Full Bloom is a book full of silly, frequently outrageous situations and characters, but in the end these crazy situations were too much, leaving me exhausted by all the activity. It is the fifth in a series, the first of which was an expanded version by Evanovich and Hughes of a 1989 series romance Evanovich originally wrote as Steffie Hall for Berkley’s now defunct Second Chance at Love line.
Annie Fortenberry is surprised to learn she’s inherited her grandmother’s Southern mansion. Annie always adored the house and immediately moves in with her husband Charles, intent on making the 1800s house a successful B&B. But when Annie agreed to keep the mansion, she did not realize that she would have to deal with a ghost, a drunken handyman, a cheating husband, and an assortment of eccentric guests. When her husband runs off never to be heard from again, Annie takes it upon herself to keep the B&B in business and when she’s hired to plan the biggest wedding event of the year, business starts looking up.
Wes Bridges is shocked when he pulls up in front of the B&B. The place is filled with erotic statues and, as he soon learns, was once a brothel. But Wes has little time to think about the strange home, for almost as soon as he arrives, he is knocked unconscious by a petite redhead, a woman who turns out to be the owner of the B&B and the person he has been hired to spy upon. Certain that Annie murdered her son, Charles’ mother has hired the best and most expensive investigator – none other than Wes – to find her son and get the goods on Annie. However, once Wes moves into the B&B and gets to know Annie, he is certain she is innocent. But then a gardener finds the remains of Charles buried in Annie’s backyard and Wes finds that Annie has not exactly been truthful.
Annie’s life can’t possibly get any worse. She is planning the biggest event of the year and her husband’s dead body has just shown up in the yard. If that isn’t enough, the sheriff arrests Annie for murder and throws her in jail. Fortunately, Annie has friends in high places and soon has the best lawyer in town on her side. But the lies Annie told when her husband turned up missing are now coming back to haunt her since everyone suddenly believes that she actually killed her husband. But nothing is as devastating as learning the truth about Wes, a man with whom she may have fallen in love.
I admit that there were a few times that I laughed out loud at this silly novel, full of wacky characters and zany situations. And there are certainly plenty of characters and situations that keep the book action-packed – in particular, the suspense plot unfolds rather well, so that I was never quite sure what actually happened or who the guilty party was. If you like slapstick, you may enjoy this book more than I did. I do not appreciate slapstick comedy – especially in books – and that was obviously a problem for me.
Even if you enjoy slapstick, though, you may well find – as I did – that the book suffers from a bigger problem. It tries too hard to be off the wall, with all the focus on insanely outrageous characters and situations that many times fall flat. Not only does the silliness grow tiresome, it also limits character development. The writing, too, has problems, often seeming stilted and weighed down by too much information – the reader simply does not need to know what every character is doing at every second in every situation.
Although Full Bloom gives a good try at being unique and does contain some laugh out loud moments, in the end the relentlessly wacky action and overly detailed writing simply wore me out.