Review: The Language of Flowers

~ By Robina Grant

Thank you for inviting me to share a wonderful read. The novel, The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, touched me in so many ways. Not a romance, not quite YA, not really magical realism but with elements of all three. It was a glimpse into the foster care system and how that experience can color a youngster’s life forever. The story was for me a deep insight into what it means to have family, to be able to give and receive love, trust, forgiveness, and to embrace second chances.

Victoria is eighteen when the story opens and she is about to be emancipated by the state. She has spent her whole life in the foster care system and only once, at the age of ten, came close to adoption. She has definite self-sabotage issues and tends to withdraw, to run whenever she gets too close to overwhelming feelings that she doesn’t understand. Unconditional love is the one she has the most difficulty with, and she carries the burden of her upbringing as seen in her anger, guilt, and the overriding question of is she even capable of love.

Robena's bougainvillea

The story is told with a strong narrative voice and the chapters alternate between Victoria’s past, as a ten year old, and her present, as an eighteen year old, and the transitions between the chapters are written with ease. In Victoria’s present situation she has three months to find a job. She chooses not to and lives for a while, homeless and sleeping in a park, where she grows and tends to plants. Later she finds work in a florist shop. In her past she sabotaged her adoption by telling a lie and has been running from her guilt ever since. At the florist shop she finds she brings happiness to customers by arranging flowers for them based on their needs. Jonquils bring desire back into a failing relationship, bougainvillea means passion, and the yellow rose means infidelity. I was pleased to find these Bougainvillea pull the necessary passion from my front windows into my office.  : )

The incorporation of the language of flowers, a symbolic language that dates back to the Victorian era, brings a magical tone to the story and is the basis of the communication in Victoria’s first romantic relationship. Like plants with roots that nourish and protect, her roots are in the flowers meaning, and caring for them awakens her nurturing, loving side.

I don’t want to give any spoilers here, but will say, while there are times in the story that you want Victoria to stop acting out, to be patient, to learn and trust, you also feel for her in these situations. You want her to be happy, yet you know there will be a long and rough road until she can learn to accept love. Toward the end of the story she learns that moss grows without roots, and that is a meaningful passage in so many ways. It helps her to move toward the future, to let go of the past, and to ask for forgiveness.

The ending was perfect for me. This is a young woman’s journey and not a romance, although a romance occurs, so while there is not a happily ever after it worked for me because the heroine is young. There is a strong happy for now, and the promise of a better future as the heroine moves in the right direction. In three words: enlightening, magical, heartwarming.

Ms. Diffenbaugh is no stranger to the foster care system, or the challenges that youths must face in their lives. She has taken in foster children and has written her story with a light touch and a tender heart. There is also an extensive dictionary of flowers at the end of the book. To find out more about the author, please visit

Robena Grant is a member of RWA, LARA, and the Palm Springs Writers Guild. She is currently shopping her Romantic Suspense series, Desert Heat. Her current work is a Contemporary Romance, and no, she does not write while wearing fluffy pink bunny slippers, hers are leopard print. She may be contacted at       

36 thoughts on “Review: The Language of Flowers”

  1. The book sounds wonderful, Robena, in no small part due to your lyrical review. Oh how I wish I had time to read! As a former troubled young woman, I can identify with Victoria, but also as a parent who just wants to scoop up all the needy children in the world. I’m going to tuck your recommendation in the back of my mind for my next vacation–the only time I read actual novels!

  2. Oh, good one London. : )

    KRISSIE!!!! I’m am doubly blessed. You. Ms. Anne Stuart, and Jenny Crusie, are awesome for taking the time to comment on a little ol’ blog post written by me. I would never have expected this, but thank you.

  3. Nan! I figured you were promoting YOUR debut book. Out tomorrow! Rule Number One, by Nan Reinhardt. Seriously, buy Vanessa’s book. You’ll love it and it will take away a lot of your promoting stress. : )

    You’re welcome, Kimberly, thanks for coming by.

  4. Well, poop! I commented earlier, but it got lost! Love the idea of the book, and you did a great review of it, Roben. I think I’ll use the last of my Christmas Amazon money to buy it. Thanks!!

  5. Wonderful review that pulled me right in, espeially with the history of adoption in our family. Definitely going to get this on me kindle. Thanks for the great review, and the anticipation of a great read

  6. This sounds like a really great book for an 18 year old who is still looking for herself. I will definitely be recommending this one to my daughter. Maybe I’ll even lend her my copy when I’m finished 😉

  7. Oh my! Look what happens when I exercise. Just got in from a long windblown walk. And I am in awe…not exactly speechless…but in awe. JENNY CRUSIE stopped by! Yay!

