Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Book Review: Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: May 31, 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "An irresistible story of a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris, from the award-winning author of This Close to Okay. Vincent, having grown up as the privileged daughter of artists, has a lovely life in many ways. At forty-four, she enjoys strolling the streets of Paris and teaching at the modern art museum; she has a vibrant group of friends; and she’s even caught the eye of a young, charismatic man named Loup. But Vincent is also in Paris to escape a painful betrayal: her husband, Cillian, has published a bestselling book divulging secrets about their marriage and his own past, hinting that when he was a teenager, he may have had a child with a young woman back in Dublin—before he moved to California and never returned. Now estranged from her husband, Vincent has agreed to see Cillian again at their son’s wedding the following summer, but Loup introduces new complications. Soon they begin an intense affair, and somewhere between dinners made together, cigarettes smoked in the moonlight, hazy evenings in nightclubs, and long, starry walks along the Seine, Vincent feels herself loosening and blossoming. In a journey that is both transportive and intimate, Half-Blown Rose traverses Paris, art, travel, liminal spaces, and the messy complexities of relationships and romance, with excerpts from Cillian’s novel, playlists, and journal entries woven throughout. As Cillian does all he can to win her back, Vincent must decide what she wants . . . and who she will be.


Vincent Wilde, named after Vincent Van Gogh, is happily married to Cillian Wilde, a famous author originally from Dublin, Ireland. They share two kids together and have a happy marriage, that is until one day some of Cillian's secrets start coming out. Cillian normally shares his work in progress with Vincent, but with his latest book, he is curiously quiet about the details. In fact, Vincent doesn't read the book until it's published. His latest novel ends up reading like a loose biography and within it, she finds out that Cillian, when he was in Ireland, fathered a child.  She can't believe that her husband would keep this information from her, not to mention that fact that he has been ignoring his biological child for years, so she flees to her parents' apartment in Paris. While in Paris, she hopes to focus on herself and what she wants. After years of taking care of her kids, who are now adults, and essentially, living a lie with Cillian, this time in Paris will be about her.  While there, she brushes elbows with artists, teaches a class or two, explores the city, and hosts many dinners at her parents' sophisticated Parisian apartment. While teaching her class, she meets a much younger Loup. He throws her world upside down, because he is very into her despite the fact that she could be his mother.  As time goes by, Loup becomes part of their group of friends, so he is impossible to ignore. In the background, there's always Cillian, her husband, who desperately wants to make amends.  Vincent knows that she can't ignore Cillian for too long as they will be reunited at their son's wedding in the not-so-distant future.  Which path will Vincent choose? Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith is a compelling love story to Paris as well as the importance of finding yourself amidst the chaos of life and the many paths that lay in front of us. 

I found Vincent in Half-Blown Rose to be very compelling mostly because I didn't agree with any of her choices. This made her so damn entertaining.  For starters, I felt like moving to Paris didn't necessarily fit his "crime." While it was despicable that he didn't inform her of his child in Dublin, this was all before he met Vincent. It wasn't like he was currently cheating on her.  I could understand her disappointment in him in that he withheld this information and how it would impact their children, but I just felt like fleeing to Paris was pretty extreme, not to mention what happens while she is in Paris. Her relationship with Loup, while I thoroughly enjoyed it, also seemed pretty drastic compared to what Cillian did. While I can't support her extra-marital affair, I did find it extremely entertaining. Cross-Smith really captures the complexities of mid-life. It's not often in literature, or in life (I think?) that you hear about an older woman with a much younger man, so this was a nice switch from the usual trope.... which leads me to Loup.

Loup is a wonderful character and almost seemed too good to be true at times in Half-Blown Rose. I really loved their relationship, how it progressed, and the adventures that ensued in Paris.  Loup's band, the night clubs, the nighttime walks, the art, the traveling, the Parisian food --it was all so memorable and atmospheric. It definitely made me want to pack my bags for Paris, take up smoking, and drink a red wine overlooking the Seine. I enjoyed dreamy Loup as much as I enjoyed lovely Paris, which was a character in itself.

Cross-Smith's writing is outstanding in Half-Blown Rose. It was very original and I really liked her style. She even includes playlists for various parts of the novel, which I loved, as well as excerpts from letters, Cillian's infamous book, diary entries, and more.  

My only issue with Half-Blown Rose was Vincent herself. At times, she felt really indulgent and self-absorbed to me, but that's the point, right? To leave it all behind for Paris and follow where your heart takes you requires some of that anyway. Nonetheless, she just felt really narcissistic at times and very privileged. I mean what kind of person can drop their life and move to their parents' apartment in Paris? Rich people, am I right? So, the average person cannot relate to Vincent in that way; however, it's a nice pipe dream.  Whatever my issues are with Vincent, I can say that Half-Blown Rose is a juicy summertime read and one that I'd recommend to fans of adult fiction who enjoy books about travel and finding yourself. 

Have you read any books by Leesa Cross-Smith? Have you read Half-Blown Rose or is it on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 



  1. Vincent sounds like a character I'd love to hate, but I can't resist the Paris setting!

    1. The Paris setting was phenomenal. So well done! Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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