Blooming All Over
by Judith Arnold, contemporary (2004)
MIRA, $6.50, ISBN 0-7783-2059-6


Judith Arnold returns to the Blooms, the family ruled with an iron fist by Grandma Ida, which she introduced in Love In Bloom's. Where we last left off, Susie Bloom has hooked up with Casey Gordon, the handsome bagel maker. Blooming All Over isn't a reference to whether Casey is circumcised or not (at least, I sincerely hope not) but rather, it's a story about Susie having to choose between her love and a blooming film career. The decisions Susie make in the end won't please readers that are hoping for a full-blown statement of female empowerment and to be honest, I'm still convinced that Casey is a control freak underneath his Mr Nice Guy demeanor, but Blooming All Over has plenty of Big Apple comedy to spread the love and laughter around.

Susie is elated. She's going to be a movie star! Okay, she's actually being tapped by her cousin Rick to star in a commercial for Bloom's (where her co-star is a six-foot tall plastic lobster). She is dreaming of a Cannes conquest when Casey asks her to move in with him. In Queens. Personally, I'd say it take a lot of guts for a man to ask a spoiled, carefree upper-crust Manhattan gal to move in with him to an apartment in Queens, but Casey actually seems shocked when Susie tells him that she's not ready to move on to the next step in their relationship. When she runs off to film her love story with the lobster in New England in order to put some distance between them, Casey quits his job, opens his gourmet bakery shop, and starts seeing other women. Sure, Susie has relinquished her exclusive rights to Casey as she's just not ready to commit and all that, but... dang, she's not feeling jealous, is she?

This book is filled with annoying themes that won't be so annoying if I haven't come across so many double standards in the genre, such as how money isn't everything if you're a rich gal in love with a not-too-rich guy (but it doesn't apply the other way around, of course). Casey is supposed to be a romantic nice guy (he asked Susie to wait before they hit the sack because he wanted to know her better) but I find many of his actions a little too much on the passive-aggressive side for my liking. Susie's indecisiveness begins to grate on my nerves after a while too.

What this book has in spades though is great comedy. Grandma Ida is still too much of a caricature for me to warm up too but the author excels in bringing out the lighter side of life in upper-class Manhattan versus Queens as well as putting her characters through some amusing misadventures that are crazy yet never too ridiculous. If the author has removed some of the more forced elements of comedy in her story (see: Grandma Ida) and doesn't try too hard to make the romance feel "right" often at Susie's expense, Blooming All Over will be the perfect summertime big city romantic comedy.

Rating: 76


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