Charlotte Withersby has had a rather unusual upbringing for a Victorian young lady as both her parents were passionate botanists. For years now, she has been her father's assistant and more, writing his scientific articles for him. Charlotte longs to one day be a botanist herself, but the Victorian society frowns upon females in science. Then her uncle reminds Charlotte and her father that the proper future for a young lady is as a wife and mother and thus, Charlotte needs to go out in society to find a husband. She doesn't like this at all, but believes her father will soon miss her and put an end to this. But then her father takes on a new assistant, the infuriatingly efficient Mr Trimble, Charlotte feels unwanted and lost in a society filled with all these rules she has no clue about.
I've always found Siri Mitchell has a very unique 'voice' in Christian historical fiction. Her books are, for want of a better word, quite 'introverted', as they spend a lot of time inside the heroine's head. They can therefore feel quite heavy as well, at least that's what I felt about Love's Pursuit and A constant heart. This novel feels quite a bit lighter in tone, actually, some of the scenes with Charlotte bumbling through society felt almost 'slapstick'-like in tone, which I didn't really like, it was just a bit too silly.
Because Mitchell does always pack a lot of messages into her books and also in Like a flower in bloom. Messages about personal growth, but also about faults in society. In this novel, she tackled the problem of dishonesty rampant in Victorian society. People pretending to like things or people which they actually did not and this led to quite a bit of misunderstandings in relationships. Charlotte, free as she was from a typical upbringing like a 'proper' young lady, was a very good character to show others how important it is to be true to yourself.
The central romance of the novel unfortunately felt poorly developed. There was definitely potential and I wasn't surprised at the outcome, but Charlotte and her love interest just didn't have enough scenes together, so there was not enough build-up to their eventual relationship.
Ending on a positive not, the setting of the novel was really fascinating. It was great to read about science in a historical setting, especially being a scientist (and a female!) myself. I also thought Mitchell described the Victorian 'craze' for botany very well, with all the collections rich people gathered and the clubs they formed.
Overall, Siri Mitchell really found a unique setting for her newest novel and this book definitely gives insight into the 19th century. But I thought the character development and the romance could have been better.
I received an ebook version of this novel from NetGalley and the publisher Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.