    Seriously, you would like this book. Being an ex-teacher (like me being an ex-nurse)you have seen and dealt with all kinds of emotional issues with children, you would understand that the current issue is only the tip of the iceberg, the real issue is way, way deeper.

    And you know what, I was on Barbara O’Neal’s site today sniffing around for a new book. I almost recommended this read to her, but I thought “Ya know, that’s a bit presumptuous.” Ha ha.

  8. I’m with you on that, Robin. It’s the simple things that make me choke up.
    I know, Janie. I’m going out to pick some deep coral roses in a short while.
    And Mel, thanks for inviting me to post this review today.

  9. Judy, I was so happy when you took my recommendation and bought and reviewed The Language of Flowers.

    For anyone interested in Judy’s comments, scroll back up and click on Judy, Judy, Judy you will find it from, oh about a ten days ago. : )

    Also, Ms. Diffenbaugh commented last night on a comment I’d made on her FB page. She said she might be able to drop by here today. That would be great, because then she could answer Lynne’s comment on how to place this book in a bookstore or library.

  10. Thanks for introducing me to this book, Robena! It sounds like a story not to be missed. And I love that flowers play such an important role. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can mean so much.

  11. Yikes! Look what happens when I go and exercise. : )

    While I cannot now answer each post individually, let me say, Kathy and Jenyfer, it is a book for all ages because of the emotional depth the author achieves. Lynne W, I’d say it is a coming of age story yet the heroine is slightly older, kind of an upper YA because I think most YA is under seventeen (high school) right? Also, while it isn’t quite like SAA’s book (I loved that one)it has a feeling of magical realism.

    Christine, thanks for coming by, and don’t overwater your bougainvillea. : )Diane, you won’t be sorry. I know that teens “read up” and I’m sure it would be fine for your neice. Deb, having read your work, I think you would relate to this book on many levels.

    Steph, thanks so much for the initial recommendation. I owe you at least a cup of coffee. And with you having worked with foster children, I knew I could trust you that this would be a great read. It really is a thought provoking book and I’m suggesting it to the book club in March. Hopefully for an April review because we’re late with our decision for that month.

    Thanks so much, Charlene, your opinion means a lot to me. I love your writing.

  12. Wow, another book to add to the to be read pile. Amazing. Thank you Robena for sharing this story. It sounds like a book I know that several young women would enjoy too.

  13. Robyn — great review. I’m so glad you liked the book. Having worked with foster kids for the last 2.5 years, I think Vanessa captured their struggles. Plus I worked in a flower shop for 5 years in high school and college so it had even more meaning for me. Thanks for sharing your perspective on the book. Stephanie

  14. Fabulous review! Thanks for sharing this with us, Robena. I’ll tell you that this is probably not a book I would have read before your review…but now I’m intrigued enough that I will keep an eye out for it.

    I love books with that touch of magic 🙂

  15. I’ve been hearing about this book for a while, but haven’t yet read it. I’ll have to move it up in my mental TBR pile. And, perhaps, suggest it to my sister as a good read for my 15 year-old niece. Thanks for letting us know about it!

  16. Robena! Love the review – think I have to pick up this book now! I did know that yellow roses mean jealousy – my hubby will NEVER allow me to buy yellow roses. But I didn’t know about bouganvilla meaning passion…I have never been able to get the damn stuff to grow, lol!

  17. Great review! (I came here from Reinventing Fabulous; this is my first visit to your blog and first time to see how you write).

    Is this a YA or an adult novel? Because it reminds me of Sarah Addison Allen’s first story, GARDEN SPELLS (another great story!). But with a younger protagonist, of course. And I’m thinking about where we might shelve it in the library. Thanks for the recommendation!

  18. I know, Egads. Thanks for stopping in. Now when I walk, which I’m about to do, I check out what’s blooming and assign the flowers a meaning. Then I run home to check Vanessa’s dictionary to see if I’m right. Ha ha.

  19. This sounds like a lovely book, Robena. I just downloaded a sample chapter on my kindle. Today feels like spring outside, what better book to read than one with the magic of flowers?

  20. Hi Robena!
    What a wonderful book and book review. I am very interested in reading it – just wish my tbr pile wasn’t a half-a-mile high (symbolically, as I have a Kindle) 🙂

    I am going to forward this blog to my daughter – I know she’d love this book.

    Thanks so much.

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