Random Romance Part 2: Bloom

{A1F44EA0-4FE8-4BD8-A186-90C403554B09}Img200This 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.

Random Romance Part 1: Breaking the Rules

{0AFED444-0DB7-4CFD-B467-4CFC0A7F16E6}Img200The merger between Random House and Penguin sparked much speculation about what the new company’s title would be, with ‘Random Penguin’ a clear, outlying favourite. That the company opted for the less fun ‘Penguin Random’ was a slight disappointment to us all, and we’ve all continued to run with ‘Random Penguin’ instead.

Random House Australia and its romance arm have shown they have a fabulous sense of humour, though, releasing their newly created ‘Random Romance’ series (and in the nick of time for Valentine’s Day, no less). Random Romance is an all-digital list of romance titles by Australian authors. It includes some rural romance (or, as I’ve heard it dubbed, ‘ru-ro’) titles, romcoms, and two erotic novellas.

I dipped in to the two novellas, Bloom and Breaking the Rules, which are both by Melbourne-based writer Kate Belle. Though standalone stories, they feature different women whose lives are changed by one man: accomplished lover Ramon Mendez. Both books are 100-ish page novellas, so speedy reading and, thanks to digital technology that now conceals a book’s identity from the rest of the passengers on public transport, surreptitious reading too …

Part 1 of 2: Breaking the Rules

Grace Kingston is a career-driven, slightly obsessive-compulsive academic who’s closed her heart off to love. Ramon is a cocky, tardy PhD student studying contemporary female eroticism and sexuality who specifically requested Grace to be his supervisor. Cue the couple getting off to a bad start:

She was instantly suspicious. What kind of man in his early thirties would choose to student that particular topic? It was the domain of women, her domain, not something men dabbled in—unless they were perverts.

Ramon gives Grace a book to read (purportedly one that inspired his studies). It’s entitled Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy, and Ramon has been its dutiful student now turned teacher. It goes without saying that teacher–student relationships are rather frowned upon, but Grace (who’s technically the teacher but who is quickly becoming the student) finds herself falling for Ramon after their initial bad start: His handsome features were difficult to look at without feeling drawn to him, and the last thing she wanted was to be attracted to this presumptuous upstart she was to supervise.

Grace had always ‘prided herself on her immunity to attractive men. That was an affliction other women suffered from, not her.’ But, unable to offload supervision duties to her male counterparts, Grace begins to appreciate Ramon’s charms.

Breaking the Rules is the first in Belle’s novella series, and it’s an accomplished, engaging read. One gets the sense that Belle has (or still does) work in academia—the setting and the story elements ring lived-reality true. At the same time, Belle delivers a book that’s anything but focused on stuffy academia. She has a light touch and injects wit into serious moments. She also employs the word—now a new favourite of mine—‘unsnibbed’ in reference to undoing a lock.

Breaking the Rules is out 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.