In Bloom by Kat JacksonIn Bloom by Kat Jackson is an emotional, almost perilously unwise romance between two people with heavy baggage.

She knows it’s not good for her, but Avery Pullman can’t firmly say goodbye to the woman she has been in a “situationship” with for years. The constant emotional push and pull of the woman she’s in love with has taken a toll on her emotions and absolutely her ability to trust. She doesn’t trust her own feelings to not hurt her and she doesn’t trust anyone else to not hurt her.

Having braved her first ever swipe right, Nicole Callahan is disappointed in her first meeting with Avery. She can’t bring herself to say she’s not divorced but widowed, but that doesn’t excuse Avery’s rudeness. Their next few meetings are unexpected, as are the feelings that grow despite the odds. It doesn’t hurt that Avery’s florist shop carries Nicole’s favorite light pink peonies.


A strong open introduces Nicole in a tryst with a helpful friend who offers healing sex that is “more mechanical than emotional”. I found it immediately intriguing and powerful. All the emotions the author explores are very powerful, full of grief and regret, but I never felt overwhelmed. The author gives a reader two women who are finally beginning to feel a need for some kind of relationship after years of emotional pain, making the story about that and not the falling happily into bed as the end goal. There is understated complexity in the plot and often gorgeously crafted prose that drew me in. This not a fast paced story by any means, and I enjoyed the deep dive into Nicole and Avery building a relationship that neither is sure they have the strength for.

Pros And My Favourite Parts

Nicole and Avery are both too wounded when they meet to speak the whole truth. It isn’t because they’re liars, but because each of them is in so much pain. I was fascinated at the complexity of the situation which on the surface doesn’t appear that way. A reader must filter every interaction through both women’s lens rather than face value. The reticence both demonstrate is very believable and when they finally do begin to give up some of their hurt it’s wonderfully heartwarming.

Though they are attracted to each other this is not a book about them doing the Massive Attraction Dance. The story is all about each of them dealing with their own complex relationship with their past and present, and trying to reach the other without inadvertently causing more grief to themself or the other. The plot is straightforward but subtle in its complexity. I kept having to check my perceptions about what they were feeling and why. Even though the reason for their why doesn’t seem the same it becomes apparent that it is. I enjoyed the feeling of a story unfolding without keeping secrets or springing something on me.

The story is not typical but there are some nicely recognizable things, like wonderful friends and family, and a couple of sweet dogs with a small role. Most surprising to me was how awful one of the players are. I’ve rarely found a character to be so totally believable and unlikeable as the passive/aggressive gaslighter Avery is in love with. The closest I came to having a problem with the story was trying to understand how in the world she could still be in love with this person.

Heads Up

Lots of grief in this book, both for a death by suicide and the loss of a relationship.

The Conclusion

Avery and Nicole are dealing with enduring grief and emotional wounds, with limited success. After an unfortunate first meeting they begin to run into each other in their small town enough to feel like trying to get to know the other a little better. Neither is sure they’re ready for a relationship, and each has heightened reactions to misunderstandings that makes things more difficult. But they begin to feel their heart tugging them toward the other.

Some of the descriptions in the book felt brilliant to me without pretension.  I was very impressed with how quickly and thoroughly the author introduced two characters who seem on the surface to have totally different reasons for their emotional torment, and then even more impressed by how twisty everything actually is. I had to continually remind myself to filter this statement or that action by a character through the lens of their emotional damage. It was like seeing the story through a prism and I enjoyed the experience.

Excerpt from In Bloom by Kat Jackson

“Explain it to me again. And talk slowly, like I’m a small child who wasn’t paying attention the first six times.”

Nicole rolled her eyes even though Brynn was on the other end of the phone and couldn’t see her. “I honestly don’t think you were paying attention when I explained it to you.”

“Oh, I was. I’m just struggling to put the pieces together in a way that makes sense.”

“You and me both,” Nicole admitted, curling her legs under her. She looked out the windows, wishing winter would end already. The sky hovered with the threat of snow: thick, white-gray, and impenetrable. She wondered idly how planes flew through such dense clouds.

“Seriously,” Brynn said. “Walk me through it again.”

With a sigh, Nicole obliged. “You sat with me and encouraged me to swipe right on two people. I did.”

“And that was Friday afternoon,” Brynn clarified.

“Yes. You need those kinds of specifics?”

“Yeah, Nic, I do. Keep going.”

She shook her head, feeling strands of hair escaping her loose bun. She wasn’t sure which one of them was more perplexed by this turn of events, and rehashing the time stamps only seemed to make it more confusing. “I happened to look at the app Friday night before I went to bed. That’s when I discovered that one of the women had, uh, matched with me.”

“Got it. And then?”

“I could make you a PowerPoint. That way you can study it and find the holes on your own, and I can—”

“Keep going, Nicole.”

The phrase, and the tone that came along with it, sent an eerie tingle down Nicole’s arms. She tried not to think about how Brynn sometimes reminded her of Ginny but there were certain things Brynn said—this being one of them, often stated when Nicole was going sideways in a conversation that should be linear—that took her right back to her marriage, to her wife who had left her too soon. Cognitively, Nicole knew this was one of the invisible strings that kept her linked to Brynn. She liked those bursts of memory, even if they hurt in places she hadn’t known hurt could exist.

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Bits and Bobs

ISBN number: 978-1-64247-499-2

Publisher: Bella Books


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