Author Interview & Excerpt ~ BLOOM WHERE YOU'RE PLANTED by Darby Baham

Bloom Where You’re Planted (The Friendship Chronicles, #2)
by: Darby Baham
Series: The Friendship Chronicles
Genre: Contemporary Multicultural Interracial Romance
Release Date: May 24, 2022
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
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What happens when the first blush of love fades?

Jennifer Pritchett feels increasingly invisible and left behind as her friends move on to the next steps in their lives. As she goes to therapy to figure out how to bloom in her own right, her boyfriend, Nick Carrington, finds himself being the one left behind. Jennifer wants their relationship to have more intimacy, but he can’t help but feel like he’s being compared to others—and found wanting. Can they each get what they need out of this relationship? Or will the flowers shrivel up before they do?

From Harlequin Special Edition: Believe in love. Overcome obstacles. Find happiness.


Hi Darby. Welcome back to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. How are you?
Hi! I’m doing pretty well; looking forward to what I’m dubbing my self-care summer.

That sounds really good. I’m sure the last couple of months have been like a whirlwind for you. How has it been having your first published book out in the world and the second coming out?
Whirlwind is a great way to describe it. It kind of feels like my life has been nonstop on-the-go since January when The Shoe Diaries was released, but I’m so incredibly grateful for all the experiences that have come with it, it’s hard to complain even when I am sometimes pretty tired. But whether it was the first time I held a physical copy of both books or being interviewed, meeting other authors, signing books, etc… it’s all combined into quite an unforgettable ride. Truthfully, as much as I’ve wanted to be a published author for the longest, I had no real sense of what that would look like, and the beautiful part of it is I’m finding myself learning something new almost every day. So, my goal these days is to try my best to stay in the present and enjoy the experience as much as I can. That’s especially critical for me as I gear up for Bloom Where You’re Planted’s release. Of course, I have a little of the anxious gremlins in my head, but I am mostly very excited to have a second novel out in the world within 5 months. That’s just wild to me!

For those who don’t know, you’re the author of the Friendship Chronicles series from Harlequin Special Edition. Can you tell us about the series and what readers can expect from it?
Absolutely. So, the series follows a close-knit group of friends and each of their journeys to finding love, understanding what truly makes them happy, and dealing with their own versions of doubts and fears that so many of us struggle with along the way. Each book tells a different woman’s story and her desire for love, but throughout the novels, readers can expect to get an up-close perspective of how the friends provide the comfort and foundation each woman needs as she navigates the ups and downs of life. My hope is that people will walk away from the books thinking, “wow that was raw and sometimes really emotional, but I laughed a lot too, maybe sometimes wanted to shake the main character, and ultimately was so happy that my girl got her all-consuming love in the end.”

You know, that was a pretty good summation. I definitely felt that reading Bloom Where You’re Planted. I love the covers for this series. Bloom Where You’re Planted is the second book in the series. Please tell readers about it.
Thank you! Can I tell you that the covers, for me, have been some of the scariest but also really exciting parts of now being an author? I think it’s because the cover design is the part that feels the most out of my control. Even though Harlequin has a fantastic process that allows authors to outline different ideas for what the cover could ultimately be, it’s still not my work, right? And I’ve been on the other side for so long—I know how important a cover is. Either way, each time one has come up for my approval, I have been stunned by how gorgeous they have been—and sneak peek, I just saw the one for the 3rd book, and it’s so good too! So, shout out to Harlequin’s art department, for real.

I do think Harlequin’s art department is amazing.

As for Bloom Where You’re Planted, like you said, it’s the second book in the series, and it tells the sexy but introspective story of Jennifer Pritchett—a young Black woman who lives in Washington, DC, and feels increasingly left behind as she begins comparing her life (and her relationship) to that of the people around her. For this book, I really wanted to explore what it’s like when you are years into a relationship with the person you know you want to be with, but the sparks seem to have died. And then what does it look like to, especially as a woman, express a desire to your partner for more while still affirming their place in your life. It may sound weird, but I really had fun digging into all the messy parts of that.

Tell me about Jennifer Pritchett and Nick Carrington. I want all the dirt!
You know, the thing about Jennifer and Nick is that neither is the bad guy in this situation. They both really are trying to do their best, but they have, unfortunately, found themselves in a place where the lack of communication between them has created room for misunderstandings—and some pretty hurtful ones at that. But aside from that, I hope readers can tell that the love is still there between them throughout the entire book, even as there are missteps here and there.

