Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: Wallflower in Bloom

Summary: From the acclaimed bestselling author of Must Love Dogs comes a winning and witty new novel about a woman who emerges from the shadow of her overbearing family and finds herself “dancing with the stars.” 

Deirdre Griffin has a great life; it’s just not her own. She’s the around-the-clock personal assistant to her charismatic, high-maintenance, New Age guru brother, Tag. As the family wallflower, her only worth seems to be as gatekeeper to Tag at his New England seaside compound. 

Then Deirdre’s sometime boyfriend informs her that he is marrying another woman, who just happens to be having the baby he told Deirdre he never wanted. While drowning her sorrows in Tag’s expensive vodka, Deirdre decides to use his massive online following to get herself voted on as a last-minute Dancing with the Stars replacement. It’ll get her back in shape, mentally and physically. It might even get her a life of her own. Deirdre’s fifteen minutes of fame have begun. 

Irresistible and offbeat, Wallflower in Bloom is an original and deeply satisfying story of having the courage to take a leap into the spotlight, no matter where you land. -- Touchstone

It's been years since I've read a novel by Claire Cook, but I remember appreciating how she wrote breezy books that also touched upon some serious issues. So when the opportunity came to read her latest book WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM, I jumped at the chance. Just the cover alone drew me in, but the premise of the novel was appealing too -- a story about a woman who is finally discovering who she really is!

WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM tells the story of Deirdre a 30-something woman who is working as a personal assistant to her famous self-help/New Age guru brother Tag. While she is very competent at her job, she feels like she's always living in the shadow of her famous sibling... and her "perfect" sister too. When she learns that her on-again/off-again boyfriend is settling down with another woman, she decides to comfort her pain with alcohol... and I mean lots of alcohol. In her drunken stupor, she manages to use her savvy social media skills to get herself voted in as a last-minute replacement on Dancing with the Stars. It's when she goes to Los Angeles and ditches her personal assistant job that Deirdre has the opportunity to "bloom" and she ends up discovering just how special she truly is.

Overall, I enjoyed WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM. It was a very quick read and ideal for a summer afternoon, and I appreciated the book for what it was; however, I wouldn't go so far as the say I loved it. It was a cute story that entertained me for a few hours, and sometimes, that's just what I want from a book. It had a fun cast of characters and some very funny scenes, and it was a heartwarming story about an underdog (of sorts.)

One thing that made WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM special was the character of Deirdre. I don't know about you, but I think it's essential in a book like this one (part chick lit/part women's fiction) to really like the main character. With Deirdre, that wasn't a problem for me. I was definitely rooting for her to "come out of her shell" and do well in the dance competition; and I couldn't help but love her inner spirit and her self-deprecating humor.

In addition, I enjoyed that this book gave me a little inside look into life at Dancing with the Stars. I am not a regular viewer of the television show, but I have seen quite a few episodes (and it does suck me right in!) I liked all of the backstage gossip about the spray tans and the stretchy costumes, and it was fun to see how they transformed Deirdre into a glamorous dancer.

And finally, I appreciated the overall message of the story -- that it's never too late to put yourself out there and be who you really are! Deirdre had devoted her entire life to blending into the background, especially when it concerned her brother Tad; and she didn't allow herself to shine. Once she headed to LA, she was able to shed this persona and discover her inner beauty. Furthermore, Deirdre even realized how much of a passive role she took in other relationships including the one with her sometime boyfriend. I loved seeing how much Deirdre evolved throughout this novel and how she became much more independent and confident.

Because WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM touches upon some serious issues that many women face, I think it would make for a very fun book club discussion. There is a reading guide available which touches upon some of the issues I mentioned in my review including sibling relationships, self-help, self-pity, friendships, and independence. There are also some interesting ideas for enhancing your discussion like food and dance suggestions.

WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM is a delightful story about one woman's quest to discover who she really is, and it was a very fun read. I definitely recommend it to fans of chick lit and light women's fiction!

Thanks to She Reads for providing a review copy of this novel. WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM was the August selection for their new book club. You can read more about it here.


bermudaonion said...

I really liked this book too. I thought it was a lot of fun and I loved the Dancing with the Stars element!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I am all over needing to like the main character! I think it took me a while to get into Broken Harbor because I didn't like Scorcher very much!

Beth F said...

I'm kind of on the fence about this and I don't really know why. Perhaps it's that I'm in a different place in my life.

Audra said...

This one sounded super cute -- it isn't my usual fare but feels like a perfect trying-to-keep-summer-around read. Lovely review.

Unknown said...

I've not yet read a book by Claire Cook although several sound like great summer/beach reads. I love the colors on the cover of this one.
Although the premise sounds like a combination of an episode from 'Without A Trace' and one of 'Dancing with the Stars', of course, which I've never watched, Deidre's story interests me. With lighter books I want to like the main character(s) and feel invested in the story. I like the idea of Deidre coming out of her shell, out from under her family's thumb and "blooming".

When I'm next in the mood for an enjoyable, quick story, I think I'll check out this book.
Thnk you!