Cover Image: Half-Blown Rose

Half-Blown Rose

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Member Reviews

Leesa Cross-Smith has quickly become one of my favorite writers so as soon as I saw she had a new novel coming out, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a preview copy. As with her previous novels Whiskey & Ribbons and This Close to Okay, her upcoming novel Half-Blown Rose is very much a novel exploring identity through a time of dramatic personal change. There’s a lightness and easy optimism to Half-Blown Rose that’s difficult to describe. Where so many novels about self-discovery feel heavy and rooted in tragedy, the heroine of this novel doesn’t feel dragged down by the betrayal she’s recently experienced. There are pain and anger to be sure, but it isn’t debilitating in the way so often portrayed. Nor does the main character’s transformation feel like it’s driven by a need to change specifically in reaction to what’s happened. Rather, so much of the novel takes place in a space of indecision and, therefore, of possibility, which lends even the more somber moments of the novel a hopeful undercurrent rather than a tragic or angry one.

Vincent is living in Paris, teaching classes at a local museum and selling her hand-made jewelry online after separating from her husband of twenty-four years. Her husband, Cillian, has published several novels but his latest is autobiographical in nature and delves into the origins of their relationship and a part of his past he never told her about – a child he fathered at fifteen with a girl his parents moved him half-a-world away from and whom he never contacted in the years since… It’s also a book he didn’t talk to Vincent about or let her read before it published, blind-siding her and laying their personal life bare for the world to see. As she decides what to do about her marriage, Vincent embarks on a flirtation with one of her (much younger) students, Loup, and finds herself more drawn to a possible future in Paris, especially since her children are grown. But what would her family and friends make of her developing relationship with Loup (and does she even care what they think)?

One of the things about Half-Blown Rose that I found most compelling was the nature of the betrayal that led Vincent to separate from Cillian. Though she was embarrassed and a bit humiliated to be learning her husband’s secrets the way she did (and to have so much of own relationship with her husband put on such public display), there is less anger and resentment toward him by the time the reader meets her. The shift Vincent feels is also less about what Cillian did to her personally and more about the dissonance in his character between what she thought she knew, what she thought him capable of, and the truth of who he’d been all along. Because of this, Vincent’s journey through the novel is less about building herself up after being torn down and is more about change in general – it lacks a lot of the negativity and despair that usually triggers transformation. I found it surprisingly refreshing, because not all growth is triggered by complete devastation or tragedy and not all change is painful (sometimes it’s just a little uncomfortable, sometimes it’s actually fun and a lot of the time it runs the gambit).

Time is handled in an interesting way in the novel. The narrative doesn’t really jump around. Instead it’s marked through art. The reader learns the extent of Cillian’s betrayal through excerpts of his novel rather than a series of flashbacks. Vincent has playlists that are sprinkled throughout but most often center around her traveling. The classes Vincent teaches at the museum focus a lot on memory and noticing things in the moment, especially color, and the ways the senses bring moments and memories to life. The exercises extend into how she interacts with her family and friends and help to build and reinforce interpersonal connections that are going to ultimately help bridge their collective past (before Cillian’s book published) to the still-forming future. Though the novel can feel idealistic at times, there is a sharp reality to it that keeps it from feeling too sappy or emotionally manipulative (perhaps because it tends to approach common tropes from different or unexpected angles…). Can’t completely put my finger on it, but where so many novels like this might push the reader to be inspired, to want to have a similar journey of self-discovery, Half-Blown Rose feels like it’s content to just be what it is and let the reader take what they will from it.

Half-Blown Rose will be available May 31, 2022.
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Half-Blown Rose was a beautiful book. Over the course of nearly a year the book follows Vincent (a woman), primarily in Paris but also for brief periods in other locations around Europe and in NYC. The descriptions of Vincent's life in Paris were by far the most enjoyable aspect of this book. Everything from Vincent's apartment to her dinner's and coffee with friends to concerts and walking by the Seine romanticized Paris and the life Vincent was leading there. I enjoyed that Vincent, a woman in her mid-40s, was the main character and was stylish and sexy and cool, as  women in this age range are often skipped over in literature or portrayed only as side characters. I also enjoyed the additions to the book that were separate from the narrative, Vincent's playlists, the letters, the excerpts from Cillian's book. They added just enough without becoming overwhelming. Between Vincent's playlists and the movies she watched throughout there were a lot of great recommendations! 

