“Bloom” is one of the darkest, weirdest, most compelling fantasy romances I’ve read this year, so obviously I had to participate in its blog tour celebrating its free promo this weekend.
Here’s the full wraparound cover:
Given to The Grimm Order as an infant, Fawn was raised in a world shaped by the rich and powerful. When she was sold at the age of nine to a Suitor, Fawn believed he would protect her from the “Mainworld”, where those who know nothing about the Order live. Living with the cruel man who bought her freedom, she finds just what the Order is about: money, control, and status for the Owner and humiliation and abuse for those they own.
Unwilling to accept the expectations of being Owned, Fawn goes from golden girl to maid, content to live in the shadows of the Order as long as she isn’t Owned again.
It’s been ten years since she disgraced her former Owner’s name, and now the brooding Frenchman Elliot Lyon wants her. Master Lyon is kind, smart, and unlike any man she’s met. She doesn’t want to admit it to herself, but Fawn is drawn to him despite constantly planning her next escape.
Even the prettiest flowers have thorns, and Master Lyon is hiding secrets that will uproot everything she thinks she knows about him.
Fawn was once the specialest of all the special girls in her Compound. Until she was sold into cruel servitude and tried to fight back. Now she finds herself sold again despite being damaged goods. Is this her chance to finally escape as she’s been plotting all these years, or is she going to end up even more trapped than before?
“Bloom” is dark, disturbing, and compelling. It takes the story at the heart of most romance novels, the myth of Persephone, in which an innocent young woman is captured and dragged down into Hell to be the consort of a dangerous man, and lays it bare. Fawn is literally a slave, who escaped from a cruel Owner to end up with a (slightly) kinder one, and she must negotiate both the threats to her physical safety and freedom, and her feelings, that her situation subjects her to. Because being in such close, one might even say intimate, footing with someone, even a captor, does create a sense of closeness, dependency, and attachment–it’s an extreme situation that throws people together, even under circumstances they might not want to be in. Developing an emotional attachment is an essential survival instinct for both parties involved in such a relationship, something that has always complicated the master-slave dialectic (Hegel really should have read more romance novels).
“Bloom” also makes explicit the problems for the “master” in such a relationship, and emphasizes that both parties are trapped, through necessity and social convention, in a relationship they might rather not be in and might even abhor, but may not know how to escape. Fawn’s new Owner, Master Lyon, is gradually revealed to be just as conflicted and desperate as she is herself. It may not excuse his behavior, but it does explain it, and the reader can’t help but sympathize with him along with Fawn, even as you root for her escape.
Readers should not think this is a dry philosophical treatise, however, even if it does incorporate problems that readers of philosophy will recognize as core issues raised by Hegel and others. “Bloom” is somewhere along the line of dark fantasy/dark romance, featuring an alternative or hidden world and sexual relationships with a sharp edge that takes BDSM fantasy and makes it reality. Fans of Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel” books will probably enjoy it; fans of the “50 Shades” books may or may not–it’s not dissimilar, but it’s scarier and more intense, with the fear/fantasy at the heart of that story revealed for what it is, encouraging readers to contemplate whether Fawn’s story is the ultimate story of female empowerment or disempowerment. If what you’re looking for is a light, standalone (the book is the first part of a series, and ends on a cliffhanger), HEA romance, keep looking, because “Bloom” is unlikely to be your cup of tea. But if you like your stories dark and challenging, your heroes dark and brooding, and your heroines desperate and wily, you may very well find that “Bloom” is just the cup of absinthe you’ve been seeking.
My thanks to the author for providing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
This is really is an edgy book with a difference, so if that’s what you’re looking for, this is a great chance to get it! Buy link here.