Love In Bloom's
by Judith Arnold, contemporary (2002)
MIRA, $6.50, ISBN 1-55166-918-8

If Judith Arnold isn't so nice, Love In Bloom's will be a gloriously funny and sassy story about bitches, whiners, and doormats. Since Ms Arnold is nice, and since we romance readers don't like any hint of negativity in our romance novels except for doormat behavior - sorry, or do we call that "kindness" nowadays? - Love In Bloom's is a somewhat above average funny and mildly sassy story about stupid, stupid women and the men who love them.

In fact, if Barbra Streisand wants to do another The Mirror Has Two Faces (AKA "I Want An Oscar By Showing You How Dowdy I Really Am Even Under Perfect Lighting and Make-Up"), she can do worse than adapting Love In Bloom's for the big screen. It reeks of the cutesy elevator muzak sentimentalism of a Nora Ephron schmaltz piece, and I can easily see Meg Ryan playing the lead role of Julia Bloom. If Kate And Leopold Sleepless In Seattle While Got Mail Addicted To Love is your thing, you'll enjoy this book better than I did.

I am taking lessons from Grandma Ida. At 88, she is still bossy and everyone is afraid of her. No doubt while we mere mortals at 88 are attached to the dialysis machine while trying to breathe so slowly so that our lungs and hearts don't give way, Ida is bossing everyone around in most unreasonable and irrational ways and they all cower from her. My hero.

Then again, the Blooms run a delicatessen grocery store called Bloom's. You know, that hoity-toity kinda store that sell cheese with unpronounceable names for $20 a pack? Where pickles and gherkins are so expensive that it's cheaper to just boil cucumbers for dinner? No wonder Ida is so spry and healthy. She can afford good food. Again, my hero.

At the same time, she makes all of her clan eat mundane, inexpensive food. So much so that Julia eats only when she has time, and everyone else will sell their dignity for dinner with Granny, because Granny serves the yummy food from Bloom's.

A family that doesn't know how to oust the obviously nutcase broad from the company seat deserve to starve to death. They are definitely evil, because here we have kids around the world dying from starvation, and these people are just not eating. Bastards.

Ida makes Julia the new CEO of Bloom's, even when there is a line of irate and more qualified successors in the wings (including Julia's mother). Julia and her mother and her sister concoct a great scheme: Julia will play the puppet CEO while her mother runs the show! In the meantime, the cousin - the man, eeeuw - plots and seethes and tosses around power words like "bitch" to prove his wussiness. So there they go, a merry-go-round of amusing but inane shennigans.

I mean, come on, if they want the CEO post that badly, why not just get a lawyer and pull out those papers for some loopholes? My own TV husband, Nick Fallin of The Guardian, is good at this - then again, I'd rather be watching TV than listening to stupid Granny's Kids whining and moaning, even if they are amusing.

Mild romance subplots take place between whiny workaholic Julia and a reporter named Ron Joffe (good news - no Big Secret misunderstandings here) and sister Susie (also known as the More Sexually Adventurous Plot Device/Foil) with a bagel maker. Yeah, a bagel maker. Go ahead and snigger.

I must admit, Love In Bloom's is amusing and well-written. But it's too much of the old thing for me. The usual are here: a good businesswoman makes decision following her heart instead of brain, a career woman isn't happy until she returns to her fold and listen to Mommy and Daddy who know best, sexually adventurous women are flawed inside and they just need a Good Man to remedy their defective nature, and other retrogressive nonsense. In short, this book reads like a Nora Ephron movie script, and no doubt it is targetting fans of the mainstream fluffy romantic comedy genre.

Me, I'm just a little bit left of center from the target audience. Oops. But hey, if I can have a enjoyable time while reading this, it can't be that bad, I guess. But I can say this: if Ms Arnold dips her toes into a little bit of bitch, she will force Jennifer Crusie to start watching over her shoulder a little more often.

Rating: 84

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