Although there were times I was frustrated with Vincent throughout the book, I also felt like her non-linear emotional journey was more realistic to what people in her situation may experience. This book  touches on a number of different topics related to both Vincent and the characters surrounding her, including secrecy in marriage/relationships, the power dynamic in age-gap relationships, polyamory, family dynamics that fall outside of a heteronormative, nuclear structure and privilege that comes with wealth. As the story mainly revolves around the decisions Vincent is making in relation to her marriage and life in Paris, these topics are not explored in depth but discussed in various ways throughout the book. There are no prominent queer storylines (although there is at least one queer character.) Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thank the author, Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for access to the ARC!
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Leesa Cross-Smith is a beautiful writer, and I was instantly transported to Paris with Vincent as she tries to figure out what comes next. I loved the first part of the book, especially the mystery of what Cillian exactly did, but it was downhill for me after that. There is a lot of freedom in this book, and I think I was expecting something a bit different. I’m also not a fan of affair plot lines, and that is my bad for not paying better attention to the synopsis. The ending was not my favorite, either. Not for me, but I know others who will love it. If you’re a fan of slow books filled with beautiful prose, then check this one out, especially if you love the French lifestyle.
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Vincent, the daughter of two successful artists, has enjoyed a mostly privileged life. She has taught art while her husband Cillian has been a best-selling author. When his latest book reveals a surprising betrayal, Vincent needs to put some distance between them to figure out who she really is.

This book, while unique, was just okay to me. I wanted to love it, especially since I adored the cover and premise, but it just didn’t hold my attention the way I wanted it too. Although the story includes sections such as Vincent’s song playlists and past selections, it seemed a little dragged out. If I didn’t commit to read it for a review, I most likely would not have finished this one.

Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for the ARC. “Half Blown Rose” will be released May 31st.
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I didn't love this book.  Vincent is 44 and has just found out a large, life changing secret that her husband of 25 years, Cillian, has kept from her.  She found out in his newly published book which he did not inform her about before it was published.  It devastated her, and she has moved to Paris with the intent to reunite with her husband at their son's wedding in a year so she has time to evaluate her feeling and wishes for their future.  While in Paris she forms some strong friendships, and begins a relationship with one of her students (Loup) who is 20 years her junior.
Things I liked: Vincent.  She is smart and strong and cool.  She says what she thinks and feels and I really enjoyed reading her interactions with her friends in Paris and with Loup.  Those were my favorite bits of the book.
What I didn't like: Vincent's inability to make a decision regarding her relationship with her husband.  He was the worst, and she kept taking his calls and answering his texts and when they see each other again at the end she is still not making a choice.  The book dragged on a bit and occasionally chapters from Cillian's book were interjected in here and there, which I skimmed over (or skipped entirely) because who cares.  
I really loved Cross-Smiths previous novels but this one just wasn't for me!
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' "Celui qui vit verra," he says.  He who lives will see.' - Leesa Cross-Smith, Half-Blown Rose

A colorful story of love, desire, independence, longing, family, adventure and finding oneself.  Vin, after a hurtful event with her husband creates a life in Paris.  Surrounded by art, food, music and friends, she lives her best life.  Yet the family on the other side of the ocean wonders how this will all end - her husband Cillian continues to express his undying love while her new life provides her a door to exploring her real self.  Told with love, lust and laughter Half-Blown Rose is an amazing adventure into what could be when we listen to our heart!
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Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for this eARC! 

The word I kept thinking about as I read this book was “mature”. Half-Blown Rose addresses so many complicated & deep issues, specifically those in a long-term marriage. The fact Vincent was having an affair seemed to be validated by her husband’s failure to divulge his secret child which bothered me a bit. This book felt slow & sporadic at times, but peaked my interest around 2/3 of the way through and I was intrigued through the ending. 

Cross-Smith’s descriptions of the French lifestyle & the uniqueness of Paris can be felt from start to finish and really made me feel like I was sitting in the apartment in Paris with Vincent and Loup. 

This is really 3.5 stars, in my opinion.  For those that love the French lifestyle, a slow, detailed plot, and art, pick this one up!
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Thank you for the advanced copy of this book! I will be posting my review on social media, to include Instagram, Amazon, Goodreads, and Instagram!
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I'm going to be really honest even though I don't like having to be... Half-Blown Rose really wasn't my cup of tea. I was so excited for Cross-Smith's latest- the cover is beautiful, the plot description sounded dreamy, and I adore Cross-Smith's writing style. However, I just felt like this wasn't her best- it was a little predictable, a little drawn out, and honestly a little scattered. I didn't love the flashbacks and the interwoven excerpts. I didn't love Vincent constantly second guessing herself. I disliked Cillian entirely. Unfortunately, this was a real dud for me.
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This was beautifully written and tells a great story about a woman in her mid-40s figuring out what she wants out of life after her husband betrays her. There was something <I>Eat, Pray, Love</I> meets <I>Call Me By Your Name</I> about it, but I liked it better than both of those books. 

