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Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire: A Novel Hardcover – June 16, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: Christina Schwarz Reviews Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire

Christina Schwarz is the author of So Long at the Fair, All Is Vanity, and Drowning Ruth, a #1 bestseller in both hardcover and paperback, which was selected for Oprah’s Book Club and optioned by Wes Craven for Miramax. Read her exclusive Amazon guest review of Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire:

Debut novelist Margot Berwin gives her fecund imagination free play in this lush and steamy summer read. Recently divorced and craving a blank slate, 30-something advertising copywriter Lila Nova moves into a new studio apartment “with absolutely no character” on Union Square. Lila, the sort of contemporary heroine given to amusing self-deflating wisecracks, is not, however, destined to inhabit a clean, white box for long. Within a few chapters, packed with romantic betrayal, plant lore and a couple of visits to a surreal Laundromat in the East Village, she’s on her way to “high adventure” in the Yucatan rain forest, where she’ll encounter ancient magic, poisonous creatures, a murderous exotic plant dealer, and, yes, true love. A wildly inventive novel as vivid and colorful as a jungle flower.

(Photo copyright Deone Jahnke)

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Berwin delivers a bangup debut packed with adventure, betrayal, love and, naturally, rare plants. New York ad woman Lila Nova, increasingly disillusioned with her job and the city, becomes enchanted by David Exley, a handsome guy selling plants at a green market. Soon, she's hooked on him, and her budding fascination with tropical plants leads her to a Laundromat that has a rare fern displayed in the window. Proprietor Armand quickly befriends Lila and gives her a trimming from the fern to take home, telling her if it forms roots, he'll show her the nine special plants he keeps in the back room. When Exley sees the fern trimming, Lila tells him about Armand's special plants, and soon the plants have been stolen and Exley has disappeared. Armand guilts Lila into coming to Mexico with him to find replacement plants, and there's magic, romance, greenery and greed as Lila and Armand venture through the Yucatan, hooking up with potential love-interest Diego and running into the devious Exley. It's a fun page-turner—escapist and wonderfully entertaining. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (June 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307377849
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307377845
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,887,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
You know that feeling, when you look at a book's cover, read the jacket copy, and think, "Okay, I know what to expect here." That's what I thought entering into Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire. I was expecting some light chick-lit with a fish out of water bent. And to a degree, that's what I got. But I also got a whole lot that I didn't expect.

Divorced Manhattan ad exec Lila Nova is a sympathetic character, but she was... harder than I expected. As the novel opens, she's trying to adapt to a new life alone in a featureless white box of an apartment. On a hunt for a little greenery to spruce the place up, she meets ruggedly handsome greensman, David Exley. It's easy to buy what he's selling, and what he's selling is a bird-of-paradise. It's Lila's first tropical plant, and it brings her a peace and comfort she never would have expected. She finds herself interested in learning more about tropicals and more about the tropical plant salesman--despite his mixed signals.

Walking home one night, Lila spies a gorgeous plant in a laundromat's window. Entering the establishment to see it closer, she enters a whimsical oasis in lower Manhattan. Warm air from the dryers and humidity from the washing machines help support a tropical paradise. There's soft moss on the floor, grass growing on top of the machines, tropical flowers and plants of every kind hanging from the ceiling, and even animals in this urban ecosystem! The proprietor of this odd laundry is an even odder character named Armand. I expected him to be a kindly old mentor type, but Armand defied my expectations at every turn. He was fascinating, strange, disturbing, mystical, and compelling.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was well written and incredibly creative, with extraordinary and lovely descriptive passages and an original story line. Sadly, I found it kind of creepy. Several times she described characters such that my emotional response was screaming "YUCK!" But the next page, she'd be saying how much she loved that person, so it was emotionally confusing to read. Also, the end simply didn't work. WARNING!!! MAJOR SPOILER--> Supposedly a main character was going to die or be irrevocably damaged if something very specific didn't happen very quickly. Well, it sure didn't happen quickly, but then for no understandable reason, the character is fully recovered. Huh? I wanted to love this, but it just didn't work for me.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am the Armand named in the book. I enjoyed how Margot described our relationship as teacher and student. I also liked her imagery right from the metaphorical "laundrymat," to our shared penchant for exotic plants. Currently the book has movie options in hands. Who would play my character? Perhaps you readers or those who know me, have a suggestion.
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Format: Hardcover
So yes this book borrows from many tales--Little Shop of Horrors morphing into Romancing the Stone, but it was quite promising and engaging up until the trip to Mexico and then it just got silly. Mysterious, supposedly rare plants rather easily found, the local guy she falls for supernaturally perfect with an iron constitution, the climax resting on a rather huge plot hole related to the availability of a lily of the valley. Well, let's see what Julia Roberts can make of it.
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Format: Paperback
It is a Chick Lit adventure story but it's not only that. I wanted something inspirational involving flowers and I wanted to read about Armand --a real-life character who is extremely wise yet extremely human. I was also interested in Lily's life in New York --a life in transition, recently divorced and navigating being alone in NYC.

Something simple and deep worked in this book. Like that fact that there are circumstances and conditions involved in growing a life and we can re-pot & plant ourselves. Perhaps we can even take cuttings of knowledge from others to aid in our learning and growth. I think it takes silent strength, love, determination and, of course, a gift to be a master gardener and to be nurturing.

The main character confronts two of the most challenging places known to man: a Mexican jungle within a rain forest and a laundromat. There's also a surfer-dude character who gets one of the best lines in the book via a surfing analogy. Something about how it takes a world-class long board surfer to ride the waves of an adult relationship. Those that bail too quickly are short board amateurs.

With or without Chick Lit side relationships I would love to see Lila and Armand go on another adventure that ends in positive growth & healing.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First, let me just state that I do not read "chick lit". This was a first for me, and I read it in one day while I was at work. I managed to sneak it under my desk. Not that there is anything wrong with "chick lit", but it isn't my usual style. I thought the plot sounded interesting: A woman finds an obsession with plants that helps her discover a new-found happiness in life? Ok, I am game!

Obviously, I enjoyed reading this book immensely. If you are looking for a hot romance novel, look elsewhere. The main character had a life that she loved, until her husband tells her that he is leaving. She has no life, nothing to look forward to, no friends, etc. She moves into a boring, white and wood studio for a fresh start. One day, she meets a man selling tropical plants and he pushes her to buy a Bird of Paradise.

At first, the plant means everything to her. She says "Plant first. Then people." She isn't very confident in herself. As time moves along, she finds herself rather plant obsessed in a good way, and its bringing her a new look on life.

I loved how the book was set up: each chapter is the name of a tropical plant, and there is a quote describing it. Within the chapter, the plant it is named for plays an important role. The structure of the novel was simple, as was the writing and style, but it made the book entirely readable.

The main character was totally someone I could relate to, despite not having a similar experience in my own life. I found that while I was reading, my interest in plants and gardening grew, and I was totally engaged throughout. There isn't a gripping plot, with tons of twists and turns, but you watch the main character grow, first roots, then some semblance of a normal, happy and healthy life. It was very rewarding to read.
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