Jennifer, who is turning 30, starts the book admitting that nothing in her life feels right but also that she feels ungrateful saying so. She’s got a steady job, she just wants more from it; she’s got a loving boyfriend, but the passion isn’t there anymore—I mean he literally yawns loudly into her chest in the first chapter—and she has an up-close look at her friends, who she feels are leading these grandiose lives while she’s stuck behind. Nick, who is trying to figure out his own way at his job and with his family, has some sense that things aren’t what they were with him and Jennifer, but he’s also constantly exhausted and was never taught how to ask for support from his partner. So, that’s a lot for both of them to be dealing with, especially when they didn’t grow up seeing many examples of that kind of honest and open communication in relationships.

The story tackles relationship staleness, for lack of a better word. I know the ultimate goal was to get these two to a HEA. In order to get there, things get bumpy. What was the one thing you really wanted to showcase in their relationship?
I think the biggest thing I wanted to showcase was that lack of communication and comparisons can mess up even the best of relationships. Some readers might not agree, but there’s a lot I love about Jennifer and Nick’s relationship—and yet, it almost falls apart because neither knew how to express to the other what they needed. So, you get Jennifer just randomly trying to seduce him without the context being provided of what she really felt was missing. And then, you get Nick feeling like she doesn’t think he’s good enough for her anymore. It’s heartbreaking what they go through, but I think it makes the journey to their HEA that much sweeter. And ultimately, it sets them up for a relationship with a lot more intimacy and honesty involved.

We’ve talked in the past about you putting your past experiences in the previous book, The Shoe Diaries. (Darby and Reagan have a serious shoe addiction problem which makes the title of the book perfect.) Did you do the same with Bloom Where You’re Planted?
Oh, I definitely did, but not necessarily in a literal sense. I haven’t been in the exact same situation that Jennifer and Nick experienced. But I know what it’s like to feel like I’m fighting for my relationship and the other person isn’t. I also have been in relationships where I can look back on them now and understand that the miscommunication or lack of communication is what tore us apart—that it wasn’t that we didn’t love each other, but we couldn’t get past that communication barrier. And I’ve certainly had my fair share of times when I’ve had to stop being so focused on what everyone around me had going on and decide that what’s mine is mine and I am going to lean into that so I can bloom in my own right. Those experiences informed a lot of the internal struggles that Jennifer has throughout the book and even some of the conflicts you see between her and Nick.

In the first part of the book, you see Jennifer struggling. She isn’t totally happy with her career, her boyfriend of three years doesn’t seem to know her, and she feels lost. She puts it all on herself. Why do you think she felt the need to carry the burden?
Wow, great question. I think it’s for a combination of reasons. Later in the book, Jennifer reflects on her parents’ relationship, and we learn that she saw her mom take on the silent burden of finding ways to get her dad to relax when she assumed he was overworked, but never telling him that she needed him to be more vocal and vulnerable with her. So, that definitely informs Jennifer’s outlook on the role she thinks she should be okay playing with her boyfriend. I’d say it also goes back to this notion of comparisons—one of the biggest lies that comparisons usually cause us to tell ourselves is that “if I did more, was better at XYZ, loved harder, etc… I wouldn’t be on the outside looking in.” It naturally puts blame on the person, and I think that’s exactly where Jennifer is in the beginning. She thinks the reason she is struggling is because she hasn’t done enough not to be. Thankfully, with the help of her friends, Nick, and a therapist, she starts to let some of that blame go.

This is a story about Jennifer’s growth and reflection on herself. What’s Nick’s part in this? Does he see any (wrong word usage but…) shortcomings in himself and his relationship with Jennifer?
I would say that the story is mainly about Jennifer’s growth and reflections, yes, but Nick definitely has his own growth journey in the book. You know, you asked why Jennifer feels she has to put everything on herself, and I think in different ways, they both do. In the beginning of the book, Nick is not the guy who is comfortable going to his girlfriend with his struggles. His comfort zone is being able to be there for others and just internally deal with things on his own. The problem is anyone who’s ever been that person or loved that person knows that that kind of bottling effect greatly diminishes their capacity to truly show up in relationships. Eventually, Nick has to break out of his comfort zone as part of his fight to keep their relationship alive.