I liked following Vincent on her journey. I liked that she knows who she is but she doesn’t always know what she wants to do, and we get to watch her figure it out. 

Something about the dialogue felt very much like a play, and I kept wishing it sounded more natural (although I loved the bits of French mixed in even though I speak zero French). 

The ending was total chaos, but I think that was intentional. Vincent makes decisions that lead to consequences that all coalesce. (I wouldn’t say it was a super satisfying ending, but I’m okay with that.)

Fun fact, this is the second book in a row I’ve read with a female Vincent character. 

<I>I received this book from NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing in exchange for an unbiased review.</I>
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I have realized this author is not for me. I keep trying but I don’t enjoy her writing at all no matter how much I like the concept of the book. The “Paris, mon amour” paragraph made me laugh out loud and not in a good way.
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Lessa Cross-Smith has the amazing gift of writing about unusual relationships.
 
I loved her previous book, This Close to Okay. It was definitely unique. Half-Blown Rose is a story about Vincent, a forty-four year old woman who left her husband behind in the USA after learning something shocking about his past. She needs time on her own and she goes to Paris. 
 
She gets involved with Loup, one of her students at the museum. He’s in his early twenties. (Oh and I highly recommend picturing him as Timothée Chalamet btw! You’ll see why.)
 
So, yea…not the kind of relationship we see a lot in contemporary fiction. 
 
Oh, and this book is very detailed and slow, so don't expect a lot of spicy scenes in the first chapters. It’s sensual and unhurried. 
 
I read this book at the most perfect time. A few weeks before my first trip to Europe! YAY!! Most of the story takes place in Paris and it was in-cre-di-ble. 
 
Ohhh and one more thing that this book has that I love: Playlists for everything. And they’re GREAT playlists.
 
I highly recommend it but it’s not for everyone.
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As a novel of travel and escapism and the lovely scenes of Paris, I'd highly recommend. But, as a piece of literary fiction, which I believe it is, this novel was less successful. Cross-Smith is an author I've enjoyed and I appreciate her range in subjects, settings and themes.  Here, in direct contrast to her recent This Close to Okay, she seems to sidestep some topics and societal issues for a more freeform and lighthearted ride. And, as that, I'm here for it.
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Leesa Cross-Smith's writing is filled with heart, motion, and E*motion, and I love how she intertwines her own love of pop culture and other forms of art into the book -- the playlists are fun and in another author's hands would feel kitschy and besides the point. In HBR they are part of the point. A book about Paris should feel over-the-top romantic and bursting with opportunities and this one certainly does. It reminded me of a more colorful "It's Not Love, It's Just Paris" by Patricia Engel. Thank you for the ARC and the opportunity to read this book!
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Vincent Wilde runs away from her home in Kentucky to her parents’ Paris apartment after learning, along with the rest of the reading world, that her best-selling-author husband, Cillian, fathered a child at 15 years old and never told Vincent in their 25 years together. Vincent (yes, after Van Gogh) explores Paris newly jolted from domestic comfort and committed to do What She Wants. That soon becomes Who She Wants when Vincent falls for Loup, 20+ years her junior.

Whew.

In texting about this book, my overall feelings were summarized thusly: The pacing was so, so off putting. I loved the writing and the lyricism. I was shocked by all the turns of events. I was confused by the lack of conversations about privilege and race. I continued to get Eat, Pray, Love and Carrie Bradshaw (obsession with Paris) vibes. I truly don’t know who the target audience is for this book!

The true shining light of this book is Cross-Smith’s style of writing: short vignettes rich with feeling and color. I think this style suits Vincent during her time in Paris because of her unwillingness (bordering on need) to feel untethered and free from Cillian and their life together.

My overall impression of Half-Blown Rose was the same as Eat, Pray, Love: who can afford to have this experience except for the elite? And thus, who is going to relate to this book?

Vincent acknowledges her wealth privilege briefly while with her entire family— two well-known and wealthy artist parents and two well-to-do siblings— in Amsterdam. To which they all traveled relatively last minute on a whim! What fun! And Vincent has the added freeness to leave Kentucky because her two children are not in the home and in their 20s. She supplements her Parisian life by creating jewelry and teaching art classes at a museum.

I tried not to be bitter but at the same time… excuse me?

I really was rooting for Vincent. Truly. I mean, for goodness sakes, she learned about her husband’s secret love child IN A BOOK at the time it was PUBLISHED for everyone else to read and learn too?! But then, I found myself wondering when I’d see her angry. And then, towards the end of the novel, when I’d see her accept consequences of her own actions. When I finished Half-Blown Rose, though, I wanted the best for her regardless.

