffering conversation between Emma and her children:
Emma, still trying to catch her breath, groaned inwardly. The last thing she needed was to take that badly behaved dog into a classroom full of Prep kids.
‘Darling, that’s not a good idea.’
‘But Daddy said yes.’
‘Did he? I better have a talk with Daddy then.’
‘Yay! Thanks, Mummy.’
Another time, she hears the following chorus: ‘MUM! Where’s my singlet?’ Jack’s high voice rang up the stairs. Sally’s voice followed. ‘MU-UM, Elias says I’m too little to use the toaster.’
I have to admit that I was less able to suspend my disbelief for Belle’s second novella than for her first. Second time around, Ramon seemed too convenient, too confident, too nice (and I mean nice in its blandest sense), and too ready to perform a community service by giving women pleasure. Really? I found myself thinking at various stages, before reminding myself that romance as a genre is fantasy and largely divorced from reality. For a light escape, and particularly when read some time apart from the first Ramon instalment, the novella’s fine. Besides, it arguably makes it a good fit with the ‘random romance’ theme.
Strangely, the text’s greatest, most outrageous flaw for me was the fact that the character leaves the dog locked in her car while she goes to meet her friend for coffee. I realise it’s a fictional character leaving a fictional dog in there, but nothing about it is ok. ‘Dogs die in hot cars’ is the RSPCA’s awareness-raising tagline. It takes just six minutes—less than the time it takes to order and drink a takeaway coffee—for dogs to overheat in cars and die. It was, for me, an inexcusable and unnecessary error (and one I hope can be rectified given that the text is digital and, therefore, easily adjustable). Belle could have had the character perfunctorily set the dog up with a bowl of water at the table with her and moved on with the story.
Still, that’s a small detail and not one that affects the book as a whole. Bloom is a decent read and one many married mums will relate to and enjoy.
Bloom is available now. You can find out more about Belle and her books on the Random Romance page.
Thanks to Random House for the opportunity to review this title.