This is always my favorite question to ask… What was your favorite part of Bloom Where You’re Planted to write and why?
This might sound awful, but I really enjoyed writing the angsty moments between Jennifer and Nick, especially because I obviously knew where I was leading them. But the messy parts just poured out of me while I was writing this book. I also always enjoy writing the moments among the friends and trying to get them to feel as real and relevant as my friendships feel to me.

Okay. I’ve gone over my question limit. I apologize. But I’m seriously crazy about this story and the characters. Darby, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of my burning questions.
Thank you for having me, Kim! The pleasure was truly all mine.

Nick sat in silence. I could see on his face that he was processing everything I was saying, but I couldn’t tell whether that was in a good or bad way. Diane had said to come clean with him, but truthfully, I was scared I’d just ruined everything between us. After all, sitting across the table from me was an amazing, sensitive man who I knew loved me with every fiber of his body. And I’d just spent the past couple minutes telling him, I know your job is kicking your butt lately, but I need more from you.

After about a minute, Nick finally spoke. Just as Luke James was getting into his zone and hitting the really high notes of the song.

“That’s a lot to process, Jenny,” he sighed. “But I am thankful that you were honest with me. Come here.” He gestured me over to him to have a seat on his lap.

I got up hesitantly but walked over to him and sat where my butt was positioned on his right thigh and my legs dangled over his left. I wanted so desperately for us not to be in this space, but I was thankful that Nick somehow knew what to do to comfort me through what had to be a really excruciating discussion for him, too. He placed his hands on my thighs before speaking again.

“So, you need more.”

“Yeah. I just need us to be more intentional in expressing our love for each other again. You know?”

I searched his face for understanding and found his compassionate eyes staring back at me. This was why I loved him.

“I hear you. I don’t like that you needed to say it. But I hear you. Work has been...a lot lately. And to be honest, when I’m with you, you are my refuge away from all the BS. So, I don’t usually want to contaminate our space with whatever frustrations I’m having at work. But I’ll do better, I promise. With speaking up more and with reminding you how much I love you.”

“Thank you, babe,” I said, cupping his chin with my right hand and placing a soft kiss on his lips. Then, I quickly sneaked in a bite of my food before sitting back on his lap and placing my head on his left shoulder.

“But...there are days when I just don’t have the energy to go on adventures with you across the city. I get that that probably makes me pretty boring, but sometimes there’s nothing more that I want than to just fall asleep in your arms.”

“No, Nick, I love that we have that—honestly, I do. It’s just that when it’s every night, with no deviation, no plans for travel, no spontaneous moments where you just grab me up and toss me across the counter... It just makes me feel like we’ve lost our spark and as if you don’t desire me in a basic, sexual way anymore.”

“Ha. Trust me, babe. I desire you in all the basic, sexual ways.”

Nick grabbed a butt cheek to emphasize his point, which elicited a giggle from me.

“I love you. You know that, right?”

“I love you, too.”

“And I’m only saying this because I want us to last.”

“I know. Me, too.”

“I also don’t want to eat any more food.”

“Oh, you don’t, huh?”

“No. You see, I have this handsome, understanding boyfriend under my legs right now. So, about the last thing I have in mind is more lasagna.”

“Well, that’s good, because you...in this dress...on top of me? It’s got me thinking of all the basic, sexual things I want to do to you right now.”

“Yeah?” I leaned my torso close to his and put my lips on his without kissing him. Staring into his eyes, I simply whispered, “Tell me more.”

“How about I show you instead?”

Purchase Bloom Where You’re Planted from:

The Friendship Chronicles Series:

London Calling releases September 27, 2022

🌸 You can read my 5 Star Bloom Where You're Planted review here🌸

Darby Baham is a debut author with Harlequin Books Special Edition, where she signed a three-book deal in August 2020. She is also a senior managing editor with The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center.

Places to find Darby Baham:

Comments

  1. wonderful Q&A and another beautiful cover

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    1. Thank you so much, Denise. I definitely agree, the cover is really beautiful. Thank you for stopping by.

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  2. Fantastic interview. It sounds relatable re communication in relationships no matter what age or stage you are at.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Julia. It is definitely a very very relatable book. I think that's why I loved it so much. Thank you for stopping by.

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