If someone asked, “Should I read this book?” I’d respond with a shrug and say, “Yeah… sure.”

Thank you to Net Galley and Grand Central Publishing for this ARC in exchange for my honest review of Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith.
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This smart and sexy book is the perfect escape from the heaviness of the world. It's an easy read about (mostly) European travel, romance, betrayal, memories, and the wild unpredictability of life. I felt the sights, smells, and sounds of London, Nice, Amsterdam, Auvers-sur-Oise, and especially Paris so vividly. There are several dinner, studio, and travel music playlists listed throughout the book, enhancing the reading experience, and each is a vibe! 

I've now read each of Leesa Cross-Smith's three novels (she has two other books that I've yet to read), and she writes about complicated relationships in a deliciously unique way. This Close to Okay and Whiskey and Ribbons also center unexpected or taboo relationships in ways that have challenged my own thinking and who I'm mentally rooting for. Similar to Jasmine Guillory, she is inclusive of but light-handed with challenges of interracial relationships (not the centerpiece of the story). Each of her characters is fully developed, but never over-written. I've consistently been left wanting more after reading her books. This novel in particular feels like she had fun writing it and was a joy to read.

These are my quotes from the novel:

<i>"Our memories make up who we are. And I don't say that lightly. Our hippocampus helps us to store and recollect them. Our brains contain vast wealth of memories in their storehouses. Imagine our minds, our hearts, without our memories. I believe that you'd find yourself wanting to hold on to even all of the bad ones if met with the idea of losing every memory in one swoop."</i>

<i>"Everyone who says Paris is a woman is right. Paris is la vie en rose. Paris is sexy. Paris is splendor. Paris is full of light. Paris is full of life. Paris is a new beginning. Paris, mon amour. Paris is the only city in the world."</i>

Many thanks to Leesa Cross-Smith, NetGalley, and Grand Central Publishing for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review before its release on 5/31/22.
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After reading this book, I feel like I've literally traveled to Paris. It's that immersive. The prose is gorgeous, lush, and emotive, in a way that makes the love story read like a sultry fairy tale. This book portrays romantic love as something that's both simple (through her uncluttered passion for Loup) and complex (through her messy twenty-five-year marriage to Cillian) in a way I found engaging and compelling. This was my first time reading Leesa Cross-Smith, and it won't be the last.
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I loved Leesa Cross-Smith's new book about a woman scorned. Vincent, one sibling of three named after famous artists, learns about her husband's love affair before he met her. Cillian, originally from Ireland, was very young and foolish. He made up for his youthful mistake by writing a novel, a tell-all that left Vincent devastated. Unlucky Vincent has a soft landing pad in Paris. Her parent's apartment is empty. Her rich, famous artist parents travel around the world all year. 

Vincent camps out in their luxurious digs and begins to enjoy all the pleasures Pars had to offer; she finds a young lover (he is 24, and she is 44). Vincent loves everything about Paris, the scenery, the food, the walks along the Seine. She teaches creativity and makes popular clay jewelry. FCS took me with her and I enjoyed all of the excellent experiences Vincent's life afforded her.

I understood Vincent's inability to even speak with her husband, but after a while, I felt that the life she was living bordered on a modern fairy tale, one that few real people could pull off. I loved the writing, full of luscious descriptions and beautiful scenery. I loved the fairy tale.

Thank you to NG and Grand Central Publishing for this ARC in exchange for my response.
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If you love film and books mixed together, this book is definitely for you! This book reads like a script. IThis book was messy. MESSY MESSY MESSY. But I, live for the mess and drama. We have Vincent who is currently trying to live her best life in Paris. She’s teaching art, she’s making art, she’s having coffee dates and rotating dinner parties. Then we have Cillian, a writer, a teacher, a husband who needs forgiveness. And in comes, Loup. Young, hot, band playing, art making, inheritance money wealthy, in love with Vincent. And the mess just grows. Is it a triangle? Not really. There is no big plot twist, no big AHA! moment, it is just pure drama & a very different writing style which I think makes it quick and engaging. (it is also filled with wonderful playlists). Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced readers copy.
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3.5 stars rounded up. 

This book is LOVELY. It's beautifully written in a dreamy, modern style. It's littered with playlists, good ones. Everyone is smart and interesting and attractive and thoughtful. 

And that's my problem. This book is a dream. There aren't serious consequences for anyone's actions, or if there are, we aren't seeing them and our main character, isn't experiencing them. The result is a story that is wonderful to wander through but left me feeling a little bored and disappointed by the end. 

Thanks to Netgalley for the eARC.
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